Letter to the Publisher: Do Away with Most Immigrant Labor
One reader takes a look at the somewhat confusing issue of immigrant labor.
By Richard Newton
Date Posted: 7/1/2006
Dear Dr. Brindley,
Thank you for taking the time to respond to my e-mail (about ‘Letter from Ed,’ May Pallet Enterprise).
In my first e-mail I did a poor job of showing that I do understand your position. You believe that we need the Hispanic labor because there is a shortage of people willing to do this work at the price being paid, and paying more would not do much to help the situation. Also, the signals that our government is sending are very confusing and most likely the cause of our current situation.
Looking at the pallet industry from outside but from inside a small niche sawmill, I see a short term fix to a long term problem with using immigrant labor, legal or illegal. I agree that most Americans do not want to do work that is mostly physical and repetitive. Fifty years ago when I grew up, there were still large numbers of people who grew up on a ranch or farm and were brought up with hard physical work that was repetitive. Today, kids grow up in a culture where they are not allowed to work for pay until they are teenagers and are not allowed to be around any dangerous equipment until they are 18. We no longer have a pool of employees that will work physically or can function well in a sawmill or pallet making environment.
Twenty-five years ago I ran a custom hay baling operation. The first few years I baled a lot of small, square bales and used local high school kids to help move the hay. The last year that I baled small bales I had two young men willing to work hard. Money was not the reason they were working; they were working to get into shape for football season in the fall. The writing was on the wall, I needed to get out of the square baling business and go to big, round bales to completely eliminate the need for seasonal labor. If labor was cheap and plentiful, the need to completely change the baling business would have been a long time coming.
The short term fix in the pallet industry, meat packing industry, lawn care, sawmills and others is to import labor. I can understand the worry and confusion of those in these industries at this time because the government on short notice can really upset the apple cart. What happens if a fence is built, stopping new immigrants? What happens if tomorrow every employer must only use legal employees? I think it is just a matter of time until the current immigrant labor pool shrinks. Businesses must become very innovative to be able to produce. Goods are going to be moved around this country, so demand will still be there for something to move them on.
Our government needs to get illegal immigration under control. Marching legal and illegal aliens carrying Mexican flags should be a wake-up call. Are they coming here to become Americans or to use us? We need an orderly system with controls. We need a system where employers do not need to break the law. We need a system that is consistent, where rules are enforced.
In the long run we need to do away with jobs that require low skill, hard physical labor and are repetitive. Drying up that labor pool is one way to accomplish this by forcing innovation. Also, a shortage of labor would cause wages to go higher. Wouldn’t this be good for employees? Wouldn’t it be better for business? Seems paradoxical, does it not?
I think we need to do away with most immigrant labor. If done over a period of years, businesses will adapt. Our capitalistic ways will find a solution. I think as a country we will be better off.
Dr. Brindley, I hope this does a better job of explaining my position. We may disagree on whether my position would be best for the country in the long run. We pretty much agree on many other positions. It is tough not being a wordsmith like yourself to get my thoughts across in an intelligent way. If you think that my comments would further the discussion in a good way, please feel free to use them as you see fit.
Richard Newton, Eastern Red Cedar Products LLC
Do you want reprints or a copyright license for this article? Click here
Research and connect with suppliers mentioned in this article using our FREE ZIP Online service.