Explaining The Problem With A Guest Worker Program In Three Steps

by John Hawkins | February 20, 2006 4:41 am

If you want to get a foretaste of some of the problems a guest worker program would run into, then you need look no further than this article from The New York Times[1]:

“Charlie Bearse, the president of Sidney Coal, was expressing an opinion that many in these mountains secretly share. The problem was, he put that opinion in writing.

“It is common knowledge that the work ethic of the Eastern Kentucky worker has declined from where it once was,” Mr. Bearse wrote to the state mining board. Bad attitudes and drug abuse, he argued, were affecting attendance “and, ultimately, productivity.”

Mr. Bearse’s appeal to the board: Relax an English-only policy in the mines so he could bring in Hispanic workers.

American companies often say they need migrant workers to do low-paying, menial tasks that many Americans will not. But at $18 an hour and up, plus benefits, mining jobs are some of Appalachia’s best.

…A generation of layoffs and migration has left a suddenly booming industry with a shortage of experienced miners. Labor officials put that deficit at more than 6,000 miners in West Virginia and Kentucky. “For all kinds of reasons, the labor pool is smaller,” said Bill Caylor, president of the Kentucky Coal Association.

But Tim Miller, a United Mine Workers union organizer, said that was nonsense, calling the supposed miner shortage “the biggest farce out there right now.”

In the past two years, Kentucky has issued nearly 13,000 work permits for inexperienced miners. In a recent week, state labor officials counted 7,187 people actively seeking coal mining work, 5,390 of whom claimed prior mining experience.

…”They want people who don’t have the ability to protect themselves,” Mr. Miller said. “If they can flood the market with Hispanic workers, if they can get away with paying a guy $8 an hour, the next guy will be willing to work for $7.”

#1) Isn’t it interesting that a job paying $18 an hour with benefits is now supposedly one of the jobs that “Americans won’t do?” And the solution to the problem is to hire non-English speaking workers (translation: illegal immigrants) who’d undoubtedly be paid cut-rate wages to do the same work.

If that were to happen, in a few years the work force would be overwhelmingly made up of illegals, probably making $10-$12 an hour, and guys like Charlie Bearse would be claiming that he had no choice but to hire them because Americans just don’t have a “work ethic” anymore.

Incidentally, that’s what illegal aliens do to EVERY INDUSTRY they get involved with from picking fruit, to construction, to meat packing. Because so many of these illegals come from backwards Third World countries with terrible economies, they can come here, work for peanuts, have us educate their kids and pay their medical bills for free, send a big portion of the money back home, and still be doing better than they would have back home.

Whether you think that’s good, bad, or indifferent for Americans, understand that is how it works.

#2) Because of #1, if we actually stopped illegals from coming into the US, a guest worker program would make things real interesting for politicians.

For example, let’s say we get a guest worker program and Charlie Bearse gets permission to start bringing in guest workers. Then those guest workers, quite naturally, drive wages into the toilet and start putting tens of thousands of American workers in a position where they have to choose between big pay cuts or losing their jobs.

At that point, the politicians will have to choose between guys like Charlie Bearse, who’ll be flush with cash and able to pour money into their coffers for their reelection campaigns and all those workers who’ll be screaming bloody murder and demanding that their Senators and Congressman do something about those guest workers “stealing their jobs” right now!

#3) Whatever you think about #2, at least it’s much more honest and out in the open than the current situation.

What we have today are illegal aliens pouring into the country, the business owners who are hiring them making cash hand over fist, and the workers not really knowing who to blame when they’re priced out of their jobs. Their representatives in Congress SAY they don’t think people should be able to enter the country illegally, but nothing ever seems to get done.

Why so?

Because if it did get done, then see #2 for the dilemma politicians would be in. That’s why despite talking tough, most members of Congress don’t actually want to see illegal aliens stopped at the border — which is why it never gets done. Even most of the politicians talking about guest worker programs in truth, want those workers to come into the US IN ADDITION TO the illegals that would still be flowing into the country.


Because it would provide more workers for the Charlie Bearse types out there, which would make them happier and lead to more money for the pols and yet the workers who get screwed still wouldn’t know exactly who to blame for it.

What it all comes down to is this: Securing our borders and enforcing our laws against illegal immigration should be done first, before a guest worker program comes into place. If that isn’t done, we could only end up exacerbating our current problem by pouring more “legal” foreign workers into our country without getting rid of the illegal aliens. If anything, that would just make our current illegal immigration woes worse.

  1. The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/19/national/19miners.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

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