Jobs! Get ‘Em While They’re Hot!
Jul 15, 2010
By Steve Cornett
Just to follow up on my last blog post about illegal farm workers earlier this week, the Arizona Republic has a take on the issue at that you can read by following this link.
I hadn’t thought of what a test tube Arizona might be for finding out if guest workers take jobs unemployed Americans want.
The story says the state needs 50,000 temporary farm workers—25,000 of them from out of state—and there are 300,000 unemployed workers in Arizona. It says one of the, presumably typical, undocumented workers plans not to make the trip this year for fear the local police will bust him.
From the Republic’s story:
Hector Lopez, 28, is originally from Oaxaca, Mexico, but has worked in the U.S. for 10 years and lives in Salinas, Calif. Four months a year he harvests lettuce in Yuma, where he earns $10 an hour. But this year will be different, Lopez said.
"The truth is, I'm thinking of finding some other alternative because of the new law," he said.
"What I understand is that now police officers can take on the function of immigration and for whatever infraction, they can arrest you and check your immigration status," said Lopez, who said he earns $4,000 a season in Arizona.
Without putting on my old editor’s hat and asking the reporters for evidence that direct quote is actually as verbatim as the quotation marks indicate, let me note that I know something about harvesting lettuce.
My dad left Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl and spent some time harvesting lettuce in California. It was, as per the memories he conveyed to me decades later, sort of tough work, even for an Okie accustomed to mule-and-hoe agriculture. But he took it. So did a lot of his fellow Dust Bowl refugees. In those days, such work was the country’s “safety net.”
So, we have an interesting test here. If you believe the Republic story, the state has 12 unemployed people for each of the outsider jobs. You’ve got a statewide listing that allows people to find the jobs if they want them.
You’ve got farmers who, as any good union member will tell you, will pay whatever it takes to get help. In fact, Mr. Lopez’ $10 per hour is 38% over the state’s minimum wage of $7.25.
So this should all be good news. With 12 applicants for every one of those 25,000 jobs, the farmers should be able to bid the price a little lower.
Isn’t that how supply and demand works? I mean, assuming the “demand” is really there?
Let’s see how it works out.