Friday, November 11, 2011

Americans don't want the jobs of immigrants (illegal or not); a story for "Labor Day" on Veterans Day?

MSN has reprinted a Bloomberg-Businessweek article on the fact that, with immigration laws being more strictly enforced (after implementation) in Alabama, Arizona, and elsewhere, some dirty jobs requiring hard manual labor go unfilled.  This is particularly true of farm work (picking food) or food processing plants – which can be frankly dangerous.

The whole spin contradicts the idea, harbored by many Americans, that immigrants (legal or not) take away good jobs. 

Here is the MSN link

Americans don’t want these jobs for a variety of reasons – sometimes very low pay (piecework) but sometimes because of physical inability. This gets to be translated into ideas that the work is beneath one’s dignity.  Yet President Nixon once tried to defuse this idea back around 1973 when he said that a janitor’s toil was as worthy as his (and then came Watergate).

My father, when I was growing up, particularly in the junior high years (ages 12-14, from about 1955 to 1958) used to lecture me on “learning to work” and the virtues of manual labor.  If you can’t do it, it becomes a source of humiliation.

And “they” have said that about working in fast food restaurants: they’re a test as to whether you can work or not.   That is, can you accept physical regimentation, almost military style.

In the 1960s, the Maoist Cultural Revolution in Red China was based partly on the idea that intellectuals must “pay their dues” by sharing the perils of physical toil as peasants.

After my IT layoff at the end of 2001, I gradually learned more about the "interim jobs" world, such as taxicab driver, and mail carrier, which I was told was a very physical job. Nevertheless, I very nearly got a job as a USPS letter carrier in Nov. 2004.  

And today Americans and Europeans depend on imported products made by very low-wage, tedious labor overseas (including China) by workers who live in dormitories and send money to relatives in the countryside.
All of this sounds like more fodder for the Occupy movement.  But you don’t see Michael Moore picking fruit (no pun).  Remember that scene in “Gone with the Wind”: “Quittin’ time”.

There's also a good question about how we will get all the caregiving done for an aging population, given these ideas about work. 


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