Do Americans really want to work (or why immigrants are needed)?


This article from the New York times begins with this question—how can there be a labor shortage when nearly one out of every 11 people is unemployed? From all accounts I’m reading, employers running ads are swamped with resumes and inquiries and one would think that any honest job would get the same response and upon being fortunate to land one, someone wouldn’t just up and quit after a mere six hours on the job.  Well, the guy pictured above thought the same thing and nearly lost his shirt trying to hire locals, rather than Mexicans, to work on his farm at $ 10.50 an hour.   Here’s what he had to say:

“It didn’t take me six hours to realize I’d made a heck of a mistake,” Mr. Harold said, standing in his onion field on a recent afternoon as a crew of workers from Mexico cut the tops off yellow onions and bagged them.

Six hours was enough, between the 6 a.m. start time and noon lunch break, for the first wave of local workers to quit. Some simply never came back and gave no reason. Twenty-five of them said specifically, according to farm records, that the work was too hard. On the Harold farm, pickers walk the rows alongside a huge harvest vehicle called a mule train, plucking ears of corn and handing them up to workers on the mule who box them and lift the crates, each weighing 45 to 50 pounds.

After that, the guy had to scurry to hire more Mexicans under a special temporary work visa program to salvage his harvest. Undoubtedly, this dynamic is repeated throughout the agricultural industry, construction and where ever else hard laborious work is required.  Americans can no longer handle this sort of work and have gotten soft.  The general feeling is that they wanted to get paid, but not do much for it.

If you go out a survey any small business person, they will tell you that the biggest headache is hiring and retaining good people.  The biggest problem is a sense of entitlement.  People feel like they should get paid even if they produce nothing beneficial.  It’s this sort of thinking that will make difficult times even worst as it leaves these same people ill suited to do what they need to in order to survive.  The Mexican workers, on the other hand, don’t have that issue.  Ultimately people or nations rise in the world largely as a function of their productivity.  That can only come about from working.

During the last Great Depression, folks headed back to the farm as a safety net.  It’s safe to say we won’t see that now. And it should come as no great surprise that many guest workers decide to over stay their VISAs and pursue other work that Americans find too hard to do.  That’s as logical and rational as the decision the farmer makes in hiring them rather than Americans. 



  • Anonymous

    “The biggest problem is a sense of entitlement.  People feel like they should get paid even if they produce nothing beneficial.”

    This feeling prevails (“People feel like they should get paid”) whether we’re talking about  millionaires who earn money from money, and not from their own direct labor, or about the common worker who believes that stoop labor is beneath him, or her, or is too difficult to carry out.

    We’re talking about the Wii generation for whom work is just not that much fun, and should be avoided at all cost.

    Work and working for a living have become the most unpopular thing one can do: It’s not civilized, or civilizing. For example, if we can’t make education fun, then learning for the sake of learning becomes a drudgery, and no one should be expected to do it, least of all students from families with bushels and bushels of money.

    The son of actor Sir Sean Connery, I hear, has been disinherited: He was content to inherit his father’s money, rather than work for his own.

    • >>>Work and working for a living have become the most unpopular thing one can do: It's not civilized, or civilizing. For example, if we can't make education fun, then learning for the sake of learning becomes a drudgery, and no one should be expected to do it, least of all students from families with bushels and bushels of money<<<<

      And this is why the current economic upheavals are so threatening.  People have lost the ability and inclination to do what's needed to survive.  That will take work and accepting that one will have to do things he or she may not like.  I think the Mexicans and others have a distinct advantage in this regard and in that is the mechanism for one group rising while another falls.  They say that in the last days of the Roman empire, they didn't even want to fight in their own wars and hired mercenaries instead and as a result lost the knowledge of fighting.  We're in a similar situation having outsourced or imported those to do the dirty work.  In that, we may have sealed our own fate.  And yes, you're right, this is pervasive across all levels of American society.


  • Hendvon1

    So many people disparage the Mexican who enter the US illegally and legally. Ninety nine percent are hard working honest people but we hear about the 1% of criminals and welfare schemers. When Americans worked and built and did what it took to survive who did the press focus on?  Billy the Kid, Wyatt Earp, Jesse James, Bonnie and Clyde. The real heros were busy building roads and cultivating the land for 100 hours a week.

    In truth the Mexicans coming in to work are more like Americans used to be; willing to take any job to be self reliant.  They will leave the familiarity of their homeland and move to where opportunity is available. The Nanny state created by the Democrates and big government Republicans have not only dumbed down the population but made it soft and lazy. Parents who give their kids everything they want are just as guilty.  

     I have been to areas where employers are begging for workers just 2 weeks ago; West Texas, South Texas, North Dakota.  Yet a town like Harlingen Texas has 14% unemployment.  Why?  Inability to pass a drug screen,   poor work ethic  as evidenced by their work history, and also a propensity to live on the dole as this no longer has the stigma of failure on it but an air of acceptance, especially amoungt their peers.  And this is in Texas which is widely derided as on of the worst states for taking care of the “vulnerables”. 

    Schools need to teach the tough subjects, not “self-worth” classes.  There are winners and losers in the real world. The winners will have and deserve self-assurance; the losers need to deal with it.

    • Hendvon,  I’ve been out of pocket here lately and I like to respond to every visitor, so please accept my apologies for my delayed response here.  I think your comments are entirely spot on and this story does introduce the question of whether Americans are really prepared for work.  I don’t think many are and I have first hand experience at this as a small business person.  Finding good people with skills and who are willing to work hard is the most difficult task the average small business person faces.  Everyone wants to get paid, but few want to work and fewer still are willing to delay gratification.  Everyone wants it now and whether they actually earned it is beside the point.  It’s a very valid argument to assert that jobs have been under assault with trade policies and outsourcing, but it’s also very valid to argue that immigrants and others have a stronger work ethic.  A lot of this is due to the environments they come from which tend to not have the excesses that American society has grown accustomed to.  As those excesses are wrung from the system by the unfolding economic malaise, people will be forced to change in ways that will be better for them and ultimately our nation as a whole.   Thanks for dropping by and sharing your thoughts.

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