For more than three decades, America’s skilled and unskilled workers have been forced to compete with a congressionally sanctioned influx of overseas employment-based visa holders. Year after year, the story that the Chamber of Commerce and cheap labor-seeking employers promote is the same; no matter the job that needs filled, qualified Americans are unavailable. To add more drama to their tales of woe, employers insist that unless the foreign-born workers arrive immediately, they’ll be forced into bankruptcy.
But lo and behold, when President Trump temporarily suspended the visas that the international workers need to enter the U.S., employers scurried around to find that an abundance of Americans are ready to report to duty. The Denver Post reported the latest go-around when it wrote about ski resorts, and nearby restaurants and hotels. Fearful of shortages among temporary nonagricultural H-2B visa workers and J-1 cultural visitor exchange visas, these employers played it safe, and started their outreach for U.S. employees.
As organizations that advocate for American worker job protections have continuously promised would happen, plenty of candidates applied. The Post quoted Ryan Huff, the Vail Resorts communications director, who said that after ramping up his search in nearby communities, he’s “really pleased with the applicants.” Human resources director Sarah Salomon of the luxury resort hotel, the Sonnenalp Vail, said that she received more high-quality applicants than ever. Some, Salomon said, “come with quite the pedigree in the service industry.”
Employers’ misty-eyed stories about looming worker shortages and pending bankruptcies replay year after year. Yet when push comes to shove, and foreign labor becomes problematic, low- and high-skilled American workers are – surprise, surprise – in plentiful supply.
In Bar Harbor, Maine, businesses fearful of an international worker shortage hired locally. Under the same circumstances, Martha’s Vineyard employers hired American as did an Arizona drywall company. A Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce representative inadvertently revealed why employers prefer visa holders to American workers: some companies have been forced to offer higher wages to entice locals. Imagine paying a fair, livable wage to unemployed or underemployed citizens in neighboring communities!
The potential U.S. labor pool is vast, especially when the work is in cushy resort environs. Among the hire-me candidates are college kids on remote learning programs or taking a sabbatical from their studies, recently retired workers looking to supplement their fixed incomes, and pandemic furlough victims.
The argument that Americans can’t be found to work at high-end winter ski paradises or exclusive summer beach resorts insults the intelligence. For example, take a look at Sonnenalp which has disdained U.S. employees under the false pretense that it either couldn’t find Americans or that Americans wouldn’t do the jobs the resort needed filled. In the winter, Sonnenalp offers skiing and snowboarding; summers are hiking, fishing, backpacking and golf-filled days on its 7,100-yard course. For its guests’ comfort, each room has custom-made Bavarian furniture and a large bathroom with heated floors, an ambiance that attracts the richest and the most famous. Throughout the hotel, guests take in the spectacular mountain and river views. A Sonnenalp job, seasonal or part-time, is one of the U.S.’s most coveted places to work. Tip income alone would go a long way toward paying down a student loan or boosting a struggling family’s income. Yet, luxury hotel and resort jobs have, in recent years, been given to foreign nationals while Americans are relegated to minimum wage employment.
Worth keeping in mind is that U.S. visa overstays are about 40 percent of those in the country illegally. Of the 66,000 H-2B visa workers who enter each fiscal year, about 26,000 remain. Since federal enforcement agencies never look for overstays, their immigration status shifts to illegally present aliens who could enter the underground economy or, with falsified I-9 forms, get mainstream jobs that citizens deserve.
Regardless of the 2020 election’s outcome, American jobs must be protected.