A few days ago, I noted that Maine’s waiters and waitresses had actually organized to fight against a minimum wage increase. Now Jazz Shaw has spotted a story out of Maine that messes with another mainstream narrative. Apparently, when the number of available immigrants for low-end work hits a ceiling, employers will find ways to make the positions into jobs that Americans will do:
The article describes some of the “creative ways to attract local labor” and they include things such as offering flexible hours and even… (gasp) higher wages. If your business is booming all summer to the degree that you can’t hire enough workers to meet the demand, then in a normal capitalist system the demand for labor would drive up the cost. Higher wages attract more and better workers… it’s really that simple. And if that enhanced compensation package is attracting more employees locally, why are you relying on the H-2B program to begin with?
The economic questions with immigration are not simplistic. Fluid immigration is arguably a subsidy to employers; rigid immigration is arguably a subsidy to workers. (Although, of course, a sense of fairness does seem to make the former argument more natural than the latter.)
As we work through these policies, though, deceptive rhetoric is kind of like a subsidy to those who dominate the media. Ultimately, there’s no such thing as a “job Americans won’t do.” There are just jobs that Americans won’t do for the compensation that employers want to pay. Immigration policy, in this regard, should balance the needs of employers who can add to the economy if they have lower labor prices with an appropriate aversion to allowing global poverty to drive down salaries in the United States.