Friday, September 16, 2011

Pro Crab Pickers & Wage Growth

Pretty good piece in the Sun that covers both sides of the debate on whether it's appropriate to force crab packers to pay their pickers a higher wage. Andy Harris, who represents a district that's mostly the Eastern Shore, argues that employers need to continue to pay a low wage to imported foreign workers to protect jobs for Americans. He says watermen, truck drivers, and others depend on having cheap pickers. Follow that logic? It does make sense, although not in an immediately obvious way. Still, I'm always skeptical of claims that businesses will be forced to shut down if they actually pay their workers a living wage. On the other hand, a 24% jump in labor costs is indeed considerable, and canned picked crab is certainly a global market: people will buy Vietnamese canned crab if it's cheaper.

What is definitely NOT cool is the negative attitude of employers toward employees. In California I heard firsthand some farmers complaining about how the immigrants they hire to do the harvesting would "clog up the hospitals" because none of them have insurance. Employers then end up paying hospital bills via their taxes, since the harvesters are too poor to pay much themselves. Again, though, on the other hand, the immigrants (be they harvesters or crab pickers) are there because they want to be: they're happy to have jobs. I just wish there was more mutual respect there.

No comments:

Post a Comment