What about ‘virtual workers?’
Regarding “NC lawmakers push for end to loophole that benefits foreign workers” (July 11): As the state looks more closely at how companies who receive state tax incentives fill the jobs they create, have they addressed the use of the “virtual worker?”
Many of the jobs these tech companies create don’t require somebody to be physically present in a local office. Many tech workers work remotely and can live just about anywhere. Do the tax incentives that the state awards specify that the jobs must be physically located within the state? If so, how does the state monitor this requirement? If not, do they plan to address this issue too?
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Reform visa programs
“Visa program shortfall is hurting N.C.” (July 8) identifies some of the reasons businesses favor immigration reform. Unfortunately, it glosses over the serious shortcomings of temporary foreign worker programs like the H-2B visa program. These workers are a readily exploitable stream of labor for many North Carolina businesses. H-2B (low skilled, non-agriculture) and H-2A (agriculture) workers’ visas are tied to a single employer, leaving workers stuck between the choice of complaining and being sent home, or continuing to work when conditions are bad or not as promised.
The North Carolina seafood industry employs large numbers of H-2B workers who travel annually to work for low wages under difficult circumstances. Many of these employees come here year after year for decades, yet the visa program offers them no path to ever become legal permanent residents or citizens of the United States. Moreover, H-2B wages in the seafood industry remain artificially low because of a loophole in the regulations allowing employers to set wages based on inadequate employer wage surveys. It is critical that if immigration reform proposals include a continuation or expansion of programs like the H-2A and H-2B visa programs, that these serious shortcomings (among many others) be addressed.
Improve farming conditions
In “As labor pool for N.C. farms shrinks, some rely on guest worker program” (July 9), I noticed once again that farmers state that Americans won’t do this type of work. However, that statement is always incomplete: I think it should read “Americans won’t do this type of work for the poor wages and lousy working conditions that are being offered.” The wages in the labor pool are being artificially depressed by the availability of immigrant and migrant workers, and these workers also tend to put up with poor working conditions because of their vulnerable situations. It would be interesting to see what would happen if the market was allowed to operate without bringing in other workers.
Let’s say that supply and demand for labor results in an increase in wages to $30 per hour and farmers offer much better working conditions (e.g., add more workers so individual workers aren’t pressured into working 12-hour days, 6-7 days a week in very hot summer conditions). Various studies have been done on calculating the increase in the retail price of foods such as tomatoes, so I’m estimating that these changes might increase the retail price by maybe 10 percent, or less (farm labor is always a small percent of the total retail price). This would produce a fairer test of the statement that Americans won’t do this work. The higher wages should attract Americans still seeking higher-paying jobs, and as consumers this would have a minimal effect on grocery bills (and people could certainly forgo the tasteless tomatoes produced in the winter).
Stephen S. Jenks
Inequality in visa program
Regarding “N.C. businesses feel the pain of cuts to seasonal visas” (July 4): Of course Sen. Thom Tillis wants to bring in more H-2B immigrants for seafood and forestry jobs in North Carolina. The businesses he speaks of – in Ocracoke, Wilmington, Hampstead, Beaufort, Walstonburg, the list goes on and on – have jobs in seafood and related products for six bucks an hour. These same businesses have owners with beachfront homes and children attending universities while they are crying for workers that live 10 to an apartment and all get government subsidies, food stamps and cheap health care while working for industries whose owners earn millions.
They want these immigrant workers to replace American workers because they work and live like stacked hardwood, and they live completely under the control of these family businesses. They don’t have to provide these workers any benefits while reaping the full reward of their labors, enriching their families alone, all, of course, at the expense of the taxpayer. They pay little or no taxes. Thanks to Thom Tillis, corporate subsidies are nothing new, but businesses have found their pot of gold by getting taxpayers to fund their workforce.
Farm bill ‘shameful’
Regarding “NC legislature moves to stifle farmworkers’ unions” (June 28): The NC General Assembly just passed Farm Bill S615 with an anti-union amendment sneaked in at the last minute by a farmer elected to the NC Legislature. Farm Bill S615 is a shameful abuse of power that aims at stopping the union from being able to help those who need it.
I am a witness that organizations and unions like the Farm Labor Organizing Committee are of incredible value. For 7 years, I have come from Mexico to work in the fields of North Carolina through the H-2A Visa Program. In 2013, my wife had to have an emergency surgery, and I returned to Mexico. Before leaving, my boss told me that I wouldn’t have any issues returning the next year. However, when I went to visit the labor recruiter in Mexico the following year, they told me that I was permanently ineligible to return. With the help of FLOC, I filed a grievance and won my job back. Thanks to the union I have a job in this great country, and that is why I am calling on Gov. Roy Cooper to veto this bill.