Why won’t Americans take some jobs—even in a bad economy?

Michigans Grand Hotel Mackinac Island All this week, we’ve been talking about the tough choices we all face when it comes to the rights and policies concerning migrant workers. Digging into this issue, it surprised me that the cap on H-2B guest workers was reached during a recession that rivals the Great Depression! (Scroll down to read yesterday’s post.)
      Why are American hotels and resorts hiring foreign workers when so many Americans are out of work? It could be a demand problem or a supply problem. On the demand side, maybe American hoteliers prefer, say, Jamaicans over American citizens. On the supply side, maybe Americans just don’t want those service jobs.
      Tom Caprel says it’s a supply problem: “These are the jobs that our extraordinarily blessed population wouldn’t even consider working in.”
      What about the demand side? How hard do American hoteliers try to hire American citizens?
      Let’s take the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island as an example. Founded in 1887, the Grand’s entire staff was entirely American for decades. About 35 years ago, the world’s largest summer hotel started hiring foreign workers. Was it choice or necessity?
      Here’s some of the ways the Grand Hotel tries to hire Americans: ads in major papers in Michigan and the Great Lakes region; ads at American ski resorts out West, Florida, and Arizona; attendance at regional and Michigan Works job fairs; visits to culinary institutions around the country; ads on the Internet; and ads on radio.
      The Grand created a service academy in partnership with the Michigan Employment Security Commission to find and train unemployed Michigan citizens interested in hospitality. They provided education, summer employment, a guaranteed job the next year, and winter employment at American ski resorts—virtually no one returned to the Grand, taking year-round positions at other places.
      The Grand tried to recruit from homeless shelters in Michigan, and, working with the state, find and hire workers with limited physical and mental disabilities.
      Despite all this, in 2008 the Grand Hotel employed only 250 American citizens out of its 600-person staff. The majority were H-2B guest workers.
      What do you think? Is demand or supply the problem? If it’s a supply problem—Americans just won’t take those jobs—why do you think that is? 
    (The source of information on the Grand Hotel is a 2008 statement before the Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law.)

  Please, Add a Comment. Where have you seen this kind of problem arising? What solutions have you found?

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