Chamber of Commerce Official Unwittingly Tells the Truth About H-2Bs

By David North on July 17, 2017

Speaking about summer jobs in Maine, at a time when no additional H-2B foreign workers are available, the executive director of a Maine Chamber of Commerce is quoted as saying:

The shortage is so acute ... other companies have gone so far as to offer higher wages to entice locals. (Emphasis added.)

Without being aware of it, the Chamber executive was stating what to some critics is obvious: The presence of H-2B workers not only deprives U.S. workers of jobs, it drives down wages. (H-2B workers are ostensibly unskilled nonimmigrant aliens who have non-agricultural jobs.)

The Chamber official in this case is Martha Searchfield, and she is with the Bar Harbor (Maine) Chamber, which represents business in an elegant resort area. She was quoted in a revealing article in the Daily Caller.

She also said that some employers are scrambling and are, for example, looking for older workers who want to work only one or two days a week. An article on a similar subject in the Boston Globe described how at least one Massachusetts employer had — pause for the horror to sink in — brought some workers up from Puerto Rico.

These articles are largely devoted to the fact that U.S. employers have already hired the legal limit of 66,000 H-2B workers, and are hoping that Secretary Kelly of DHS will use the authority granted him to raise the limit this year. (He did so on Monday.) They focus on the point of view of the resort operators and their spokespeople like Searchfield, with the reporters never seeking comments from either economists or workers; and certainly not from migration policy specialists.

Reporters and editors, as a group, can readily identify with employers who are often fellow college graduates; relating to those with high school educations or less, the people who benefit from a slightly tightened labor market, is rare.

This undergirding factor should be borne in mind when reading about foreign workers and "labor shortages".