The resulting manpower shortage has forced state farmers to leave millions of dollarsâ€™ worth of blueberries, onions and other crops unharvested and rotting in the fields. It has also put state officials into something of a panic at the damage theyâ€™ve done to Georgiaâ€™s largest industry.
The fire-breathing nativists who blame all social ills on illegal immigrants need to face up to the fact that chunks of the American economy require undocumented labor to function as they are functioning. Even if, hypothetically, we decide it’s all right to pay more for our groceries to reduce agriculture’s dependence on undocumented workers, that would also mean American food products would be uncompetitive in the global market.
Given high unemployment, would American-born workers be able to take up the slack?
According to the survey, more than 6,300 of the unclaimed jobs pay an hourly wage of $7.25 to $8.99, or an average of roughly $8 an hour. Over a 40-hour work week in the South Georgia sun, thatâ€™s $320 a week, before taxes, although most workers probably put in considerably longer hours. Another 3,200 jobs pay $9 to $11 an hour. And while our agriculture commissioner has been quoted as saying Georgia farms provide â€œ$12, $13, $14, $16, $18-an-hour jobs,â€ the survey reported just 169 openings out of more than 11,000 that pay $16 or more.
In addition, few of the jobs include benefits â€” only 7.7 percent offer health insurance, and barely a third are even covered by workers compensation.
In other words, this is very hard work that doesn’t pay a living wage. So what’s the free-market solution? Oh, wait — undocumented workers are the free-market solution. Never mind.