Cape Cod hires Serbs, Jamaicans

Summer jobs on Cape Cod are filled by college students — from Eastern Europe, writes James Kirchick in The Atlantic. A restaurant  hires Jamaicans on nine-month visas. The Massachusetts unemployment rate is 7.6 percent, but Cape businesses say they can’t find competent Americans to fill seasonal jobs.

Foreigners work harder say bosses and employees.

“They don’t ask about pay, overtime, take long breaks. They just do it,” Alexandra Ivanov, a 21-year-old Bulgarian currently spending her third summer in Provincetown working at a fudge shop and a clothing store, tells me about her fellow foreign laborers. “I don’t think Americans could do it like us.”

“We don’t see too many coming in for work,” David Oliver, owner of Cape Tip Sportswear Company, tells me when I ask him about the state’s 265,600 unemployed residents. Meanwhile, “every day, two or three” foreign students come into his shop looking to add another job to their repertoire. “In general, the foreigners work harder and are much more focused than the American ones,” he says.

The Lobster Pot restaurant in Provincetown staple employs 34 Jamaicans on the H-2B visa. (It’s a temporary visa, but workers keep coming back year after year.)

Three years ago, the last time there was a shortage of H-2B visas, he hired 30 Americans through a labor firm. On the very first day, McNulty says, he had to let four of them go because they “weren’t skilled” or “got into trouble with the cops.” That summer, the restaurant considered shutting down its lunch service due to the foreign worker shortage.

I visited Cape Cod seven or eight years ago for an economics ‘n journalism conference. All the hotel employees came from overseas; most were energetic, ambitious college students from Eastern Europe.

Unemployment was much lower then. You’d think U.S. college students — or unemployed adults — would be willing to work low-wage temporary jobs rather than sit at home.  Are the business owners unwilling to hire people who expect overtime and breaks?

A bill that would force employers to “e-verify” their workers’ legal status will drive away 70 percent of the agricultural workforce, farmers warn. Americans won’t pick crops.

Mike Carlton, director of labor relations for the Florida Fruit and Vegetables Association, . . . said his group monitored hiring by citrus growers, who are required to offer jobs to Americans before they can turn to the H-2A program for temporary foreign laborers.

In one sample, Mr. Carlton said, 344 Americans came forward to fill 1,800 pickers’ jobs; only eight were still working at the end of the two-month season.

Americans can earn the same money flipping burgers or cleaning hotel rooms, the farmers say.

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