HIGHTOWER: Squeezing American Out of a Summer Job

Some days I read the paper ... and some days I just whap myself upside the head with it! This is one of my whapping days.It's a story in the USA Today about how there's such a shortage of summer workers this year that amusement parks, fast food chains, bars, and other summer tourist businesses are desperate for hired help. How desperate are they? So desperate, says the newspaper, that they've recruited workers from Slovakia, Lithuania, Spain, Macedonia, and other exotic places to take summer jobs in America's beach towns and recreation parks.Wait a minute. They have to import someone from Slovakia to work in a beach restaurant? "We're crying," one restaurant owner in Florida told USA Today -- "We run help ads in the newspapers and sometimes we don't get anyone." He hired some workers from Czechoslovakia.But here's the real story -- they're paying a pittance! The reporter writes that these businesses have tried everything, including "raising wages" to attract Americans. But it turns out they're only paying $5.25, $5.50, $5.75 an hour. The owner of a Wendy's franchise in Florida is quoted as saying that he raises wages of those who stay for a month: "Once you find a good worker, you can't worry about how much you pay them -- you've got to keep them." Guess how much his big payraise is? To six bucks an hour!It's not like these businesses are hurting -- in fact, they're expecting their best season ever. As one business representative said: "Nobody is crying about their profits this summer."I guess not, since they can bring Slovakians to all the U.S. beaches to keep American wages down. And get this -- to import these workers, they're using a special visa program that lets foreign college students spend six months working and touring in the good old US of A.This is Jim Hightower saying ... yes, USA Today pitched the story as though it was the businesses that were being squeezed -- rather than Americans being squeezed out of these summer jobs.

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