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Strawberry fields forever needing more laborers, even at $17 hour

Some people who advocate for tighter controls on immigration say that the measures are necessary in order to protect jobs for American citizens. However, it is not always the case that Americans want those jobs—no matter the wage. But what does that say about our national work ethic?

The Wall Street Journal reported last week that “even at $17 an hour, farms can’t fill jobs.” The article refers mostly to agricultural industry, but other industries report similar problems.

Ilan Brat of the WSJ tells the story of one particular farm in the state of Washington, as far from the Mexican border as possible, but still greatly affected by tougher immigration laws:

Last year, about a quarter of Biringer Farm’s strawberries and raspberries rotted in the field because it couldn’t find enough workers. Samantha Bond was determined not to let that happen again.

Early this year, Ms. Bond, human resources manager for the 35-acre farm in Arlington, Wash., offered 20% raises to the most productive workers from the last harvest. She posted help-wanted ads on Craigslist, beside highways and on the bathroom-stall door at a church. She also successfully lobbied local high schools to broadcast her call for workers during morning announcements.

Despite Ms. Bond’s efforts, Biringer again faced a worker shortage and typically drew fewer than 60 of the roughly 100 employees it needed on harvest days. “There was definitely hair-pulling going on,” she said.

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