This blog post is a response to a letter in today's Tribune, with the nice (but inapt) headline "Impartial Hiring."
The "logic" (and I use that word loosely) of Jose Hinaro Lim, the letter-writer, would have us tied to cheap, foreign labor forever because that provides greater profits for private businesses. Hidden beneath the very sound idea of hiring based on qualifications is the message that we want our cheap, foreign labor force and should be entitled to keep it, and that federal laws to the contrary are bad. Hidden beneath the rhetoric is the concept that profit is the only consideration that counts.
But greater profits for private businesses is not the sole consideration in building a community; it is not even a preference. What we should be aiming for is a community that is self-supporting. We want a community where equal opportunity exists for everyone. We need a community with wholesome enterprise and a political scheme that respects the civil rights of all, preserves the environment, and provides equal access to justice.
Employers should be careful before embracing the suggestions of Jose Hinaro Lim--to do so could violate our laws and cause employers to face civil and criminal sanctions. In choosing an employee, the first consideration is competence--not MAXIMUM or BEST competence, but identifying all who meet the minimum criteria that are legally needed for the job. (The argument that employers would be forced to hire incompetent employees is nonsense. There is no law that ever requires that.)
Employers do not get to pad the requirements for the job. You can't require two years experience for unskilled work. You can't tailor the requirements to meet just the one candidate you really want to hire. This is what the concepts of job categories and prevailing wages address.
If there are competent lawfully resident workers--regardless of race, ethnicity, or citizenship--these are the people who get the job. It doesn't matter that you may prefer a foreign worker because he's cheaper, or has a better education or more experience. If employers can hire a resident worker who is competent to do the job, then that is what the law requires.
And that makes sense. We want to build the competencies of our own community. We want the income earned to be spent here as much as possible, and not be forwarded out to a foreign country. We want to be able to lure back our youth, when they get educated, with jobs and opportunities here.
So NO, Mr. Lim, it is NOT good for our community to have a policy that employers should be able to hire the best foreign worker for the cheapest price, regardless of the availability of resident workers. That's NOT "impartial." That's a practice that abuses both the local worker and the foreign worker by depressing wages here, and forcing resident people to leave their homes, and takes advantage of poor people who have left their foreign homes and have no political power. That's not "impartial"--it's destructive of our community and perpetrates a system that is not good for workers at all.