For a moment, it seems like it might be 1981 again.
I am standing in the lobby of the Carl’s Jr. on Indian Hill Boulevard in Pomona, a fast-food restaurant that has managed to survive the socioeconomic convulsions of the long-suffering city that has left much of the commercial property along the boulevard in a state of perpetual semi-blight; scarred by graffiti, etched windows, litter, panhandling vagrants and the decaying storefronts of businesses that have failed and those that are just hanging on.
Thirty years ago I toiled here, in the very same burger joint, a teenager earning $3.35 an hour that helped out around a household headed by a single mother.
But now, a generation later, I haven’t dropped in to order a Super Star burger, fries and a shake, but rather to again ask for an application to make and serve them. I’ve come looking for a job, any job, that this restaurant in the fourth-largest fast-food chain in the country might have open.
The guy behind the register, who looks to be in his late teens or maybe early 20s, offers only the briefest of pause when I ask for an application. It’s a look that tells me he’s perhaps concerned that he’s seeing more people like me of late — middle-age men and women searching for work as proverbial “burger-flippers” and other bottom-rung service-industry jobs that serve as an economic lifeboat (or, more accurately, driftwood) until the rescue ship comes along to save them.
He didn’t know that I wasn’t fighting this desperately for my financial survival, but that I was actually a writer interested in exploring the whimsical adage that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and its dance partner on the ethnocentric Left have spun together into a convenient “conventional wisdom” that is routinely played in high-rotation across an often unquestioning media:These are jobs Americans don’t want and won’t do.
So as the second year of The Great Recession came to a close, I decided to run that claim through a simple field test to get a sense of what happens when an American citizen goes in search of those jobs? I began applying for a string of low-skill, low-wage jobs, many at places that I had worked during high school and college.
I took a fairly straightforward approach; offering to work any shift in any position for any amount of hours at whatever wage they started employees.
From Carl’s Jr. on down the reply was always the same: silence.
From delivery and pick-up driver positions to dishwasher, busboy, cook, video store clerk and beyond, my applications and follow-ups looking for employment in menial labor jobs resulted in not even a single call back.
At one local car wash, the manager instructed the clerk to not even give me an application. Apparently there is never an opening in their towel- and squirt bottle-wielding crews, which also never seem to include a white or black English-speaking member.
But if my brief, nonclinical experiment produced results that I still found quite depressing even though I didn’t need those jobs — probably because like so many other college-educated professionals I presumed “those” jobs would always be available — it is a bitter daily reality for millions of U.S. citizens who are indeed looking for any job they can find.
Yet advocates for mass immigration continue to preach their gospel, talking over and often and trying to shout down any suggestion that the American worker and their communities need a break and some breathing room from constant and growing competition for jobs and services — when both are in decline. While the corporatist suits of the chamber and the racialists of the ethnic-identity wing of the Left surely preach it for different reasons, it’s a sermon they routinely harmonize together on from Fox News to MSNBC.
All the sugary platitudes about the positive impacts of mass immigration can’t conceal an ugly truth: millions of Americans are unemployed and growing increasingly desperate while millions of foreign workers who don’t even have a legal right to be in the country still have jobs. They take — yes, take — jobs from citizens not only in the service and retail industries that provide small but vital second incomes to American families, but also in many commercial and industrial sectors that offer living wages for skilled labor, construction crews being Exhibit A.
Foreign workers — legal and illegal — have taken so many jobs from American workers that the government is understandably afraid to accurately quantify it. Instead, it joins the mantra and pretends that Americans don’t want these jobs, don’t need these jobs.
It is a dangerous delusion that further erodes what little remains of the public’s trust in its government.
Political leaders from both parties can continue to step in front of the cameras on cue to wring their hands nervously over the staggering job losses America has suffered and the grim future that millions of citizens now face, but unless and until they are willing to honestly admit that millions of foreign workers pouring into the United States are undeniably devastating to the American worker and are ready to act decisively to end the practice, then they are just playing to themselves.
And Americans, like so many Californians today, will slowly come to understand that while their dream may be over, their long national nightmare has only begun.