Opinion
Education Funding Letter to the Editor

Blame U.S. Immigration Policies, Not Wal-Mart, for Low Wages

September 30, 2014 1 min read
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To the Editor:

Tom Frank, the second vice president of the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers, is rightly concerned about the poverty afflicting working parents. His anger is misdirected, however.

He should be hammering the politicians who have created a glutted American labor market. Wal-Mart and other businesses enjoy a cornucopia of labor. It’s simple supply and demand.

The situation is very different for workers. They do not have an abundance of jobs from which to choose. They take what they can get or accept some form of federal assistance. Workers would benefit from a “tight” labor market.

A study published this summer by researchers at the Center for Immigration Studies found that high levels of legal and illegal immigration in the United States have greatly increased the labor supply.

According to the study, “Government data show that, since 2000, all of the net gain in the number of working-age (16 to 65) people holding a job [in the United States] has gone to immigrants (legal and illegal). This is remarkable given that native-born Americans accounted for two-thirds of the growth in the total working-age population.”

With this type of growth, how bad are the employment prospects for native-born Americans, many of whom are parents of school-age children?

President Barack Obama has met with lobbyists and interest groups to discuss their thoughts on immigration policy. Traditionally, presidents and members of Congress from both parties have pursued immigration policies with an eye toward pleasing organized special interests, primarily business and ethnic lobbies. Because of this, I would argue that the unorganized majority is left out of the political calculation.

To end businesses’ policies of paying “workers absurdly little,” as the letter to the editor put it, the labor market will have to tighten, and this approach to immigration will have to change.

Tom Shuford

Lenoir, N.C.

The writer is a retired teacher.

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A version of this article appeared in the October 01, 2014 edition of Education Week as Blame U.S. Immigration Policies, Not Wal-Mart, for Low Wages

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