Hard jobs with few willing workers

Some articles are so useful, you wish you could ‘drag and drop’ them to a more prominent position in the paper. I found one in Wednesday’s Miami Herald’s Business section about Perdue Farms coming to Broward County to recruit poultry workers for its Delaware plant. The company was planning to fly 10 people back to Delaware so that they can observe the plant and their possible new home. The jobs pay approximately $10/hour and have no language requirements.

First some unemployment statistics as of Sept 2008 for the two states are as follows:

  • Delaware 4.8%
  • Florida 6.6%

Delaware is probably a good example of ‘full employment,’ despite the 4.8% unemployment rate. The term ‘structural unemployment‘ means that those 4.8% are probably not really looking for jobs.

How revealing about the unemployed between Delaware and Broward County. Think about it, Perdue didn’t come to South Florida looking for Spanish-speaking workers. They came looking for people who were willing to do hard jobs with little pay. They had to travel 910 miles to find the type of people desperate enough to work those jobs. More exactly, they had to travel 910 miles to find people probably not eligible for public assistance.

During a debate many years ago, William F Buckley was asked if he could imagine what it would be like if there was no unemployment insurance. His response, ‘there would be less unemployment.’ If any politician ever said that, they would be destroyed as being insensitive. But 99% of us are not running for office, so we can afford to think out loud. Leaving aside compassion, Buckley’s answer goes to the heart of the economic problem associated with government assistance. It’s not the actual monies expended, it’s the type of behavior they encourage.

If someone will be paid $1,000 per month in unemployment insurance and they could earn $1,200 working at a full-time job, few, if any, would take the job. That decision does not make them lazy, it makes them rational, absent a strong work ethic. A work ethic is usually by developed by observing it practiced up close by family. Many lower-income people have never had that example. An aptly named poverty cycle ensues, as the absence of work [or purpose], leads to other social pathologies. It is hard to imagine an improvement in America’s ‘work ethic’ in the current environment, all in the name of compassion.

When the next ‘Perdue’ is looking for workers, I can’t help but think that they will go right past South Florida into South America. Things will get much worse, before or if, they get better. Step up and see the show while you can. It was an amazing show. By the way, how did that goose and those monthly eggs story end?

All articles referenced are copied in full at end of post.

Miami Herald

Posted on Wed, Oct. 22, 2008
Perdue Farms lures South Florida workers

Perdue Farms is so hungry for workers at its Delaware poultry-processing plant it came all the way to Broward County.

This week, the company interviewed about 30 candidates at the county’s Refugee Services office in Oakland Park for openings in the company’s cutting and deboning operations, positions with starting pay of $9.10 an hour.

Among those who applied on Tuesday was Kenson Agenor, 21-year-old refugee from Haiti living in Lauderhill. he has been out of work for six months after he was laid off from a warehouse job at a Miami bathtub maker.

”It is very difficult to find a job” in South Florida, Agenor said through an interpreter. “Since there is no job here and they are giving a lot of opportunity, it will be perfect for [me] to move completely over there.”

Agenor has never been to Georgetown, Del., but the prospect of relocating 910 miles away doesn’t scare him.

Maryland-based Perdue is going to a lot of trouble to find workers under the pilot program: It will fly 10 of the candidates to Delaware so they can see the plant and the town, company spokeswoman Julie DeYoung said.


”It is a high-cost way to recruit,” DeYoung said. ”That’s why we are piloting it. If this works, we would be looking to hire substantially more numbers” for the Georgetown plant and its other facilities.

Perdue likely will initially offer jobs to five of the candidates.

New hires will be put up in a hotel for 30 days with transportation to and from the plant and one meal a day. They also will receive company assistance in finding permanent housing and transportation.

Perdue employs about 1,420 people at the Georgetown plant. About three-quarters of the work force are either immigrants or children of immigrants.

Most are from Guatemala or Mexico, said Eddie Lambden, Georgetown’s mayor.

Two years ago, The Philadelphia Inquirer chronicled how immigrants from Latin America working in poultry processing have transformed the southern Delaware community.


Perdue chose to recruit in Broward because of the size of the pool of applicants. Other cities, including Philadelphia and Bowling Green, Ky., just didn’t have a large number of applicants to interview, DeYoung said.

Work-site enforcements targeting illegal immigration have become a priority for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, particularly at meatpacking and poultry-processing plants.

DeYoung said she had no information on whether ICE’s efforts have affected Perdue.

ICE spokesman Richard Rocha said he wasn’t aware of any large-scale enforcement operations at Perdue’s Georgetown plant in the last two years.

New recruits at Perdue’s Georgetown plant can earn $10.20 an hour after a 90-day probation period.

Once a worker becomes certified as a cutter, the pay increases to $11.20 an hour, DeYoung said.

The recruitment event in Broward also was unusual for Refugee Services, which generally doesn’t place people in jobs outside of the county.

Betty De Soto, a Refugee Services case manager for Haitian refugees, called her 40 or so clients as many as four times to make sure they attended this week’s recruitment event.

”They told me, a chance like that, they won’t let it go because some of them are working here for $7 an hour,” De Soto said. “They see the opportunity.”

Finding work for refugees in Broward has been difficult with the downturn in the economy, De Soto added.

Perdue needs workers because turnover in its processing plants is high — more than 50 percent, DeYoung said.

The work is hard. Workers are dealing with perishable food; the environment is cold and Perdue uses a lot of water for sanitation.


”They are tough jobs, but they’re the kind of jobs that refugees do,” said Leland Dale Wilson, a manager for Refugee Services.

“They are willing to start somewhere and move up.”

Felix Rodriguez, 27, of Fort Lauderdale, who is originally from Puerto Rico, filled out an application along with his father.

Rodriguez lost a maintenance job at an apartment complex and has been working part-time as a cook.

”You got a family and not working here, you just got to try another opportunity,” Rodriguez said in broken English. “It’s about your family.”

About Jorge Costales

- Cuban Exile [veni] - Raised in Miami [vidi] - American Citizen [vici]
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