Hacker News new | comments | show | ask | jobs | submit login
Texas Companies Tie Worker Shortages to Immigration Fears (nytimes.com)
28 points by smaili 10 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 25 comments

When farm workers make a wage that can support a family of five without any government benefits, including paying health care premiums without subsidies, then we can start talking about a labor shortage.

Arguments like yours seem divorced from the reality of what a farmer can sell his produce for in the US. What your argument is really saying is that the price of produce should greatly, greatly increase in the US. That may be a fine argument, but if so you should explain how that is possible (i.e. it would require very high import tariffs), instead of arguing basically that farmers should pay much higher wages from their orchards of money trees.

Has anyone calculated how much the price needs to go up in order to achieve that?

Employee wages are a tiny fraction of the cost of produce. To get a head of lettuce to your supermarket, the main cost factors are land, irrigation, fertilizer, farm equipment, seeds, pesticides, transportation, spoilage, marketing, storage, compliance, retail markup, etc etc. Why is it that market prices are fine for all of those factors but not for labor?

> Why is it that market prices are fine for all of those factors but not for labor?

Huh, I don't understand that? It's clear that the problem is that the market price for farm labor is extremely low.

And what's even more curious is that the farmers are complaining that there's a shortage of workers. How can there be a shortage when the market price is extremely low, as you put it? There is no shortage. The farmers will always complain about "crops rotting in the fields," I made a Twitter account a while ago to gently mock their endless whining.



When I see comments like this I wonder if people realise where these higher wages will come from? Higher prices, perhaps?

I can speak for myself and some close friends. Yes we do. If the primary factor of a lower price is "our employees can barely survive" I'll try pretty hard to find a substitute.

I expect they look at a graph like this and wonder how that productivity gain could not possibly be passed on to workers at least a little bit


Less profit and less compensation at the top, yes this means the professional classes with the high salaries they enjoy in the US.

A single software engineering wage can barely support a family of five in the Bay Area. Maybe the problem is the high cost of living?

The article is very light on details.

That said, It'll be interesting to see if this lasts and if it does whether it results in increased wages in the affected sectors or not. This presents an opportunity to understand how this affects the economy one way or the other.

We already have a number of examples in the US to choose. Economic impact is begative and it does not result in increased wages. The Trump crackdown is going to devastate US farming.


The Trump crackdown is going to devastate US farming.

Isn't this kinda on the farmers who built businesses that are only viable with indentured/exploited labour?

I mean I am not saying I agree with Trump on this but let's call a spade a spade shall we? Business that pay a market clearing price for workers do not suffer from staff shortages.

This is true, but economics isn't instant (not that you're saying it is; it's just an interesting thing to think about). If people stick to their guns, a few years down the line we'll either see increased food costs to consumers in the US to cover those higher wages, or we'll see reduced food production in the US and cheaper food being imported from overseas (I suspect it would be the latter if allowed to run, but I suspect also that subsidies and other such things would be created to enable food production to remain in the US with the extra costs Joe Public is paying for it hidden).

In the meantime, though, crops will rot, farms will go under, and so on.

> economics isn't instant

We'd like to think so, but the housing downturn happened pretty quickly. In fact, governments around the world went through a lot of effort to slow "economics" down.

Did it? I thought the housing downturn was years in the making. Sure, the moment at which house prices went from increasing to decreasing was a single instant, but that's true of everything that changes from increasing to decreasing.

Unless there's labor shortages.

I imagine a lot of people here would never go work as a picker, no matter what the paycheck. Or going back to waiting tables.

There's an argument to be made about the heterogenous nature of the job market, including in "unskilled" labor (BS term insofar as I could probably never handle the stress of being a waiter).

Granted, I think industry exploits the undocumented nature of some of its work force in practice. But there's a reason seasonal immigrant workers were such a big deal before the border got closed up again.

What did plantation owners do when slavery was abolished?

I think some folks just went bankrupt and moved away. Larger plantations were often spit up and sold off, and a few took up a form of sharecropping with former slaves.

They reimplemented slavery through share cropping and debt slavery

I don't know - what did they do? I'd imagine some combination of mechanization and paying workers a fair wage.

They invented mortgage.

This wasn't what I expected (and what it actually was wasn't that insightful). When I worked in Texas I had many colleagues from Mexico (many more than I encounter here in the Bay Area, where the number is in the single digits). Most had PhDs from major US or Mexican universities.

There were dire predictions of educated non-Americans being unwilling to take US jobs. Though the absence of something is hard to document, is there any evidence this is actually happening? I know tourist numbers are dropping.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact