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Before you blame an immigrant, would you blame an unemployed college grad?

author Published by Jeremy Beck

Neil Irwin of The Upshot says a variety of factors have likely resulted in less-educated workers getting hammered, including workers moving from shrinking industries to growing ones:

“…perhaps a rise in automation and globalization is eliminating manufacturing jobs, and the people who once held those jobs are now competing for work as janitors and food preparers, and the additional supply is helping to depress wages in those fields.”

Jim Tankersley of the Washington Post says the excess labor weakens the bargaining power of workers:

“When middle-skill jobs vanish, those workers must either take low-skill jobs or compete for the fewer middle-skill jobs left. That extra competition pushes down everybody’s pay…”

Jeff Spross of The Week puts it in more emotional terms:

“…when there are plenty of unemployed people waiting in the wings to take a job should any worker get uppity and demanding, employers aren’t just free to pay poorly – they’re free to treat workers as less than human.”

William A. Galston of Brookings notes that workers of different educational levels are often competing with each other in today’s economy:

“A study from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York finds that of the recent college graduates who have managed to find work, more than 40% are in jobs that do not require a college degree; more than 20% are working only part-time; and more than 20% are in low-wage jobs….

“….Well-educated baristas and unemployed high-school graduates are flip-sides of the same phenomenon.”

There may be some resentment among unemployed high-school grads who have been rejected for employment in favor of an applicant with more education. Food service workers may not welcome the sight of former manufacturing workers entering their labor market. But for the most part, Americans seem more interested in policies that could improve their lives than in demonizing people who are, just like them, trying to eke out lives of dignity through work.

We acknowledge that the flood of American workers from one labor market into another puts downward pressure on wages, but we don’t demonize underemployed college grads or unemployed manufacturing workers for competing with less-educated workers. We look toward policies and policy makers for culprits and solutions.

IT workers who are forced to train their foreign replacements are taking the same approach.

Patrick Thibodeau has their stories:

“Several of these workers, in interviews, said they didn’t want to appear as xenophobic, but couldn’t help but to observe, as one did, that ‘there were times when I didn’t hear English spoken’ in the hallways. As the layoff date neared, ‘I really felt like a foreigner in that building,’ the worker said.”

That’s the kind of comment that can easily be misconstrued and/or lead to a destructive conclusion when taken out of context. But it isn’t a sense of xenophobia that’s being expressed here, it’s a sense of betrayal.

“‘Some of these folks were literally flown in the day before to take over the exact same job I was doing,’ said one of the IT workers who lost his job. He trained his replacement and is angry over the fact he had to train someone from India ‘on site, in our country.'”

Or, as another displaced worker put it:

“I think once we learned about it, we became angrier toward the U.S. government than we were with the people that were over here from India,” said, “because the government is allowing this.”

JEREMY BECK is the Director of the Media Standards Project for NumbersUSA

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