• In Alabama, where a new state law is aimed at cracking down on illegal immigrants, the construction, agriculture and poultry industries all report huge shortages of labor.
• A study by the University of Georgia this year found that the state had a shortage of 5,244 workers in the fields.
• In California, farmers have complained of too few workers to pick the avocados.
• In Texas, growers have appealed for more employees to help pick their organic crops and vegetables, with little luck.
Tree fruit packing jobs in Central Washington are among the most highly sought in the area. Many
packers work year-round or nearly so, and receive employer-supported health insurance benefits. Wages
in the industry average $7.50 per hour, which is 45 percent above the new federal minimum wage ($5.15)
and 53 percent above the state's ($4.90). Several leading packing houses, including those targeted by the
union, pay wages averaging as high as $8.45 per hour.
Academics and experts argue about the economy bouncing back, but Rowe is confident the need is there.
"I'm not an economist. But there doesn't seem to be any disagreement on the rate of which skilled workers are retiring," says Rowe. "Long term, I'm comfortable saying construction can't stop. Farming can't stop."
According to the Alabama Construction Recruitment Institute (ACRI), the organization behind "Go Build Alabama," for every person who becomes a trade worker, three or four are retiring. The root of the problem is public relations.
"We found there are so many misconceptions about these jobs. We found 'they're all minimum wage, seasonal, no career ladder, or are dangerous' and nothing could be further from the truth," says Tim Alford, ACRI Executive Director. "These jobs we're talking about pay higher salaries than four-year-degree people make, and have even better benefits. We've got to get that word out."
There are far too many people out there who are educated beyond their abilities, that are unwilling to do any manual labor, which they believe is beneath their status.