Up Front: The American Dream
Hola y como estan (Hi and how are you). It's a new year and already it's been far too cold in the Midwest. It makes me yearn to use my stock Spanish phrase in Mexico City, Acapulco, Belize-anywhere south of the border, close to the equator. Many of your workers hail from Central America and couldn't be more happy to be up here, away from the heat, hanging board and finishing in the northern hemisphere. And making much more cash than they could back home.
Across America, there is great debate on the immigration work force. Many resent the ease those from other countries have in finding work-particularly in the trades-feeling that foreigners dip into the U.S. labor pool. It's a valid concern, as in several states there are reports that immigrant workers are undercutting jobs for Americans and upsetting the economic balance. Here in Michigan, Congresswoman Candice Miller is claiming that state seats are being lost because of the discrepancy between the last census vs. the actual head count, with many immigrants not being accounted for. As a result, the state has lost representatives who have been redistributed to other states. Her major point being: Why do illegal immigrants have the same rights as U.S. citizens?
As we have discussed in past months, keeping your good workers has been a concern. Our recent market trends study noted the shortage of skilled labor. As contractors operating in a very competitive market and a shaky economy, it cannot be stressed enough to do whatever it takes to keep those loyal and great craftsmen you currently employ.
I recently read a great article that featured two subcontractors who actually helped their Hispanic workers obtain citizenship and were instrumental in the process of these workers getting their own business. Beyond altruism, the actions of these men is radical yet makes sense. Not only do they hold high respect for the work ethic of the Hispanic work force but they also share their values in family, loyalty and responsibility. In the dog-eat-dog world of business, who wouldn't want to work with a team whose staff is devoted and trustworthy?
"I feel that helping these workers is part of my social responsibility," says Tim Wallace, of T.W. Wallace Construction, of Arlington, Va. "If our immigration laws weren't in such disarray and so punitive in the first place, more immigrants would be here legally. I hire long term, so it gives me peace of mind to know that the government isn't going to come crashing down on my workers or on me. It's also nice for them, and for me, to know that they have a good, secure future here."
Michael Strong, of Brothers Strong in Houston, has also helped Hispanic workers get stabilized on American soil.
"Besides sponsoring them through the citizenship process, we've helped these subcontractors by loaning them money and cosigning notes for their vehicles and painting equipment," says Strong. "We've brought in manufacturers' representatives to conduct classes on proper product installation. We've brought them to networking events and written letters of recommendation."
Why would people do this? Fortunately, there are still people whose actions are not self-serving and find it important to help others who have less in life. Yet people such as Wallace and Strong do benefit from their actions: They've made an investment in people who can help them build their own businesses, whether it be in keeping a good work force or by helping individuals become subcontractors so they can conduct business together. It makes sense and it's smart.
This month, we introduce Ricardo Gonz