Rescued Miners Doing "Jobs Americans Won't Do"
July 28, 2002
The successful rescue this weekend of nine miners trapped for days 240 feet below the surface of Pennsylvania transfixed the nation. Scenes of freezing, filth-covered men emerging alive one by one from the narrow rescue shaft delighted us, and reporters on location spoke in almost reverent appreciation of these men and the risks they take in one of the dirtiest and most dangerous jobs in America.
After washing off and receiving medical attention, some of the miners began giving interviews. Judging by their accents, these miners are native-born Americans.
This must come as a great shock to Wall Street Journal readers, who are frequently told that extreme levels of legal and illegal immigration are necessary, since immigrants do the "dirtiest and most dangerous" jobs in America -- "jobs Americans won't do."
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the fatality rate for coal miners is over seven times higher than for industry as a whole, making it the most dangerous job in America.
However, this dangerous and dirty work is still done by Americans, and wages for miners are high. In 2001, according to the BLS, the average hourly earnings for miners were $17.65 -- well above the average for all other industries. In other words, industry must often pay higher wages to those who do dirty and dangerous work than it must pay to those who do less dirty and less dangerous work.
Unless, of course, industry can hire illegal immigrants.
Meatpacking is another dirty and dangerous job that was once also high paying and sought after by Americans. Beginning in the 1970s, however, union-busting corporations began importing illegal immigrants to do meatpacking jobs -- even sending buses to the border to ferry illegal immigrants back to their packinghouses.
Now those once high paying jobs pay little more than minimum wage and the illegal immigrants who fill them dare not complain about working conditions or pay since there are always more recently arrived illegal aliens ready take their places.
The meatpacking industry was a major labor battleground, and importing easily oppressed foreigners was a key corporate weapon. The corporations won, and American workers were tossed out on the street. Adding insult to injury, they later had to pay higher taxes for more classrooms, healthcare and other services required by their new neighbors in radically changed communities.
We congratulate the Pennsylvania miners on their grit and survival, and hope they can continue to hang on to their jobs.