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Thread: Crab pickers wanted - Hoopers Island, MD

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    Default Crab pickers wanted - Hoopers Island, MD






    HOOPERS ISLAND, Maryland This community voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump. But now his immigration restrictions are killing their livelihood legendary crabs that are a mainstay of the local economy and a regional delicacy.
    For decades, Hoopers Island, known for its crabbing industry, has relied on a federal seasonal work program known as H-2B visas to keep its businesses humming. This has allowed employers to hire foreigners, mostly Mexican women, to come temporarily to pick crab meat.

    But this year, the Trump administration's cap on H-2B visas and a shift from a first-come, first-served based model to a lottery system that has disadvantaged Hoopers Island seasonal workers has left the island without 40 percent of the visas they have needed in the past.

    Right now, we're shut down," said Morgan Tolley, manager of A.E. Phillips and Sons Seafood. "We're in self preservation mode."

    Just two miles away, in what should be the start to the peak season, Harry Phillips, the owner of Russell Hall Seafood, stands in an empty picking room once filled with the women he's had working for him for over 25 years.

    "We can't operate the way we're going," Phillips told NBC News. "I've had to let truck drivers go. I don't need truck drivers if I don't have the product. It's going to affect us to the point where we may have to totally close."


    "(President Trump's) vow was to create American jobs, but this is not creating American jobs," Phillips said.

    In 2016, Trump won easily in Dorchester County, which includes all of Hoopers Island, largely based off of his pledge to help small businesses.
    Capt. Larry "Boo" Powley, a fifth-generation fisherman who makes his living catching bait for crabs, pulls his boat into Russell Hall and says his small business is hurting. At a time when he would usually bring in roughly 300 boxes of crab bait, he's been limited to just 100 boxes a day.

    "The more demand that there is for bait, the better I do," Powley said. "Right now, there's no demand because they can't handle the crabs because they have no pickers. And it's really hurting us right now."

    "How would you like to be in business for 30 years and they tell you, 'Well, we're going to pick out of a hat if you're going to run your business or not?' How do people stay in business? Does Washington not get it? You've got to have workers," Powley said.


    For years, Powley and other watermen have fished for crab bait to deliver to processors like Russell Hall Seafood. Those processors use the fish, particularly menhaden, to lure crabs, bring them back to their facilities and steam them. Once they're steamed, these seasonal workers, who stay from roughly April to November, pick the meat from the crabs, package it and send it off to stores and restaurants.

    While the town usually receives 500 visas for crab pickers, this year only about 300 were approved.

    Forty years ago, women who lived on Maryland's Eastern Shore would pick crab meat. But as their children grew older, more educated and left town, that workforce dried up and businesses turned to the H-2B visa program to bring in foreign workers.

    "We've been doing this 25 years the right way, the way the government wanted," Phillips said. "They're not a threat to the community, they spend money in the community and they do their banking here. So to me that looks like a win-win situation."

    "I do not have any Americans that want to do this job," said Brian Hall, the owner of G.W. Hall & Sons seafood, one of the few facilities on the island that was able to secure enough H-2B visas this year. "We support a lot of different businesses from a lot of different states and it's all because of these H-2B girls."

    The Trump administration is expected to add about 15,000 H-2B visa this year because of high demand. But with crabbing season already underway, and because of the long trek from Mexico to Hoopers Island, many here worry that it may be too little, too late.

    Of the eight crab processing facilities on Hoopers Island, only four received the visas they requested. Beyond those businesses, others are feeling the effects as well.
    "Our business has very much suffered because of the loss of the people here," said Katie Doll, the owner of Hoopers Island General Store, the only general store within 30 miles. "The trucks aren't running, the boats aren't working, our hours are less."

    Beyond Hoopers Island, the new policy is not only costing jobs, but is expected to hit consumers who enjoy the famous Maryland Blue Crabs. "A typical crab cake might be four times the price," Doll said.

    But given the chance, many Hoopers Island resident say they'd vote for Trump again. They say that if he knew about their struggling businesses, he would change his policy.

    "I just don't think Donald Trump knows what's going on down here right now," Powley said. "Because if you're for business, well, you're putting businesses out of work here."
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    Default Re: Crab pickers wanted - Hoopers Island, MD

    Gonna be seeing more of that.

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    Default Re: Crab pickers wanted - Hoopers Island, MD

    Demonstrating, once again, that immigration is GOOD for America.
    "Reason and facts are sacrificed to opinion and myth. Demonstrable falsehoods are circulated and recycled as fact. Narrow minded opinion refuses to be subjected to thought and analysis. Too many now subject events to a prefabricated set of interpretations, usually provided by a biased media source. The myth is more comfortable than the often difficult search for truth."







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    Default Re: Crab pickers wanted - Hoopers Island, MD

    Q: How much does a seasonal crab picker maker per hour?
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    Default Re: Crab pickers wanted - Hoopers Island, MD

    Forty years ago, women who lived on Maryland's Eastern Shore would pick crab meat. But as their children grew older, more educated and left town, that workforce dried up
    The workforce is changing. There are a lot of industries that want the government to supply workers for them - those who have a great need that encourages them to do hard work for low wages.

    Perhaps the owners of these businesses could spend some money and make the jobs more attractive.
    Life is complex.

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    Default Re: Crab pickers wanted - Hoopers Island, MD

    Is there 100% employment in the area?
    Enjoy a good rum on the rocks at sunset.

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    Default Re: Crab pickers wanted - Hoopers Island, MD

    Quote Originally Posted by Ted Hoppe View Post
    Q: How much does a seasonal crab picker maker per hour?
    I asked this question as I was writing my post and before I saw your post.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/archi...=.bff09f1872e4
    http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/mar...914-story.html

    in 2005: $5.15/hr. But they seem to get paid more due to a court order and rule changes.
    Life is complex.

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    Default Re: Crab pickers wanted - Hoopers Island, MD

    Quote Originally Posted by Too Little Time View Post
    The workforce is changing. There are a lot of industries that want the government to supply workers for them - those who have a great need that encourages them to do hard work for low wages.

    Perhaps the owners of these businesses could spend some money and make the jobs more attractive.
    Exactly!

    These owners are holding costs down by not making the jobs better paying and with better conditions. They are being subsidized by cheap imigrant labor which goes outside regular labor laws.
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    Default Re: Crab pickers wanted - Hoopers Island, MD

    Quote Originally Posted by Ted Hoppe View Post
    Q: How much does a seasonal crab picker maker per hour?
    NPR did a story on this. They start pickers @ 12-14/hr - IOW, well over minimum wage. The skilled women who did this work through last year would work per pound - as by working that way they could make roughly $30/hour.

    The man NPR interviewed said that his company had placed help wanted ads in papers for over a month & had not received a single response. Even raising the hourly rate made no difference.
    "If it ain't broke, you're not trying." - Red Green

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    Default Re: Crab pickers wanted - Hoopers Island, MD

    Quote Originally Posted by Ted Hoppe View Post
    Exactly!

    These owners are holding costs down by not making the jobs better paying and with better conditions. They are being subsidized by cheap imigrant labor which goes outside regular labor laws.
    Please see my reply to your first post. Simply not true.
    "If it ain't broke, you're not trying." - Red Green

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    Default Re: Crab pickers wanted - Hoopers Island, MD

    I can tell you that it is hard work. It is very hard work. Not many people can do it day after day. It's fast, demanding, and boring.

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    Default Re: Crab pickers wanted - Hoopers Island, MD

    the economy here on Mount Desert Island Maine is about 70-80% tourist oriented and as such, seasonal in nature. In previous years a significant proportion of the seasonal workers were visa workers. This year many businesses are hurting because they can't bring in those visa workers. I personally know of several local businesses that don't know what they are going to do. They can't hire enough Americans because of a variety of reasons. Among those reasons is the timing of the "season" - June through September and into early October for some businesses. College kids generally can't work the end of the season and don't want to wait until mid-June to start. In addition housing here is non-existent in the summer because virtually everything is directed toward the weekly tourist trade. The local businesses set up bunk houses for visa workers, but US workers generally refuse to live in those sorts of conditions.

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    Default Re: Crab pickers wanted - Hoopers Island, MD

    Quote Originally Posted by Garret View Post
    NPR did a story on this. They start pickers @ 12-14/hr - IOW, well over minimum wage. The skilled women who did this work through last year would work per pound - as by working that way they could make roughly $30/hour.

    The man NPR interviewed said that his company had placed help wanted ads in papers for over a month & had not received a single response. Even raising the hourly rate made no difference.
    Quote Originally Posted by CWSmith View Post
    I can tell you that it is hard work. It is very hard work. Not many people can do it day after day. It's fast, demanding, and boring.

    40hrs x 4 weeks x $30.00 = $4,800.00 a month.

    Admittedly it is also only seasonal and not year round.
    Enjoy a good rum on the rocks at sunset.

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    Default Re: Crab pickers wanted - Hoopers Island, MD

    Deck hands on these crab boats can make about $35,000 in two weeks, or $0. Wanna do it?




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    Default Re: Crab pickers wanted - Hoopers Island, MD

    This thread's post has so little understanding of the micro economy involved in this story.

    This industry like many agricultural industry is absolutely dependent on migratory labor. This area of Maryland as with many of the fishing communities that line the Chesapeake on other estuaries are remote. The communities can't support a year round labor force.

    It's not a matter of fat cat capitalist factory owners not paying enough. If you've never been exposed to this type of economy It might be hard to grasp.
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    Default Re: Crab pickers wanted - Hoopers Island, MD

    Quote Originally Posted by Garret View Post
    NPR did a story on this. They start pickers @ 12-14/hr - IOW, well over minimum wage. The skilled women who did this work through last year would work per pound - as by working that way they could make roughly $30/hour.

    The man NPR interviewed said that his company had placed help wanted ads in papers for over a month & had not received a single response. Even raising the hourly rate made no difference.
    If you look at the links I posted, you might notice that pay has been increasing. That offers up a common situation.

    When the pay was low and only foreign labor was attracted to the jobs, the local people lost the institutional knowledge to prepare for and perform the jobs. Pay rose for some reason, but at no time was it worthwhile for the local people to reaquire the institutional knowledge. When the foreign labor left for whatever reason, the industry died.

    Another way to look at this is that while the physical workplace remained, the labor needs were exported and they will never come back.
    Life is complex.

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    Default Re: Crab pickers wanted - Hoopers Island, MD

    this is what it is about:



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    Default Re: Crab pickers wanted - Hoopers Island, MD

    Quote Originally Posted by Garret View Post
    NPR did a story on this. They start pickers @ 12-14/hr - IOW, well over minimum wage. The skilled women who did this work through last year would work per pound - as by working that way they could make roughly $30/hour.

    The man NPR interviewed said that his company had placed help wanted ads in papers for over a month & had not received a single response. Even raising the hourly rate made no difference.
    Placing ads in papers! LOL!

    Imagine the ad...

    Crab picker wanted. Low wages with chance of slow advancement, hard work, out in all weather, smelly boat, foul captains and crew with criminal backgrounds, rough conditions, early mornings. No housing available except in old moldy camper in a crackhead trailer park. Call 410-xxx-xxx for further details. Ask for Captain Blyee.



    The facts are I know many kids going up to Alaska to work the salmon boats for less. The crabbers who operate the boats want low wages. In any job where there is seasonal work - the wages must be higher. I suspect there are few places where you can find a place to stay in MD close to work for $50 a week. They want cheap labor and don't care about anything much more.
    Last edited by Ted Hoppe; 05-15-2018 at 12:27 PM.
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    Default Re: Crab pickers wanted - Hoopers Island, MD

    this is the size of the communities:

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    Default Re: Crab pickers wanted - Hoopers Island, MD

    Quote Originally Posted by Too Little Time View Post
    If you look at the links I posted, you might notice that pay has been increasing. That offers up a common situation.

    When the pay was low and only foreign labor was attracted to the jobs, the local people lost the institutional knowledge to prepare for and perform the jobs. Pay rose for some reason, but at no time was it worthwhile for the local people to reaquire the institutional knowledge. When the foreign labor left for whatever reason, the industry died.

    Another way to look at this is that while the physical workplace remained, the labor needs were exported and they will never come back.
    The foreign labor did not "leave" - it was prevented from coming. Note that Trump's properties hire thousands of immigrants on the same H-2B visas. Is he facing any sort of help shortage?

    And to your last sentence - I guess you think that all these businesses should just shut down.
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    Default Re: Crab pickers wanted - Hoopers Island, MD

    Please see my reply to your first post. Simply not true.
    Right.

    If you never picked crab, it's a skllled, but tedious ,job and they get paid for it. Here, pickers (and scallop shuckers) are often Polish women who have been doing it for some time.

    It will take one quite a while before one's ability is such that one can do two or three pounds of blue crab meat an hour. I've been picking crabs my entire life--for bait and to eat--yet I could never keep up with one of them pro pickers.

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    Default Re: Crab pickers wanted - Hoopers Island, MD

    Quote Originally Posted by Ted Hoppe View Post
    Placing ads in papers! LOL!

    The facts are I know many kids going up to Alaska to work the salmon boats for less. The crabbers who operate the boats want low wages. In any job where there is seasonal work - the wages must be higher. I suspect there are few places where you can find a place to stay in MD close to work for $50 a week. They want cheap labor and don't care about anything much more.
    The "in papers" was my addition. I don't believe the interviewee said anything more than "we placed help wanted ads". One presumes that might include on-line etc. But - go ahead & ridicule - I'm sure all the crab fishermen think it's funny as hell.
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    Default Re: Crab pickers wanted - Hoopers Island, MD

    Quote Originally Posted by Garret View Post
    NPR did a story on this. They start pickers @ 12-14/hr - IOW, well over minimum wage. The skilled women who did this work through last year would work per pound - as by working that way they could make roughly $30/hour.

    The man NPR interviewed said that his company had placed help wanted ads in papers for over a month & had not received a single response. Even raising the hourly rate made no difference.
    Quote Originally Posted by Rum_Pirate View Post
    40hrs x 4 weeks x $30.00 = $4,800.00 a month.

    Admittedly it is also only seasonal and not year round.
    As a youth I caught, cooked and picked a lot of crab. I could never pick it fast enough to make $30/hr.

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    Default Re: Crab pickers wanted - Hoopers Island, MD

    Quote Originally Posted by Breakaway View Post
    Right.

    If you never picked crab, it's a skllled, but tedious ,job and they get paid for it. Here, pickers (and scallop shuckers) are often Polish women who have been doing it for some time.

    It will take one quite a while before one's ability is such that one can do two or three pounds of blue crab meat an hour. I've been picking crabs my entire life--for bait and to eat--yet I could never keep up with one of them pro pickers.

    Kevin

    Exactly, Kevin!

    Many of these women would come to work for the season in the picking sheds year after year. Their male significant others would be working in the near by corn and vegetable fields on the eastern shore. Then they would return to their homes in Mexico for the winter. It's called migrant labor for those of you who've never heard of it.
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    Default Re: Crab pickers wanted - Hoopers Island, MD

    Quote Originally Posted by SKIP KILPATRICK View Post
    Many of these women would come to work for the season in the picking sheds year after year. Their male significant others would be working in the near by corn and vegetable fields on the eastern shore. Then they would return to their homes in Mexico for the winter. It's called migrant labor for those of you who've never heard of it.
    And most industrial countries recognize it as valuable, regulate it in a sensible manner, and benefit from it.

    That said, if we replace "crab" with "lettuce", many of us will quickly complain that the migrant workers are underpaid.

    I don't know what the truth is, but I do know that people need to be paid a living wage and we need to be willing to pay for the product accordingly.

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    Default Re: Crab pickers wanted - Hoopers Island, MD

    Quote Originally Posted by SKIP KILPATRICK View Post
    Exactly, Kevin!

    Many of these women would come to work for the season in the picking sheds year after year. Their male significant others would be working in the near by corn and vegetable fields on the eastern shore. Then they would return to their homes in Mexico for the winter. It's called migrant labor for those of you who've never heard of it.
    And before this latin phenomenon ... locals did the work and everyone was poor except for a few who owned the boats, ran the docks and were the bankers. It was what provided the few jobs in town. Many kids went barefoot and many stopped going to school before the 9th grade.

    Good times.
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    Default Re: Crab pickers wanted - Hoopers Island, MD

    This is an issue for any industry that the majority of us white privileged people refuse to do, don't have the work ethic to do, and in many cases not physically capable of doing. Food processing, fish plants, agricultural labour, meat packing, etc...
    If these policies stay in place food prices will rise dramatically, and food imports will rise. It will also affect the cost of construction dramatically. It is not wages either. Thankfully Canada has different policies and allows temporary foreign workers to fill these gaps. The people coming in are capable and make a very good wage.
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    Default Re: Crab pickers wanted - Hoopers Island, MD

    Quote Originally Posted by Garret View Post
    Please see my reply to your first post. Simply not true.
    Garret, For way too many people, opinion trumps facts and this is a good example. After taking note of the local crab picking labor market for years, its true that most people have no clue as to how it runs or doesn't run.
    Tom L

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    Default Re: Crab pickers wanted - Hoopers Island, MD

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve McMahon View Post
    This is an issue for any industry that the majority of us white privileged people refuse to do, don't have the work ethic to do, and in many cases not physically capable of doing. Food processing, fish plants, agricultural labour, meat packing, etc...
    If these policies stay in place food prices will rise dramatically, and food imports will rise. It will also affect the cost of construction dramatically. It is not wages either. Thankfully Canada has different policies and allows temporary foreign workers to fill these gaps. The people coming in are capable and make a very good wage.
    "us white privileged people . . . not physically capable of doing"

    Care to explain, clarify or expand on that?
    Enjoy a good rum on the rocks at sunset.

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    Default Re: Crab pickers wanted - Hoopers Island, MD

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Lathrop View Post
    Garret, For way too many people, opinion trumps facts and this is a good example. After taking note of the local crab picking labor market for years, its true that most people have no clue as to how it runs or doesn't run.
    Ain't that the truth - both statements. I don't claim to be an expert of any sort on the crabbing industry - but I know desperation when I hear it & I heard it in the voice of the man NPR interviewed.

    At the risk of going OT (have I ever drifted a thread before?) - this issue extends well beyond crabs & into many levels of agriculture. It too is dependent on migrant labor. To a point on that, I was talking to an apple grower here in VT & he told me he's had not only the same people come back for many years, but he employs the children of people his father employed & considers them friends.
    "If it ain't broke, you're not trying." - Red Green

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    Default Re: Crab pickers wanted - Hoopers Island, MD

    Quote Originally Posted by Garret View Post
    Ain't that the truth - both statements. I don't claim to be an expert of any sort on the crabbing industry - but I know desperation when I hear it & I heard it in the voice of the man NPR interviewed.

    At the risk of going OT (have I ever drifted a thread before?) - this issue extends well beyond crabs & into many levels of agriculture. It too is dependent on migrant labor. To a point on that, I was talking to an apple grower here in VT & he told me he's had not only the same people come back for many years, but he employs the children of people his father employed & considers them friends.
    Nothing off topic there and decidedly on topic. I pick blue crabs for my own use but am not skilled enough or masochistic enough to try doing it for a living or even for guests at our table. Normally this time of year, the water in front of my house is heavily dotted with crab pot floats. Right now, there is not a single pot in sight and its not because there are no crabs swimming around the creek. Crab meat is going to be a price shock to many this year even though it was already high. Importation of many kinds of seafood will be coming in even more than usual. Did the think tank at the white house think that far ahead?
    Tom L

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    Default Re: Crab pickers wanted - Hoopers Island, MD

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Lathrop View Post
    Nothing off topic there and decidedly on topic. I pick blue crabs for my own use but am not skilled enough or masochistic enough to try doing it for a living or even for guests at our table. Normally this time of year, the water in front of my house is heavily dotted with crab pot floats. Right now, there is not a single pot in sight and its not because there are no crabs swimming around the creek. Crab meat is going to be a price shock to many this year even though it was already high.
    A side benefit blessing is that in the reduced 'harvesting' of crab this season it will allow the crab population to multiply and recover.
    Enjoy a good rum on the rocks at sunset.

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    Default Re: Crab pickers wanted - Hoopers Island, MD

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Lathrop View Post
    Nothing off topic there and decidedly on topic. I pick blue crabs for my own use but am not skilled enough or masochistic enough to try doing it for a living or even for guests at our table. Normally this time of year, the water in front of my house is heavily dotted with crab pot floats. Right now, there is not a single pot in sight and its not because there are no crabs swimming around the creek. Crab meat is going to be a price shock to many this year even though it was already high. Importation of many kinds of seafood will be coming in even more than usual. Did the think tank at the white house think that far ahead?
    [begin rant] Yep - imports will be way up - but who cares about a few crab fishermen? While the no cod fishing rules were in effect for US East Coast waters, I spent some time in the Midwest - where it seems that cod is the only fish to eat unless you catch it yourself. I heard people complaining about how expensive it was & tried to explain that they were paying for Portuguese fishermen to motor over to our coast, catch what US fishermen were not allowed to, take it back to Portugal & ship it to Illinois. All I got was blank looks. I further explained that if they purchased another kind of fish, they could not only save money, but support US fishermen. More blank looks, but this is a part of the country where farmers use non-dairy creamer in their coffee with no thought as to how it affects dairy farmers. [end rant]
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    Default Re: Crab pickers wanted - Hoopers Island, MD

    No mention of the fact that those migrant workers are also relying on the work. So right now they are probably at home and unemployed. JayInOz

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    Default Re: Crab pickers wanted - Hoopers Island, MD

    Quote Originally Posted by Garret View Post
    The foreign labor did not "leave" - it was prevented from coming. Note that Trump's properties hire thousands of immigrants on the same H-2B visas. Is he facing any sort of help shortage?

    And to your last sentence - I guess you think that all these businesses should just shut down.
    My point was loss of institutional knowledge. The workers could have not shown up for any reason at all.

    I think the business owners made poor decisions in the past. In particular, they depended on a specific government program. I don't think they should close up, but for many that may be the best option. I think they should change their business model. I am sure some will.
    Life is complex.

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