Saturday, August 05, 2006

They keep coming back

I was talking to a friend from Seneca the other day. One thing you can't do too well at a factory is have good conversation. Not only do you have to stay busy, but you also have to shout to overcome the noise of all the machinery and to get through the earplugs. So I asked my friend Jaime how long he has been coming to Cumberland, WI. I was surprised to learn that he has been coming for 7 years. He further explained that he gets bored with it and sometimes wants to go elsewhere to work, but there are benefits to returning to the same place year after year. For one, he gets a raise every year that he returns. By going elsewhere, there is a good chance that he would have to start from the bottom of the pay scale again.

Another issue affecting a migrant's decision to go back to one location is housing. When migrants first move to an area, it is difficult to find a place to stay. Keep in mind that many migrants have not mastered the English language, making the challenge even more daunting. Therefore, whatever housing they acquire their first year will likely be the same housing they acquire every subsequent year.

Those are two major issues that influence a migrant's decision to return to the same job year after year. There is another, social issue that goes into the decision as well, friends. After working for so long at the same place, migrants think twice about going to where they don't know anybody. In some cases, they know and trust other migrant families. In other cases it's better the devil you know...

Of course, I always try to influence my migrant friends to seek some kind of education or certification. I encourage them to develop an inventory of skills so that they don't feel so trapped. More than anything, I think that education is mostly what many migrants need to get out of the annual cycle.
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