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Apr 10, 2018 5:04 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Immigration Forum Focuses On Industries' Need For Foreign Workers For Seasonal Farm, Service Jobs

South Fork residents pack the Hampton Library in Bridgehampton for a forum on immigration. KYRIL BROMLEY
Apr 10, 2018 5:04 PM

The importance of immigrant labor to the local economy, especially to those in the service and agricultural industries, was highlighted at a forum held in Bridgehampton on Monday night.

“Immigration and its Impact on the South Fork” at the Hampton Library was hosted by the League of Women Voters of the Hamptons, and it featured a panel offering various views on the impact of immigration locally, including former East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell and League board member Martha Potter.

But the two speakers with the most to say, both on their own and in response to audience questions, were Rob Carpenter, administrative director of the Long Island Farm Bureau, and Michael Nenner, general manager of Gurney’s Inn in Montauk.

Mr. Nenner, a 20-year veteran of the hotel and service industry, said that out of the 400 employees who work at Gurney’s in a year, nearly 100 are immigrants from Jamaica, Mexico and Guatemala on seasonal work visas. Mr. Carpenter, meanwhile, pointed out that many farm employees in the summer and fall are immigrants from Vietnam, Poland and Ireland.

Mr. Nenner said the past few years have been difficult for Gurney’s, which typically uses the H-2B program to bring in foreign workers for the season. He said the program “lagged” and reduced the number of visas available to the East End, leading to a visa lottery. As a result, he said, 16 former employees could not come back to work for the season.

Mr. Carpenter pointed out that the farming industry utilizes the H-2A program, another visa program that allows those in the agriculture industry to hire foreign help temporarily. H-2A, however, contains levels of procedure that are costly to farmers, who also have to pay certain wage rates and housing for immigrant workers. Though Mr. Carpenter noted that farmers try to look for more “inexpensive” staff during the busy season, it’s difficult, since local residents don’t want to do farm work.

Mr. Nenner emphasized the need for undocumented citizens to have the chance to become citizens, and for local communities to be as open as possible to immigrants. “The local population is not invested in the service and food industry, so we have to rely on these visas for work,” he said. “A lot of resorts will be struggling this year on the East End, because locals are not working, and a lot of visas are lost.”

Mr. Carpenter also talked about how immigrant workers come for employment in America, because it benefits them more back home. “Workers come back year after year, for up to 20 to 30 years,” he said. “Some bring their kids to work and then have them go to local schools. Then they want to come back and work more—to go home and live extravagantly with their wages.”

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We sure could use more Polish, German, Irish, Italian & Asian people around here.
By pw herman (1097), southampton on Apr 11, 18 9:44 AM
German food is awful, can we get some Vietnamese?
By Pacman (181), Southampton on Apr 11, 18 3:00 PM
1 member liked this comment
Had doner kebab in Berlin and it was the best street food of my life.
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (3901), HAMPTON BAYS on Apr 11, 18 3:24 PM
Isn't that Mediterranean? I'm talking traditional German
By Pacman (181), Southampton on Apr 11, 18 3:34 PM
1 member liked this comment
It's like MS-13: The conditions came from a place other than where it was truly born.
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (3901), HAMPTON BAYS on Apr 11, 18 3:48 PM
1 member liked this comment
The east end is over filled with illegal immigrants. Why do we need more
By Win sky (20), Southampton on Apr 11, 18 11:55 AM
Because local employers don't want to pay a living wage to citizens when they can pay slave wages to criminals.
By Preliator Lives (294), Obamavillie on Apr 11, 18 3:13 PM
3 members liked this comment
A business exists to make a profit, can we agree on that first? OK , now labor is usually the largest expense for the business owner, still with me? Good,the business owner has to balance funds coming in and funds going out in such a way that there's enough left to return a profit. Without a profit there is no business, no business = no jobs. Saying that a business owner isn't paying his or her employees enough to make YOU happy is not part of the equation. Compensation is between the owner and ...more
By bigfresh (3679), north sea on Apr 13, 18 7:21 AM
The problem with your statement is that local employers are now the Illegal Immigrants.
By Win sky (20), Southampton on Apr 12, 18 9:31 AM
1 member liked this comment
We had farm, restaurant and construction laborers since I was a kid. They came, worked and moved back south to where the work was. Now they bring families and we support them year round.
People came to NY because they could get welfare right away and stayed. We are repeating this again and neither will work.
As said before, restaurants , contractors and farmer don't want to pay a living wage. They hire cheap labor.
By knitter (1435), Southampton on Apr 12, 18 9:55 AM
The farmers cannot afford it. It’s not that they “don’t want to pay a living wage” , they simply cannot. Mother Nature plays a crucial role in a farmers crop. Wipe it all out with drought or blight an the farmer an his family suffer a huge loss. Please remember, No Farms , No Food. Support your local farmer today!

By toes in the water (673), southampton on Apr 13, 18 7:04 AM
The business owners "can't afford" higher wages, then the people who live here "can't afford" to shop at locally-owned businesses.

Nobody is starving, business-owner or worker alike, they're just individuals making economic decisions to their own benefit.

Capitalism is great as long as you're upwind.
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (3901), HAMPTON BAYS on Apr 13, 18 7:11 AM
1 member liked this comment
And socialism is great until the capitalists' money runs out....sounds like a the Graduate School of Molnar's comment. Capitalism is great - greed and the sense of entitlement and being a victim is not.
By HB Proud (870), Hampton Bays on Apr 13, 18 7:33 AM
1 member liked this comment
Nobody is starving on the east end, business-owner or worker alike, everyone is just making rational economic decisions in their own benefit, and there's nothing inherently wrong with that.

My comment had nothing to do with socialism, it was intended to highlight that the people to blame for stagnant wages or faltering local industry are ourselves.
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (3901), HAMPTON BAYS on Apr 13, 18 9:43 AM
1 member liked this comment
Wow making economic decisions to feed your family without a handout from the government - oh the horrors....
By HB Proud (870), Hampton Bays on Apr 13, 18 10:14 AM
Who's talking about handouts?

The question I was addressing is "why don't business-owners pay more?" The answer is the same as "why don't local businesses thrive more?"

Because individuals are making rational economic choices: If you can buy cheaper labor you will, and if you can buy cheaper breakfast you will.
Apr 13, 18 10:34 AM appended by Fore1gnBornHBgrown
Winners and losers, ya'll. Winners AND losers.
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (3901), HAMPTON BAYS on Apr 13, 18 10:34 AM
What's you latest post on the other article about other people's money - all of your posts from what I read is bias against anyone who has wealth, no matter how hard and honest they made their fortune.
Many people are just plan jealous and not willing to work as hard and sacrifice what others have to be successful. I would say do you want some cheese with your usual whine, mate, but I suspect that your vice of choice is probably moonshine.
By HB Proud (870), Hampton Bays on Apr 13, 18 1:02 PM
Can you tell me where I'm whining? I'm merely pointing out that the reason business-owners don't pay higher wages is because they have cheaper options and the reason local businesses fail is because we have cheaper options.

One business paying higher wages isn't necessarily going to save them either, and may expose that business even more to consumers' rational economic decisions. Winners pay lower wage and get the cheaper breakfast, losers pay higher wages and go out of business.
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (3901), HAMPTON BAYS on Apr 13, 18 1:09 PM
1 member liked this comment
You lost me with the winners and losers analogy Foreign. Are you saying that the very nature of employer / employee is a win / lose scenario? Or are saying that because a business owner may have more income than an employee that's a winner / loser scenario perhaps? Not sure where you emigrated from , but perhaps business principles were not taught there. Not taking a crack at you personally, you have presented many well thought out articulate points, just wondering how you arrived at your economic ...more
By bigfresh (3679), north sea on Apr 15, 18 7:55 AM
No, here "losers" refers to businesses that fail because they pay higher wages than their competitors along with people who spend their excess wages on nice breakfasts, and "winners" are the people who buy the inexpensive breakfast and businesses that pay low wages.

That's the answer to the question of "why don't businesses pay higher wages?" and "why don't local businesses thrive?"

Because everyone is behaving like a rational economic actor. The prisoner's dilemma is an example ...more
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (3901), HAMPTON BAYS on Apr 15, 18 8:26 AM
Thanks for the clarification!
By bigfresh (3679), north sea on Apr 15, 18 1:38 PM
1 member liked this comment
No problem and I apologize for rambling, but I'm sure you've realized by now it's a habit :)
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (3901), HAMPTON BAYS on Apr 15, 18 5:17 PM
1 member liked this comment
What about hiring some of the 15-18 year old local youth? Summer jobs? And after school? Turn it into an agricultural grant funded endeavor ...XBOX TO FARM?
By deepchanel (48), Hampton Bays on Apr 13, 18 1:42 PM
You can't be serious with this post.
By johnj (879), Westhampton on Apr 13, 18 2:29 PM
Seems as if a lot of local kids don't get summer jobs anymore, most of my friend's kids are working summers once they're 14 but they are the exception to the rule when compared to their peers. A good work ethic is crucial to success.
By bigfresh (3679), north sea on Apr 16, 18 6:12 PM
Just a quick thought about this.We would love to hire 15-20 year old locals to work at our 45 year old garden center in a front line position including deliveries and loading customers cars with pay beginning at $14.50. We have advertised this for years. We never get any responses. Regarding our long time employees; everyone including are landscape division is an American citizen which we think is great because the quality, expertise and knowledge they provide is worth it. But, it also forces ...more
By Aspatuck Gardens (27), Westhampton Beach on Apr 19, 18 9:25 PM
1 member liked this comment
Just a bit. Sow it a little. Maybe it'll grow on you.
By deepchanel (48), Hampton Bays on Apr 13, 18 4:10 PM
Why do farmers and contractors have to pay fair wages when we have local politicians/former politicians being glorified in this newspaper for making millions on back door real estate deals? The old Rogers Memorial Library, Village Latch Inn, Thyme and Again building for 500k. Yeah you farmers and contractors need to pay better wages, pay no mind to the unethical, possibly illegal, definatley conflictual interest million dollar real estate deals making a select few, millions.
By icecreamman (388), Southampton on Apr 15, 18 9:29 AM
Hampton Bays Rotary, Autumn Evening by the Sea, Joyce Oakland, Oaklands Restaurant