Cover Story: Crew shift

If you work in construction, or any occupation that involves hard manual labor, it comes as no surprise that there are a lot of Hispanic immigrants in this country – and that their numbers are growing.

But the public at large, spurred on by alarmist politicians and blow-dried anchormen, now seems to think that the presence of large numbers of Hispanics in the United States is a crisis that politicians must fix – and fast. There are two flaws with this belief.

One: Yes, there are problems. But in their quick-fix mentality the media and the politicians fail to consider the other side of the ledger sheet – the benefits the majority of these immigrants bring to our economy. It is entirely possible that the politicians might “fix” the problem and make everything worse for everybody.

Two: Looking to the government to fix this problem is like waiting for the fish to jump into your boat and (preferably) land in the ice chest. In case you missed last summer’s hurricane season, the government hasn’t been very good at fixing problems lately.

For better or worse, the Hispanic migration north into the United States is a fundamental change in the character and complexion of our nation. We cannot expect things to get better if we use the media or the political process to stay at arms’ length and take potshots at one another.

What we all need, and what we’ve attempted to do with this Equipment World Special Report, is to start a conversation. Get personal – respectful, but up close with people from all sides of the issue. Talk and listen face to face. Forget what you heard on the TV, find out for yourself. Listen with the heart. Don’t try to make converts. Try to make friends.

That’s something Hispanics do well and that Anglo society should learn. They might also teach us a thing or two about the integrity of the family, the value of hard work and the power of a positive attitude. We in turn should be helping immigrants understand the strengths of our way of life – the rule of law, the necessity of stopping corruption (official or otherwise) and the amazing wealth and prosperity that businesspeople can harness when free and fair markets are put into play.

It’s entirely possible that both cultures could be immeasurably enriched by learning from each other. But nothing moves forward without this conversation. Here’s our part. After this it’s up to you, amigos.
Tom Jackson

THE DAY JOB
Follow an undocumented worker as he tries to earn a living as New Orleans is being rebuilt.

BUSINESS REALITY?
As they become entrenched in the industry, many contractors have to deal with the legal and cultural implications of having Hispanic immigrants on their rosters.

FACE OFF
Fair or not, Hispanics are at the center of this country’s current debate on immigration. See what two experts on opposite sides think about this issue.

BLACK AND BROWN
As the two largest minority groups in the United States, the relationship between
blacks and Hispanics often shifts between tension and cooperation.

ON THE FRONT LINES
When Hispanics begin to take on equipment ownership, Texas-based Equipment Support Services will be ready for them.

KEEPING YOUR COMPANY ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE LAW
In today’s post-Sept. 11 world, not having the right documentation for your workers can mean fines, hassles and even jail time.

DAY LABOR CENTERS
Community centers make matching workers with contractors a safer, more orderly process.

H2B OR NOT 2B?
If you jump through enough hoops, you might be able to import workers.

LEARNING THE CULTURE
Do you have cultural assumptions that can cause turmoil on your jobsite?

TALKING THE TALK
Learning a foreign language can be a time-consuming task, but on today’s work sites, knowing Spanish can be essential.