Commissioner worries over foreign worker influx

County Board Chair Fritz Sobanja
County Board Chair Fritz Sobanja

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Should county businesses hire foreign workers over locals, especially young people? Commissioner Fritz Sobanja thinks not, but a local businessperson says there’s more to it than that. WTIPs Jay Andersen has this story.
 
 
Cook County Board Chair Fritz Sobanja thinks county businesses could do more to hire local workers instead of foreign workers to fill entry-level jobs. At Tuesday’s Board meeting, Sobanja said he’d like to keep locals employed locally, while admitting there was no County Board action that would be appropriate to help with that goal. He said that he’d heard that local employers were not hiring locals because they were hiring foreign workers.
 
Sobanja: I was kind of shocked that, you know, I figured that a local person would not hire another a local person but would hire a foreign worker over that local person, when there is so much dialogue going on in the schools and in the county about keeping our local kids here to work in the industries here.
 
Sobanja asked where the sense of community is, and wondered how young people can build a good work ethic if they can’t get a job
 
Sobanja: But, it is, I think, it’s a concern for all members of this county. I would assume that a majority of the parents would like to see their kids go through that time of their life, being able to mix in the county, get to know the people working locally in the jobs and do that kind of thing and not have those opportunities be closed for them. To build a good work ethic, that’s part of it. How are you going to build a work ethic if you can’t get a job?
 
Local business owner and long-time employer of international workers, Beth Kennedy, says it’s fair to say area businesses are hiring foreign workers.
 
Kennedy: They are hiring international workers because there’s not enough employees in this community to run our businesses. There’s not enough kids, there’s not enough people in general applying for those jobs, and most of the Grand Marais people are not interested in working those lower-paying, entry-level jobs. They’re mostly, the local kids end up either waitressing or doing higher-level jobs that pay more.
 
Kennedy added that local workers have the first choice at employment and choose the better-paying jobs and those that fit their hours. She said foreign workers are employed in the low-level jobs.
 
Kennedy: I would say that the primary jobs are those low-level, cleaning rooms, doing dishes, all the jobs that the Americans don’t seem to want. There are some Americans, of course, doing those jobs, but not enough to fill the jobs that we have in Cook County.
 
Kennedy said there are roughly 125 international workers in Grand Marais alone, not counting those in the rest of the County. She said that’s how many jobs there are in Cook County, and there aren’t that many young people to fill them.
 
Jay Andersen, WTIP News.


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