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$34 an Hour: Some Americans Will Dig It

Cyndi Smallwood, of Diversified Landscape Management, oversees her crew in Laguna Niguel, Calif. She says she can't find enough workers, even for $34 an hour. When an article about her plight ran in the L.A. Times, she was deluged with phone calls and faxes. Photo: Ken Hively / LAT

Cyndi Smallwood recently told readers about her difficulty finding legal and qualified workers for her Riverside, Calif. contracting business.

Other landscape business owners, like her, have lobbied lawmakers to pass a workable guest worker plan that will import labor from Mexico and other countries.

Many Americans, especially Anglos, just won't do landscaping work, many contracting business owners have said.

On May 18, however, Smallwood got a surprise when she found herself the center of a story on the issue, printed on the front page of the L.A. Times.

"A Job Americans Won't Do, Even at $34 an Hour," the headline read.

The headline and article got the attention of more than a few, who flooded Diversified Landscape Management with calls.

As a government contractor, Smallwood's business pays workers wages set by California's Department of Industrial Relations--significantly more than private contractors pay.

The number "$34" apparently got the attention of more than a few readers. The morning the article ran there was a run on Smallwood's office phone.

Before 10 a.m., close to 50 people called, looking for one of those "$34 an hour" jobs.

"I can't even write them all down," she told "They're calling so fast, now I'm just telling them to fax in their resume.

"We'll see how qualified they are... some of them sound pretty flaky."

Telling American there are jobs they won't do isn't a way to make yourself popular these days. In April, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) told an audience that Americans won't pick lettuce--even for $50 an hour.

The next day a group of demonstrators showed up at his office with heads of lettuce.

The account didn't say whether the demonstrators actually picked the lettuce.

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June 27, 2019, 2:06 am PDT

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