Leave it to former Dirty Jobs host Mike Rowe to once again prove that logic and reason alway prevail over potshots. In a lengthy Facebook post this week, Rowe brilliantly responded to a question from a follower named Russell Borders who called out what he deemed to be Rowe’s “irreconcilable” perspective on “blue collar concerns” and “illegal labor.”
“Mike Rowe, you claim to champion blue collar concerns from a bafflingly ‘right wing’ perspective. This is irreconcilable on its face,” Borders wrote. “True blue collar construction jobs are absolutely infested by illegal labor. Please address this issue because a goodly portion of your fan base knows the truth.”
Befuddled by Borders’ “intriguing combination of sentences,” Rowe admitted that he “still can’t figure out” which side of the argument the writer falls on. Nonetheless, he proceeded to provide a detailed and eloquent takedown of Borders’ critique, explaining the troubling reality of the ever-growing skills gap that exists in the United States, while urging readers to stop confining one another to “predetermined boxes.”
Irreconcilable On It’s Face!Russell Borders writes…Mike Rowe, you claim to champion blue collar concerns from a…
Rowe reiterated his admiration of hard work but stopped short of calling himself a “champion of blue collar concerns,” as Borders suggested.
“To be clear – I’m a fan of blue-collar workers; I hope that’s obvious. Dirty Jobs was a love-letter to hard work, and mikeroweWORKS is a non-profit, apolitical foundation focused on reinvigorating skilled labor. Both endeavors evolved from a genuine appreciation of tradespeople, and my honest attempts to encourage that appreciation in others,” he wrote. “However, I have never claimed to ‘champion blue-collar concerns.’ Nor would I. That’s the job of unions and lobbyists and other advocates paid to speak on their behalf. The only thing I champion, are blue-collar opportunities. And the reasons why are simple.”
Rowe explained that “6.2 million jobs are currently vacant” in the U.S. of which the majority “require training—not an expensive, four-year degree.” Despite this fact, he lamented that, as a society, “we’re still telling our kids that college is the best path for the most people.” According to Rowe, this has led to the $1.4 trillion student lone bubble, a 50 percent college dropout rate, “a legion of debt-ridden graduates who can’t find work in their chosen field,” and “millions of empty positions in dozens of technical industries, including the construction trades.”
As he sees it, the skills gap “is not a ‘blue-collar concern’ or a ‘white collar concern.’ It’s an American concern.”
When it comes to the topic of illegal immigration, Rowe conceded that he hasn’t “said much about the impact of illegal labor on the construction industry.” It’s not that he supports illegal immigration (he humorously said he is generally “opposed to most things when they’re preceded by the word ‘illegal’”), but rather he has serious concerns about how much worse the “labor shortage will become when all the illegal workers are deported.”
Right now, American construction workers are retiring three times faster than they’re being replaced. In many parts of country, faster than that… So, when you say that the industry is “infested with illegal labor,” you might be right. But it’s also infested with something else – opportunity. Honestly, which do you find more concerning?
Bottom line – no one knows where the next generation of skilled workers will come from. And that begs an inconvenient question: If unemployed American workers are standing by to pick up the slack when this “infestation” is corrected, why aren’t these same unemployed American workers flocking to fill those open positions right now?
Some will say it’s because the pay is lousy, but that’s a myth, easily debunked. Skilled jobs pay a good wage, and often lead to six-figure salaries and the formation of countless small businesses. My own foundation has helped hundreds of aspiring welders, plumbers, carpenters, and HVAC technicians get the necessary training, and I can assure you, those men and women have more work than they can possibly complete. Point is, these jobs are not vacant because of illegal labor, low pay, long hours, or lousy benefits. They’re vacant because they look like work – hard work. And I’m afraid a lot of Americans have come to the conclusion that hard work is best done by somebody else.
This is my opinion. You can call it “right-wing,” or “left wing,” or any other label that suits you. Just remember this: every day, the skills gap is getting wider, the college debt is growing, and the construction industry is becoming more reliant on illegal labor. No amount of reconciliation will change the terrible arithmetic we now face, and no amount of blame will help you when your power goes off, or your air-conditioner craps the bed, or your toilet succumbs to Newton’s second law. Because even if you could magically eliminate all the illegal labor today, how are you going to persuade Americans to learn the necessary skills tomorrow?
Ultimately, Rowe reiterated that his personal mission is to “tell the truth” and ensure Americans understand how “skilled trades can lead to a prosperous career” so that the “skills gap might start to close.” In the meantime, he encouraged Borders to visit his foundation’s website to learn more about the work it is doing to connect skilled Americans to well-paying jobs.
But perhaps most importantly, Rowe pleaded with readers to stop conflating “ideas” and “identities” because our growing inclination to “[throw] the baby out with the bathwater” is a dangerous one.
“I’m afraid we’re losing our ability to separate ideas from identities. We seem unable to reconcile the most basic of things,” Rowe concluded. “Even if I was a ‘champion of blue collar concerns’ with a ‘right-wing perspective,’ so what? Do you really think it’s impossible for a man with a conservative worldview to care about blue-collar concerns? If so, then I’m going to suggest your Reconciliation Meter, is badly broken.”
Read Rowe’s full post HERE.