Posted: August 18, 2011
By: Clay Cerny

400 foreign students walked off temporary jobs at Hershey’s plant in Pennsylvania.  While the temporary workers (J-1 visa) were paid $8.35 an hour, they ended up with less than they paid for the visa after rent and program fees were deducted from their pay.  A Hershey spokesperson pointed out that these employees worked for a third party company (Exel), but that’s the not the point.

The point is:  exploited workers walked off the job.  Verizon’s workers said, “Enough.”  The unions in Wisconsin said, “Enough.”  The people of Ohio have told their anti-labor governor, “Enough.”  Maybe a new day is dawning.

Then, again, maybe not.  Liz Goodwin, writing for Yahoo, notes that many people involved in the J-1 visa program have been exploited.  Employers like this program because they don’t have to pay Social Security.

Enough of gimmicks like the J-1 visa.  Let’s put Americans back to work and pay them decent wages.

Posted: June 19, 2010
By: Clay Cerny

A friend gave me an article from Yahoo Finance that claimed companies were not hiring candidates who were unemployed.  He asked me, “Is this true?”  The simple answer is, “Sometimes.” 

Some companies think that unemployment is a mark of someone who is unreliable.  As the article points out, many recruiters will not deal with candidates unless they are currently employed.  What is different about the current job market is that companies and recruiters with these policies are being more open about telling the unemployed that they should not apply.

However, as we see in many other areas of the job game, things get overstated.  Think about your own career and careers of friends and professional colleagues.  Almost everyone has been laid off or quit a job without having another position lined up.  We get jobs even when we have been unemployed. 

As I say above, some companies use unemployment as a screener, a mark that a candidate has been let go for “performance.”  Given the current economy and the number of layoffs we have seen since 2008, such thinking is silly.  If anything, most people have been laid off because of the poor performance of their employers.  You know the story: The CEO who runs the company into the ground and gets a multi-million dollar buyout.  Or the “business visionaries” (Jack Welch, Mitt Romney, Carly Fiorina) who “offshore” thousands of jobs to take advantage of low-wage workers in developing countries.  That’s the performance that has led us to our current state of high unemployment.  Don’t blame this problem on working people.

Let’s also think for a minute about the business strategy of companies who do not hire unemployed workers.  As a matter of economics, this strategy makes no sense.  If two people are equally qualified, the person with a job has stronger bargaining power and can command a higher salary.  The unemployed worker will take the job for less.  If companies are laying off people to cut costs, why are they going to higher the more expensive employee? 

The article makes a point that is vital for all job seekers whether or not they are currently employed: Show the value you have brought to previous employers.  When a company hires, it is looking for the best possible investment, the employee who will bring the most value.  Be sure that your resume and your interview presentation focus on how you have been a problem solver or a money maker.  A good worker who can present her value will always get the attention of an employer who has an open position.  Show your value, and even employers who say they don’t hire the unemployed will want to talk to you.

Postscript:  While culling links for this post, I have a chance to look at Yahoo Finance’s work and career page.  It is filled with good advice.  Follow this link to check it out.