Introduction to The British Gardener's website

The true cost of plants

When I first penned the title for this post I had the intention of taking this in a different direction after being inspired from an article in Royal Horticultural Society magazine, 'The Garden'.  It was a very thought provoking look at what goes into producing a plant that we buy from garden centers but based on a European market.  One day I may revisit with that intention it but recent events made me rethink this concept to examine the human angle.

A lot has been said on the debate of illegal migrant workers here in Northern America and with this being an election year I'm sure we will hear a lot more.  Its not my intention to weigh into this debate as a lot of hot heads have bigger soap boxes to stand on than I do but we all seem to forget the fallout from it all.  Everyday I'm asked if we can 'cut a deal' by customers looking to landscape their yards and its a fair question to ask.  We even approach are growers looking for incentives to do business with them to help offset discounts to the budget conscious consumer.  On both sides, the retailer and producer have margins that need to be met to keep the doors open.  Migrant laborers help achieve the goals of keeping cost low and enable the big green machine of the horticultural industry to work productively.  Its the same concept in any business that requires a labor force, construction, agriculture and even restaurants for example.

Companies that actively hire migrant workers are subjected to an immigration audit from time to time to see if documents provided are legal or current and notified to which ones are not.  From that investigation, an employer has to terminate those with invalid documents to stay on the side of the law.  So what then happens when a percentage of your work force has to leave because of invalid documents, leaving companies in a weaken state.  How can this be good for an economy that's trying to recover.  It still hasn't addressed the problem of illegal immigrant workers, released once again to disappear, but now forced to find another way to provide for themselves, honestly or not!  The only benefit an audit seems to do it make it harder for a worker to stay in one place for long.

When migrant workers are employed by a company they are paying taxes on what they earn, its not a cash in hand arrangement but one that is recorded and tracked. Many pay there taxes but do not file at tax time because it will draw unwanted attention to them. Instead they pay up and hide under the radar because the benefits of working in this country is far better than in their own homelands. Couple this with the fact that they are hired on at minimum wage for unskilled labor, allowing companies to stay competitive and hopefully grow. One of the most patriotic thing you can do for your country is pay taxes. Does this mean that illegal immigrants are more patriotic than the top 5% of this country that do what they can to dodge paying uncle Sam?

However, something needs to give if we as consumers keep looking for discounted products that are constantly costing more to produce. Migrant workers, legal or illegal help keep the balance allowing businesses to grow which in turn helps the economy. Are we in fact aiding and abetting illegal immigration by asking for cheaper products and services? The argument that illegal immigrants are stealing jobs from Americans doesn't really stand as many will not be willing to work outside in 100 degree heat all day watering plants. No one wants to get dirty and earn minimum wage so why are we head hunting those that are happy to do this. As for draining health care costs lets examine the massive payouts from malpractice lawsuits and how attorney's are cashing in from this, let alone discussing the huge profits drug and insurance companies make every year. The immigrant cost I'm sure is just a fraction compared to liability costs.

Non tax paying day laborers looking for work
The problem of illegal immigration will never be solved either here or around the rest of the world but we should look at how we can utilize the labor force for the advantage of the economy.  I'm not saying we should have slave labor but the role they play in making industry more competitive helps everyone.  Telling companies to terminate them instead of offering solutions to utilize this labor pool only slows down economic recovery.  At least while they have a job they are earning a living instead of, worst case scenario stealing to support themselves, spending money on services that stimulates the economy and paying their taxes like every other good American, except those top 5 percent!