Watford City and the Mexicanification of Work

When I went to work for an oil field service company in Dickinson, North Dakota in 2011, I asked the foreman why there weren’t a lot of Mexicans working in the oil field in North Dakota.  He said, “Because that is the way we want it.”  He did not feel the need to say anything else.  I had asked the question for several different reasons, he knew that, his answer just about covered everything.

When I was living in Arizona in 2005, I met a man named Todd who was 55 years old.  When Todd was in his twenties, he dropped out of Northern Arizona University, to work hanging drywall.  He got paid a little over a dollar per sheet, and he found that he could make $12-$14 per hour.  Todd liked hanging drywall, he was good at it, he was making good money.  By the time Todd was 30 years old, he was married, he had a young son, he owned a tri-plex home, he owned the the lot next to it, and he owned his own drywall business.  Things were going well for Todd.

Sometime in the 1990s, Todd started to have difficulty in his drywall business.  He was often under-bid on drywall contracts by competitors who were using mostly Mexican labor.  The Mexicans worked for less money.  By year 2000, Todd’s drywall company was out of business.  Todd could not even get a job as a drywall worker.  Companies said to Todd, “For the pay you want, I could hire two Mexicans.”

When I met Todd, he had lost everything, the only thing he had left was a 1990 Ford F350 that he had bought new, that was all he had left.  In the United States, roofers, framers, drywallers, painters, and concrete workers used to make enough money to own a home and support a wife and kids.  The Mexican workers accept less pay because the cost of living in Mexico is less, they send their earnings back to Mexico, and they themselves just rough it out here, with many people in the same apartment or trailer.

In Dickinson, back in 2011, it was recognized that these oil field related jobs were high enough paying, for men to support a wife and kids, and to have enough money left over to buy a truck, maybe a house, the way it used to be, the way it should be.  Nobody wanted to see this high wage rate messed up by cheap Mexican labor getting a foot in the door.

Somehow, the temptation was too great for building contractors in Dickinson.  Maybe not enough help was available.  A lot of concrete contractors in Dickinson began to use Mexican labor.  However, every oil field company in Dickinson persisted in using English speaking workers, even to this day.

Things are different in Watford City.  I wrote a previous post titled “Watford City Revisited”, where I stated that Watford City is so difficult to live in, not even North Dakotans will live in Watford City.  I wrote that many of the workers in Watford City are poor people from the South.  It gives me a little comfort to talk to people in Watford City that are from the South, but only a little, because a lot of these people from the South that are in Watford City, are very nearly White Trash.  They are White Trash that have decided that they want to work regularly, for the time being, unless you’ve got some Meth.

I am not really surprised that there are a lot of Mexican workers here in Watford City.  Conditions here in Watford City are very harsh, I believe that it is hard to get workers here.  But what I was surprised to see, and it alarmed me, that here in Watford City, they are having gangs of Mexicans working for oil field service companies.

I want to caution Watford City, that you are making a big, big mistake.  Once cheap Mexican labor gets its foot in the door, many more Mexicans will follow, and the English speaking workers will be displaced.  If there is a shortage of women in Watford City now, just wait until you have five Mexican males living in every apartment and trailer.  When the English speaking men are displaced from their jobs by less costly Mexicans, you will have a workforce that that makes no attempt to bring their wife and kids to Watford City, and makes no attempt to buy a home in Watford City.

Watford City, you had better watch what you are doing.  I don’t know what you did with all that oil field money, that you should have used to make road centerline markings, edge of pavement markings, street signs, street lights, road shoulders, but everybody notices that it isn’t there.  Nobody wants to drive in Watford City at night, edge of pavement not marked, no shoulder, just a deep chasm to make certain your vehicle is totaled.  You are also just about to ruin the high wage rate in the oil field for all of North Dakota.

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