TV documentary puts Gould Construction squarely in the center of attention
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. An NBC television report on the national debate over illegal immigration aired the day after Christmas is having repercussions in the Roaring Fork Valley. The documentary team headed up by former NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw focused on Glenwood Springs contractor Mark Gould and his struggle to fill laborer jobs that he says only Latinos will take.Gould spoke about his frustration at not being able to hire Americans to do the hand labor required to lay sewer pipe and sidewalks. He said young American men coming out of high school now dont want to start out as ditch diggers for $14 an hour, the current starting wage at Gould Construction.Without immigrant workers willing to take those jobs illegal or not his business would be in deep trouble, he said.Gould also admitted that at the time he was interviewed for the story last spring, he could have had illegal immigrants on his payroll despite checking documents of prospective Latino workers.Wednesday Brett Goulds phone was ringing off the hook at the Gould Construction office south of Glenwood Springs. Brett Gould, director of human resources at Gould Construction, said by Wednesday afternoon hed received more than 600 calls from across the country inquiring about jobs.But there was also a downside for the Goulds.By the end of the show I had e-mails, applications for jobs, said Mark Gould from Dallas airport Wednesday afternoon. He was returning from a family vacation over the Christmas holiday. The hate mail bothered me the most. People want to put their head in the sand about this issue.He said most businesses dont want to acknowledge they may be breaking the law because they need to hire illegal immigrants to fill their jobs.The problem of illegal immigration is complex, with issues of economics, politics and social justice. The story highlighted living conditions for some Hispanic workers in the Roaring Fork Valley 18 people to a four-bedroom home. That and the fact that some willing workers cant work here legally, are issues that have to be addressed. Speaking out, he said, is a first step in acknowledging (the problem). Maybe people will be able to talk about how we can solve it. Retired concrete contractor Ken Kriz of Glenwood Springs found the show revealing and unsettling. One of the themes of the story was the apparent failure of many Latino immigrants, whose numbers are growing exponentially here, to integrate into the valleys Anglo community.Its disturbing that Hispanics are really taking over and many dont seem to want to assimilate, he said. Immigrants that came here 50 or 100 years ago, they assimilated.Kriz parents, who immigrated from Czechoslovakia, told him, You were born in America. Youre going to learn English. Theres some (Hispanics) that do want to learn English, that do want to be part of the culture here, but a lot of them dont.He (Gould) probably doesnt really care whether theyre legal or not.On his way back from a vacation Tuesday night, Mark Gould managed to catch the show on TV. He said his message didnt necessarily come across because it was broken into sound bites.
NBC producer Soraya Gage said in an interview last week that she and Brokaw appreciated Goulds willingness to speak out about a problem that many employers wont acknowledge for fear of bringing the law down on their heads.During the show, Brett Gould was filmed taking applications from several Latino men and checking their immigration documents. He said the company does everything it can to stay within the law when it comes to hiring.We try to not knowingly hire illegal workers, he said in the show. Also interviewed for the documentary was an Latino worker hired by Gould named Trino. He admitted he was in this country illegally and used a false Social Security number to get the job.Wednesday Brett Gould terminated Trino and his brother Juan Carlos who had also been hired by the company.We had to, he said. I did not know he was illegal until last night (when the show aired).Brett Gould said he felt badly about letting them go. Theyre darn good workers. They learned fast. They learned English.On Aug. 7 Colorado passed a new law requiring prospective employees documents to be screened by Homeland Security.Everyone weve hired since then is legal, he said. But he said hes lost 10 percent of his workforce. He has no praise for the new law. The state legislature reacted to many peoples opinion. They dont understand the real problem.Watching the TV show was not comfortable for Mark Gould, but he acknowledged that its an issue that needs to be discussed more.It was hard to watch last night. I didnt feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Theres something wrong with the world and we need to fix it. We cant fix it unless we talk about it.Contact Donna Gray: 945-8515, ext. firstname.lastname@example.orgPost Independent, Glenwood Springs Colorado CO
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