The unfathomable temporary labor market


I know nothing of the summer labor market.  Each time I have been here at Wisconsin Dells I have marvelled at their ability to pull in labor — seemingly from around the world — to cover their summer season labor needs.  There are foreign young adults on bikes on their way to and fro from their jobs here, bicycles a plenty, employee housing complexes — it’s like a small short term city behind the city — and it fascinates me.summer jobs 1

These things I see because when in the “Dells” we stay off the main, tourist packed roads. For 20 or 30 years we had a park model trailer parked at a campground near here.  My dad bought it right after he retired when it became clear to him that my mom wasn’t going to be all that excited about going around the country in a travel trailer.  They had made two or three long-distance trips; mom had expressed her dislike, and next thing I knew my dad was shopping campgrounds.   But the net result f that was we made lots of trips out here, and we learned most of the hidden roads.  Just like a large hospital that has areas where only the employees frequent — so certain towns have sections that only the locals usually see — and for a long while we were part time locals.Mt-Olympus-Wave-Pool

I don’t understand summer help.  I never was summer help.  Through High School and College I worked for the local Boy Scout Council in the training and mail departments year round.

When I left school I f0und a job first with a small book printer, and then with a printer of textbook covers. I was a printer in Chicago. My ‘apprenticeship’ was working a couple weekends working with another self-taught offset printer.  Ryobi Printing PressI was too smart to know how little I knew and too stubborn not to do a good job.  We were printing large short-run reference books and it was a job.  But it was a year round job.   We printed a lot of black and white pages.  Then we branched off into color and before you know it I was printing four color textbook covers — a job I wouldn’t wish on anyone.  It seems there’s a lot more chemistry to printing multiple colors on naugahyde. I was good at printing short runs on paper; I sucked at printing even shorter runs on expensive naugahyde in full color.  Fortunately for me, the draft board came after me about that time and I was saved from my ‘printing career’ by a draft card.

But, NO,  I do not understand the temporary labor market. I admire these young folks of all colors, shapes and sizes for their chutzpah.  In the past I have spent time talking with them — in restaurants while they were off duty — and I’m amazed at what they go through just to have summer employment (and in many cases to take money back home to help out their families wherever they came from). A lot of jobs wouldn’t get done in this country if it weren’t for them.  A lot of the summer amusements would sit idle without that labor pool.  Just because I know very little about them doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate them — because I do.  They make life easier in an are where people are crammed together in the pursuit of pleasure.  They work hard while others are laughing.  And, I dare say they suffer a lot of indignities at the hands of those they are serving.  All you have to do is watch them doing their job and observe how others treat them.  Yeah — I don’t know much about the short term summer employment market and for the Wisconsin Dells, it will all be over for another year in just a few days.   The summer population of tens of thousands of workes and tourists will shrink back down to the year round population of less than 3000 souls and the twin towns of Wisconsin Dells and Lake Delton will once again become sleepy little burgs.

Personally, I like the sleepy little burgs better than the tourist jammed destination, but I’m sure the locals love the fact that those tourists pay for their lifestyle.  So it’s a good thing.  Wisconsin Dells has not been a quaint little town, the likes of which I wrote about a few days ago.  Quaint was never a word I’d have used.  ‘Kitschy’, maybe.  But ‘quaint’, not at all.  And personally, I’m glad we just stopped by on our way through.  It was a fond reminder of days gone by; days I’m not in a big hurry to repeat but days bearing a lot of memories.

Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll be here again tomorrow.  Why not stop by and say hello.

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7 Comments

  1. In a way, work campers are temporary help…without the housing issue! The Dells are fortunate to have their housing figured out, as Leelanau has had a huge problem with labor shortages this summer…mostly due to the kids not having a place to live. Restos had to cut back hours in a lot of cases. The Dells and Mackinac Island have it figured out, but the uptick in tourists (thanks to Good Morning America, Mario Batali and USA Today) has caught the business owners off guard here.

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    1. Well, the Dells and Mackinaw have been big tourist destinations for +30 years. They’ve had a lot longer to work it out. And I know they recruit from Eastern Europe on some kind of program, paying airfare both ways and housing.

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    1. I fear ‘quaint’ died 30 or 40 years ago before the boom of travel. It amazes me what people find quaint and worthy of a visit. After all, we’re on at least the third, maybe the fourth generation of Disney aficionados, who return year by year to the Wonderful World of Disney to be refreshed and reindoctrinated. 🙂

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