Massachusetts heavily reliant on immigrant workers

Nearly 30% of workers in hospitality and food services are immigrants

In this Monday, Jan. 30, 2017, Hasan Mitwally Al Kodsy, 30, from Syria, manufactures a coat made from a blanket, at a tiny workshop charity called Naomi in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki, which is working long hours to collect and wash discarded blankets and turn them into wearable coats. The blankets are mostly army issue gray with red stitching and are distributed as aid at the sprawling refugee and migrant encampments, and are being recycled into practical coats for the vulnerable refugees who are facing a harsh winter. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos)

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) – From manufacturers to food servers, immigrant workers strengthen the backbone of Massachusetts workforce – a lot more than we may realize.

Economic research from the Donahue Institute at the University of Massachusetts found the Bay State relies heavily on foreign-born labor.

While there’s current uncertainty over federal immigration, any changes would most likely affect our state’s economy. David Jaffe of Easthampton agrees, telling 22News, “There’s a lot of jobs that these folks are doing that other people tend to not be interested in doing themselves.”

UMass found one-quarter of all workers for tech companies in Massachusetts are immigrants. Immigrants also make a quarter of the state’s manufacturing workforce, and nearly 30% of workers in hospitality and food services. Michelle Bienia of West Springfield says these statistics aren’t shocking, but are profound. “I think that’s a long, long history that we’ve had in Massachusetts, being factory workers, and things like that,” says Bienia.

Two women visiting Hampshire county from Vermont told 22News how much they value the migrant workers in their home state. Virginia Thulen of Springfield, VT credits those who work on dairy farms, saying, “It’s a big impact for us because of the dairy industry. These folks work 12,14 hours a day.” On other fields, “They depend on migrant workers to come pick apples,” says Joyce Sullivan of Westminster, VT. “Apples is a big industry for us, and frankly. I don’t think young people would want that kind of job.”

UMass economists in this study urge public officials and businesses to pay close attention to the national immigration debate to make sure their interests are represented.