Circuses have worker problems

By: Mystic Matthews Email
By: Mystic Matthews Email

HUGO, Okla. -- The show must go on, but this year it could be a lot harder for circuses in Oklahoma and around the country. Circus officials say because of immigration reform, they will lose most of their workers. Mystic Matthews explains.

Not every job at the circus is glitz and glamour. The set-up and tear-down of the big top makes the show happen, especially when that circus operates two shows a day, seven days a week.

“We're having to tear down, sleep, drive, set up be ready for two shows. It’s going to be very taxing on our people," said Trey Key with Culpepper & Merriweather Circus.

Trey Key, with the Culpepper and Meriwether Circus, says this year with immigration being such a hot issue. Some industries, like the circus business, will not have the temporary workers they need, but he says these workers have nothing to do with the people who are coming into the United States illegally.

The current H2B visa program allows for 66,000 new workers to come into the country for a certain period of time, but congress did not vote to keep the bill that allows visas for returning foreign workers, who leave the country and come back every year.

Before, returning workers were not included in the 66,000 new workers, but now they will be making a huge labor shortage on the industries that depend on seasonal workers like Carson and Barnes Circus.

"We depend on workers, men to move our tent everyday to move our operation," Traci Cavillini, also with the Carson & Barnes Circus, said.

Three circus companies have winter quarters in Hugo -- and all three hire foreign workers -- most come from Mexico-- to do the manual labor.

"Not Americans to fill jobs. Advertise, prove every year, American's don't want it."

But without the people who set up the tents and do the driving, there would be no show, making it hard to live by the old saying, “The show must go on, but the show will go on.”

“I don't know how, but were going to make it work," Traci says.


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  • by lovemich Location: Michigan on Jan 16, 2008 at 12:42 PM
    Many people do NOT understand the H2B visa. Employers MUST pay a fraud fee to the gov. to make sure they keep the rules. The DEPARTMENT OF LABOR SETS THE WAGES (it is the same wage an American citizen would get plus the guest worker also pays taxes--a source of income for the US that will not be of benefit to the guest worker, ever). IF you are REALLY interested in the truth check out the FAQ on the savesmallbusiness.org website. On the home page click "About" and then select FAQ. Landscape companies lease/buy automotive and farm products...the ripple effect of 70,000 US Landscape companies NOT leasing/purchasing this year WILL affect the auto industry and the full-time job of AMERICAN workers. I personally would prefer a full-time job, which makes me one of thousands of Americans who feel the same.
  • by Edward W. Limbach Location: Aurora, Ohio on Jan 16, 2008 at 11:31 AM
    Congress can't be this short sided about seasonal workers. I bet if one asked a congressman or woman if he/she knew the proposed legislation adversely impacted circuses and carnivals the legislator wouldn't have a clue. The fact is circus fans need to contact their congress representative and let them know that the legislation needs to be amended to address this situation. I have had personal contact with these seasonal workers and I was impressed with how polite they are and their work ethic. Moving a circus everyday is hard work and they do it willingly. Americans aren't conditioned to do this or live this kind of life. I say amend the legislation and let circuses and carnivals provide the enteretainment American's enjoy.
  • by Anonymous Location: Oklahoma on Jan 14, 2008 at 08:44 AM
    The story is pertaining to LEGAL, H-2B workers. I don't know how or why Illegal immigration keeps getting mixed into it.
  • by Mork Location: Ork on Jan 12, 2008 at 03:16 PM
    So does this mean Juan the Taco eating Clown will be staying in Hugo or returning to Reynosa? We're not comparing apples to apples with your racist remarks. I believe the African Americans were forced onto boats & transported halfway across the earth to be slaves. Most of the illegal Mexicans crossed a river of their own free will. Any remark as to Juan, Jesus, Jose, ect... is only first in humor & second only directed to those who are in our country illegally. If your yard boy is here on an H-2B then power to him and welcome, I hope they make plenty of money & support their families but if they are here and being paid cash, not paying taxes, using our Social system resources such as free medical, education, assistance of any kind, Filling up our jails & clogging our judicial system, ect.. then I have no compassion for them. To me, if they are here illegally then they are a "Juan the Taco Eating Clown"! Don't mistake my remarks as being toward any legal visitors or citizens.
  • by Anonymous on Jan 11, 2008 at 02:44 PM
    These circus workers that the story refers to are LEGAL, H-2B visa holders. I can't believe the racsist remarks being posted here. "LEARN ENGLISH", okay I agree, but you can't expect them to walk across the border and buy the English language right off the shelf at a department store. It takes years to learn a language. It seems okay these days to say things like "Juan The Taco eating clown", But if someone were to make a remark about an African American person eating watermellon and fried chicken I don't beleive it would be acceptable to most people. This is about LEGAL, H-2B visa holding workers who are paid, by law, a fair wage and who pay taxes and go home after the job has ended. Only unskilled, uneducated American workers, with no work ethic who can't pass drug screens and background checks are losing jobs to H-2B workers. BTW: H-2B workers must pass federal and international background checks before the U.S. consulates will allow them to enter the country.
  • by American Location: AMERICA on Jan 11, 2008 at 12:28 PM
    The hiring illegal imigrants are wrong. If you hire them rather lawn service, potters sausage, biglots,walmart etc... It is unamerican and an act of terrorism on our economy as well as our culture as americans.
  • by Anonymous on Jan 11, 2008 at 09:57 AM
    Some jobs have always and will always enherently be comparitively low paying based on many factors, but cheifly based on what the consumer is willing and able to pay for the particular good or service. Foreign workers are willing to work these jobs where-as Americans are not. I'd love to pay American workers $15.00 per hour in my landscaping business, but we cannot get enough compensation from the consumer to justify paying that much. If Americans want better jobs, they should get an education, a skill or at the very least a descent work ethic. YES, alot of Americans say they'd like to work for me, until I mention the drug testing and background checks.
  • by Mork Location: Ork on Jan 11, 2008 at 09:20 AM
    Does this mean Juan the taco eating clown won't be with the circus any longer? That's a shame. Maybe they can get the Taco Bell dog to joint the show. I never thought we should have to press "1" for english when we go to the Circus anyway. The reality is if the workers are here legally then welcome, but to all those who choose to slip across the border under the cover of night or other illegal means - go home - NOW!
  • by SE Location: Bryan on Jan 10, 2008 at 10:32 PM
    To C.T ,We don't really give a flying flip- everyone is tired of immigrants coming in to the US and not only earning money that they don't pay taxes on but also not having enough respect for "OUR" Country to learn the language. As long as businesses like this keep offering them jobs they will continue to stay as long as they can get away with it.
  • by Steve Location: Phoenix, AZ on Jan 10, 2008 at 08:56 PM
    These ARE NOT illegal workers. THEY DO pay taxes, social security and medicare that they will NEVER be able to collect on, so you tell me how they are not benefiting americans. As far as americans doing those jobs if we paid more, those that would work, would just buy a better drug. All Employers need employees that show up for work on time, when they are supposed too, rather than thinking that the rest of us owe's them a living. Get rid of welfare, food stamps, housing assistance, and all of the other freebees and GO TO WORK...or starve! Remember the Government is NOT your father.
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