Negotiating his work fee in a small Huntington Beach home in the 1980s, Scott Powelson suspected he would one day be replaced by workers from south of the border."Well you know, I can get this guy to do this for way cheaper," the homeowner told him at the time.
The woman told Powelson his competition spoke Spanish but very little English. While she couldn't quite comprehend everything the other man said, she understood the price.
Powelson, who had just given the homeowner his best bid to install ceramic tile, passed on the job. He would have had to take a 20 percent cut to match the price.
"I couldn't compete," the 59-year-old from Costa Mesa recalled on a recent weekday at a local diner where the food is cheap and plentiful."I realized flat out that I couldn't compete with these guys in ceramic tile, eventually they'd move into my field of expertise," he said. "I saw it coming way back. ... I started realizing that I'm bidding against these guys who come in from Mexico ... illegally."...