GOP House leaders are preparing a huge appropriations bill for a vote next week — and top GOP legislators want to include a rider that could allow employers to replace at least 100,000 blue-collar Americans with up to 264,000 foreign temporary H-2B workers.
The plan would actually cost taxpayers billions of dollars each year, because the unemployed Americans workers won’t pay taxes, but would get unemployment checks and welfare aid from the taxpayers.
The GOP’s pink-slip plan would also cut the wages of many other American workers before the 2016 election. That’s because the foreign temps hold down the normal wages that Americans could otherwise negotiate in a free market for their labor.
The GOP legislators, the House appropriations committee and the GOP’s leadership would not respond to repeated requests for information about the measure. A Hill aide, however, provided Breitbart with documents indicating legislators are pushing to include it in the omnibus bill. GOP leaders plan to rush that huge spending bill through the House by the end of next week.
The complex bill is a gift to donors and businesses because it would allow them to reduce wages offered in advertised jobs, thus deterring American applicants and then justifying their requests for H-2B visa workers. It also provides a huge loophole that technically keeps the current annual cap of 66,000 H-2B workers — but excludes from the cap any H-2B workers who got an H-2B visa in the prior three years. That clever loophole would allow employers to simultaneously hire up to four years of H-2B workers, or 264,000 foreign workers.
“This bill reads like it was written by landscaping industry… it’s a wish list of everything they could possibly want,” said Ed Tuddenham, a lawyer in New York. “The steel industry doesn’t get low-wage labor to compete with foreign steelmakers,” he scoffed.
The bill is being pushed by the H-2B Workforce Coalition, which includes hotel owners, golf courses, landscaping companies, realtors, the National Federation of Independent Business, building contractors, roofing companies, the racetrack association and many other groups. “Failure to enact a returning worker exemption will decimate seasonal businesses across the country,” the group claimed in a May letter, which also includes a 20-page list of companies looking to hire foreign workers instead of American workers.
The group declined to comment for this article.
In the House, the bill has been championed by Ohio Rep. Steve Chabot, chairman of the Small Business Committee, Virginia Rep. Bob Goodlatte, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Maryland Rep. Andy Harris and Louisiana Rep. Charles W. Boustany. Their offices did not respond to multiple emails. Goodlatte’s constituency include many poultry growers who rely on cheap labor to manually process chickens and turkeys in slaughterhouses.
House Speaker Paul Ryan’s office declined to comment.
In the Senate, the measure is being pushed by two new GOP Senators — North Carolina Republican Sen. Tom Tillis and Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy. The Senators’ offices did not respond. Two veteran Democrats, Maryland’s Sen. Barbara Mikulski and Virginia’s Sen. Mark Warner, also also supporting the measure.
So far, the “voter layoff act of 2016” is still in the omnibus bill, a Hill aide tells Breitbart News.
The GOP politicians — and some Democrats — are supporting their donors and local business-interests when they tout their measure. But the politicians’ support may be entirely insincere — and they may intend to drop the pink-slip measure once public protest provides them with an excuse to give their donors.
That’s why business leaders are worrying the worker-replacement measure won’t make it though the closed-door appropriations process. “That’s the $50 million question right there,” Josh Denison, the hiring chief at Denison Landscaping in Oxon Hill, Md., told Breitbart News.
The pink-slip plan comes as GOP leaders also spurn pressure from their alienated voters for curbs on President Barack Obama’s ambitious and unpopular plans to increase the inflow of Muslim migrants during 2016. The leaders’ support for two unpopular priorities — more migrants and fewer working-Americans — reflects the clout of the GOP’s donor class.
The donors strongly support the importation of more customers and workers. Legal immigrants and temporary guest-workers provide top-level executives with taxpayer-subsidized consumers, taxpayer-supported low-wage workers, higher stock-prices on Wall Street and a better chance to win promotion into the corner office once the CEO retires.
This business-first policy is also echoed by the GOP’s new House Speaker, Rep. Paul Ryan, who has endorsed the “any willing worker” claim that U.S.-based executives should be allowed to offer any job to any foreign workers if Americans workers won’t take the job at an advertised wage. “We want to have a system where people can come here and work– go back and forth if they want to,” Ryan said in 2013.
In fact, Ryan endorses the H-2B worker program on his website. “Employers should be able to hire workers on a temporary or seasonal basis when they can’t find Americans to fill the jobs. Wisconsin, for instance, relies on seasonal labor for agriculture and other industries, but due to a lack of seasonal H-2B visas, some Wisconsin businesses face annual labor shortfalls. If we can link legal immigrants with small businesses, we can help spur economic growth.”
In Oct. 2015, only 62.4 percent of adult Americans had jobs. That’s down from 66.9 percent in April 2001, and level with the June 1977 level.
But in a Dec. 3 speech, Ryan also touted the need for higher wages and more employment. “Push wages up… Get people off the sidelines in this country. I could think of no better way to restore confidence in the American economy,” he said in a showcase speech at the Library of Congress.
The H-2B program is strongly supported by Sen. Lindsey Graham, who the leading advocate of the 2013 amnesty-and-cheap-labor “comprehensive immigration reform” bill. In 2012, Graham intervened to deliver more than 100 H-2B workers to a political ally who owns a resort and golf-course frequented by the Senator.
Their business-first agenda, however, is overwhelmingly opposed by most Americans, including the GOP’s populist base and much of the Democratic Party’s base. For example, that GOP’s base blocked the industry-backed, wage-cutting, Obama-pushed 2013 “immigration reform bill,” and then ejected GOP Majority Leader Eric Cantor in his June 2014 primary. Since then, and amid further disappointments over the GOP’s unwillingness to fight Obama’s cheap-labor economic policy, the populist base is now breaking away from the GOP’s uncompromising business wing. They’re making the break by shifting/ to support anti-amnesty Donald Trump for the 2016 race.
Democrats have split on the H-2B program, partly because various left-wing groups and publications have scorched it as modern form of indentured servitude for the foreign workers. However, a new article in Buzzfeed, titled “All You Americans Are Fired,” shows how the H-2B program, and its similar H-2A program for agriculture workers, also disadvantages Americans. The Washington Post’s progressives ran a front-page article Nov. 26 worrying about why the H-2B program was supported by progressive champion Mikulski.
Tuddenham, the lawyer, hates the H-2B program. “It is terrible… it allows the wages that has to be offered to [Americans workers] to be lowered dramatically… it takes jobs away from U.S. workers and it makes industries more and more dependent on foreign workers… [and] quickly drive domestic workers out of that market,” he told Breitbart.
Employers game the H-2B rules to exclude American from huge sectors of the economy, he said. Seasonal jobs, for example, can be kept away from Americans and directed to H-2B workers by simply announcing that any employee must stay on the job one week after schools and universities reopen in the fall, he said. When Americans students can’t meet that extra requirement, employers can call the Labor Department to complain they need H-2Bs to do the job that Americans supposedly won’t do, he said.
However, the program has survived because it it is supported by Democratic politicians. For example, Mikulski and eight other Democratic Senators have signed on to an Oct 27, 2015 letter from 25 Senators that slammed the Labor Department for rejecting companies’ studies — dubbed “prevailing wage determinations” — that justify the payment of low-salaries to the H-2Bs.
The new measure quadruples the current H-2B program, which provides companies with an annual seasonal supply of up to 66,000 low-wage, hard-working, temporary guest-workers, mostly from Latin America and the Caribbean. They’re called ‘guest workers,’ because they stay for a few months or almost a year, work for wages approved by the government, and cannot use the work to apply for an immigrant Green Card. These compliant and disposable workers take many decent blue-collar jobs, such as kitchen staff, beach lifeguards, truck drivers, sports coaches, hotel maids, landscapers, and foresters.
The H-2B program is the little-recognized blue-collar version of the controversial H-1B program that brings in many white-collar, college-grad foreign workers each year. Another program, dubbed H-2A, bring in additional blue-collar workers for agricultural jobs
Employers like the H-2B workers because most of them work hard–even when the weather is very hot — and because they usually can’t or don’t complain about tough working conditions or bad foremen, and because they go away at the end of the season. Perfect for employers’ accounting sheets.
The guest-workers work hard, in part, because only people who want to work hard volunteer for these tough guest-worker jobs. Many save their wages to pay for their families back home.
But the H-2B program also allows employers to pay lower wages to their American workforce.
Few Americans want a low-wage job that demands long hours during the spring, summer and autumn plus inevitable unemployment during winter and Christmas. So employers must offer higher-than-usual wages to persuade Americans to accept that undesirable seasonal combination. But those higher seasonal wages then force employers to raise the wages of their supervisors and year-round workers. The knock-on impact was described by Denison in the October 2015 issue of the industry magazine, Lawn & Landscaping, as he worried about the Labor Department’s plans to bump up the 2016 hourly wage of H-2B workers to $13.80.
“This causes a ripple effect in all wages across the board,” Denison says. “If your $10.30 [an hour] basic domestic or H-2B laborer has an arbitrary wage increase, then you have to adjust wages across the board in a sliding scale to keep it fair and balanced. What happens to the $12 guy if the new guy is making more? And what happens to the $15 guy?”
Well, the $12 guy and the $15 guy get pay increases when the employer has to pay Americans a free-market wage of $14 an hour to take the seasonal job. Correspondingly, the $12 guy and the $15 guy don’t get wage increases when a H-2B guy will take the seasonal job for $10.
Roger Warren, the manager of the Kiawah country club in South Carolina, echoed that wage-differential claim in a 2013 interview. “That’s the kind of analysis that every business goes through, and to have people with other conflicting interests take a position that is more political-based than business-based … is frustrating because in practicality [a wage increase] doesn’t work” for the club’s balance-sheets, he said.
If the proposed layoff-an-American-today measure passes, it will also kill the Labor Department’s plan to raise the H-2B hourly wage of $13.80 in 2016. For an American, that’s equivalent to an annual income of just under $20,000 for a nine-month seasonal worker. That doesn’t go far in D.C, where rent costs $10,000 a year for half of a two-person apartment in Marlboro, Md.
The GOP measure will also cost state and local taxpayers.
In 2015, Denison said he had to hire 142 Americans because the Labor Department was slow to deliver his foreign H-2B work-crews. If those 124 Americans left Maryland’s unemployment line for an average of six months, the state taxpayers’ welfare bill would have dropped by almost $900,000. Nationwide, the taxpayers’ cost for supporting the 200,000 Americans to be sacked by Congress’s plan would add up to roughly $1.4 billion — every six months. And another $1.4 billion during the next six months.