By Joe Guzzardi
December 12, 2016
President-Elect Donald Trump was sailing along with his Cabinet choices until he picked Andrew Puzder to head the Labor Department. Trump’s base is on board with Department of Homeland Security and Attorney General nominees John Kelly and Jeff Sessions, both viewed as Trump’s reliable allies in the new president’s effort to impose long overdue immigration enforcement.
But Puzder, Hardees/Carl’s Jr. Chief Executive Officer, is an open borders guy who lobbied for the 2013 Gang of Eight amnesty and endorses more immigration across the board. The Gang of Eight bill would have increased the number of employment-based visas for overseas guest workers by about 300,000. More cheap labor would have been available to Puzder’s fast food industry and to other employers in hospitality-related services.
At the beginning of the long, contentious and ultimately unsuccessful Gang of Eight debate, Puzder editorialized in the liberal webzine Politico about what he deemed a compelling need for immigration reform which would include eventual citizenship. Among other vagaries, Puzder wrote that reform is “the right thing to do.” Puzder, echoing Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, also referenced decades old, discredited canards about the importance of a diverse workforce and the unfairness of living in the ever present “shadows.”
Trump campaigned vigorously on restoring jobs to Americans; Puzder represents the diametric opposite. Just last year, Puzder added his name to pro-immigration Grover Norquist’s Partnership for a New American Economy’s memorandum which urged 2016 congressional and presidential candidates to pass amnesty. Trump’s core supporters view Norquist as anti-American worker, and similar in his immigration enthusiasm to defeated presidential nominee Jeb Bush.
Assuming he is confirmed, Puzder would be immediately thrown into the hornets’ nest of employment-based visas. Economics 101 verifies that the H-1B, the H-2A and the H-2B undermine American workers: adding overseas workers reduces the number of available jobs and depresses wages. The H-1B visa has been the undoing of, to name a small fraction, employees at Disney, Caterpillar and McDonald’s. The less well-known H-2B, a low-skilled, guest worker program that is typically used by employers to fill non-agricultural seasonal and temporary jobs, deprives many Americans without a college degree of employment they need to make ends meet. Every year, newspapers publish stories about the danger facing local businesses if Congress doesn’t approve more H-2B workers. Yet every year, those businesses manage to find workers.
Most telling, a Government Accountability Office review found that employers often abuse their H-2B visas workers who, because of their immigration status, have little recourse but to endure the hardships imposed on them. The H-2B exists solely because the businesses that profit from cheap, subservient labor demand that Congress continue to authorize it. Employers are supposed to recruit American workers before they hire H-2B workers, and to pay those foreign-born workers the prevailing American wage, requirements ignored because legal loopholes and lax enforcement allow them to dodge the rules. Last year, federal regulators issued tough new requirements to monitor recruitment and ensure fair pay. Business backlash came quickly. A few months later, the new rule on fair pay was undone. Instead, the annual cap on H-2B visas nearly quadrupled, from 66,000 to about 250,000, and the Labor Department which Puzder will now head was denied funds to audit employer compliance with visa and labor laws.
The recently released text of the congressional short-term spending bill that expires in spring 2017 puts off another effort to again increase the H-2B visa total. But by then, Puzder will be firmly installed in office, and the target of intense lobbying from his cheap labor advocate friends.
Trump’s best move is to reconsider his designee, then diplomatically but forcefully ask Puzder to withdraw. If Trump loses his base supporters before Inauguration Day, he’s off to a bad start.
A Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow, Joe can be contacted at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @joeguzzardi19.