Paul Ryan told Bennett American companies would shut down without foreign blue collar workers(?)
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In a Tuesday morning interview with radio host Bill Bennett, Speaker Paul Ryan defended his omnibus bill’s controversial expansion in the H-2B visa program, which would allow foreign workers to fill blue-collar American jobs, by arguing that if the provision were not included, American companies would be forced to shut their doors.
Bennett pressed Ryan on the details of the H-2B visa expansion, slipped 700-pages into Ryan’s 2,009-page omnibus spending bill—asking Ryan directly, “Do you believe there are not enough Americans to fill these jobs?”
In response, Ryan described the H-2B visa expansion as “a very small, discrete provision.”
Despite the nation’s high levels of unemployment and stagnating wages, Ryan continued on to assert, without offering evidence in support of his claim, that corporations are facing a shortage of labor, which rendered the provision necessary. Ryan said:
The reason that this was passed is because there was some seasonal surge jobs that they can’t find local workers to fill, like the seafood packaging industry in Chesapeake Bay. You have seafood season, you need people to package those things, to can them. In the North, we have the summer tourism industry. What it is is there’s seasonal industries where they can’t find local people to do the jobs: kids are already in college or things like that where you have a surge in workers.
Ryan explained that the provision was passed specifically “to help small business who cannot find labor when there’s a surge in demand for their labor like seafood processing, or tourism.”
Ryan warned, “The point is these businesses would have shut down without this and that’s what we didn’t want to see happen. We didn’t want to see businesses, who are seasonal, shut down because they couldn’t get the labor. That’s why this provision was passed in July.”
The data, however, demonstrates Ryan’s claim to be unsubstantiated. As Senator Jeff Sessions has highlighted, the Economic Policy Institute has documented how, “wages were stagnant or declining for workers in all of the top 15 H-2B occupations between 2004 and 2014.”
Unemployment rates increased in all but one of the top 15 H-2B occupations between 2004 and 2014, and all 15 occupations averaged very high unemployment rates… Flat and declining wages coupled with such high unemployment rates over such a long period of time suggest a loose labor market—an over-supply of workers rather than an under-supply.
Cries of so-called “labor shortages” are frequently invoked by corporations and immigration expansionist who want to see large increases in low-wage labor.