Local | Economy | Rural Economy Project

NW Lawmakers Push To Make It Harder To Hire Foreign Workers

OPB | March 7, 2012 4:41 a.m. | Updated: Jan. 14, 2013 10:48 a.m.

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Two Democrats in Oregon’s congressional delegation want to make it harder for U.S. companies to bypass American workers and hire foreign seasonal workers, instead.

Senator Jeff Merkley and Congressman Peter DeFazio have been critical of government contractors that hired foreign workers for forest restoration jobs in Oregon. Merkley says his bill would require companies to advertise jobs to US workers, first.

Merkley explained, “It’s a source of deep frustration that when we create a program specifically to increase employment in America, it ended up getting diverted through scandalous tactics and not doing the mission. And when that happens, it’s our job to close the loopholes, fix the program, and make sure it serves its intended purpose.”

A timber company executive joined Merkley on a call with reporters to say he’d lost government bids to competitors who’d used cheaper, foreign labor. Merkley says his bill would add cost to companies who rely on the temporary visa program. But he says by employing more local workers, it’d keep money in local economies.

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