Policy: Labor

Companies lay off thousands, then demand immigration reform for new labor

By |
Politics,Beltway Confidential,Congress,Byron York,Immigration,Labor,John Boehner,Nancy Pelosi

On Tuesday, the chief human resources officers of more than 100 large corporations sent a letter to House Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi urging quick passage of a comprehensive immigration reform bill.

The officials represent companies with a vast array of business interests: General Electric, The Walt Disney Company, Marriott International, Hilton Worldwide, Hyatt Hotels Corporation, McDonald's Corporation, The Wendy's Company, Coca-Cola, The Cheesecake Factory, Johnson & Johnson, Verizon Communications, Hewlett-Packard, General Mills, and many more. All want to see increases in immigration levels for low-skill as well as high-skill workers, in addition to a path to citizenship for the millions of immigrants currently in the U.S. illegally.

A new immigration law, the corporate officers say, "would be a long overdue step toward aligning our nation's immigration policies with its workforce needs at all skill levels to ensure U.S. global competitiveness." The officials cite a publication of their trade group, the HR Policy Association, which calls for immigration reform to "address the reality that there is a global war for talent." The way for the United States to win that war for talent, they say, is more immigration.

Of course, the U.S. unemployment rate is at 7.3 percent, with millions of American workers at all skill levels out of work, and millions more so discouraged that they have left the work force altogether. In addition, at the same time the corporate officers seek higher numbers of immigrants, both low-skill and high-skill, many of their companies are laying off thousands of workers.

For example, Hewlett-Packard, whose Executive Vice President for Human Resources Tracy Keogh signed the letter, laid off 29,000 employees in 2012. In August of this year, Cisco Systems, whose Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer Kathleen Weslock signed the letter, announced plans to lay off 4,000 — in addition to 8,000 cut in the last two years. United Technologies, whose Senior Vice President of Human Resources and Organization Elizabeth B. Amato signed the letter, announced layoffs of 3,000 this year. American Express, whose Chief Human Resources Officer L. Kevin Cox signed the letter, cut 5,400 jobs this year. Procter & Gamble, whose Chief Human Resources Officer Mark F. Biegger signed the letter, announced plans to cut 5,700 jobs in 2012.

Those are just a few of the layoffs at companies whose officials signed the letter. A few more: T-Mobile announced 2,250 layoffs in 2012. Archer-Daniels-Midland laid off 1,200. Texas Instruments, nearly 2,000. Cigna, 1,300. Verizon sought to cut 1,700 jobs by buyouts and layoffs. Marriott announced "hundreds" of layoffs this year. International Paper has closed plants and laid off dozens. And General Mills, in what the Minneapolis Star-Tribune called a "rare mass layoff," laid off 850 people last year.

There are more still. In all, it's fair to say a large number of the corporate signers of the letter demanding more labor from abroad have actually laid off workers at home in recent years. Together, their actions have a significant effect on the economy. According to a recent Reuters report, U.S. employers announced 50,462 layoffs in August, up 34 percent from the previous month and up 57 percent from August 2012.

"It is difficult to understand how these companies can feel justified in demanding the importation of cheap labor with a straight face at a time when tens of millions of Americans are unemployed," writes the Center for Immigration Studies, which strongly opposes the Senate Gang of Eight bill and similar measures. "The companies claim the bill is an 'opportunity to level the playing field for U.S. employers' but it is more of an effort to level the wages of American citizens."

View article comments Leave a comment