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Saturday, November 5, 2011


In 2010, the Bend, OR Bulletin wrote an article about Oregon forestry contractors using millions of federal stimulus dollars to hire foreign workers for jobs intended to be filled by unemployed Oregonians.

After an investigation in 2011 the Labor Department concluded that those companies exploited legal loopholes but violated no laws.

Wow, does that mean stimulus funds were wasted, again? Job creators are sometimes crooked? The federal contracting process is corrupt? The “system” has been gamed? It would appear so.

Four Oregon companies were responsible for most of the “gaming”: Medford Cutting Edge Forestry, Summitt Forests of Ashland, GE Forestry of Central Point, and Ponderosa Reforestation of Medford.

These four companies hired 254 seasonal workers holding temporary U.S. work visas and were given at least $7 million in stimulus dollars to pay for those jobs.

And this is how they bamboozled the Stimulus Money Spigot. To hire the work visa holders, the companies were required to advertise the forest cleanup jobs and prove they couldn't be filled with local applicants.

The companies “gamed” the system by advertising the jobs in small, obscure papers, for instance, the Intermountain News in Burney, CA, with a circulation of 3,200. They also hired four months before the work began which is a big problem for anyone drawing unemployment benefits.

By now you’re probably wondering what would motivate these companies to hire foreign workers in times of devastating unemployment.

Well, the businesses say “the locals don’t want to work, Hispanics are more motivated, they don’t have unemployment to depend on, if they don’t work they go back to Mexico.”

But Grayback Forestry advertised for 14 jobs in 2009, had 500 applicants, and many of them were “locals.”

Whose fault is this idiocy? Start with the Bush administration. By administrative rule, Bush allowed Oregon companies to pay foreign work visa holders a "prevailing" wage equal to the lowest such wages in the country. An administrative rule is what’s used when an administration wants something and doesn’t want to ask Congress. They just issue an administrative rule.

Effectively the Bush administrative rule allowed these forestry companies to hire foreign workers and pay them $4 an hour less than the local Oregon prevailing wage. It’s all about the bottom line, I guess, and that’s okay. It’s a company decision.

But the public should expect that “stimulus” dollars spent to stimulate American jobs would go for American Jobs – not jobs for temporary foreign workers.

This is another example of an injudicious, brainless use of Obama stimulus dollars and further evidence that the feds can’t be trusted to be good stewards of taxpayer money. Nobody in Washington is watching the purse strings, while our debt increases by the minute.

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