President Trump says he wants to protect American jobs. Yet his administration is about to ease publication rules designed to ensure that employers don't replace U.S. citizens with temporary foreign workers.
Specifically, he plans to eliminate a decades-old requirement that companies post their job openings in local newspapers before trying to fill them with workers from abroad.
The current federal policy is intended to protect American jobs. The change would undermine that goal by reducing the number of U.S. citizens learning of employment opportunities before they're given to foreign workers and harming the nation's already-struggling newspaper industry.
Despite the internet, nearly one-third of American workers still learn of job opportunities through print newspapers. And newspapers depend heavily on revenue from those job listings to help pay the employees who provide vital local journalism.
The rule changes aren't designed to protect American jobs — they're an apparent attempt to ensure that the president, who otherwise has tried to tighten requirements for foreign workers, can easily hire them for his hotels.
The current federal rules help ensure that U.S. workers get first shot at job openings before employers are granted visas to hire foreign workers for temporary positions.
U.S. employers currently must first make the jobs available to workers who have filled the positions before; alert union workers if the jobs are covered by a labor contract; and notify the general public through two Sunday local newspaper ads in the area where the job is available.
It's that final requirement that would be eliminated under rules the Trump administration is currently considering. Instead, the U.S. Departments of Homeland Security and Labor are proposing to allow employers to simply place an ad on a website that is "widely available."
There's no question that the job offerings should be posted online. But newspapers also provide a critical role. Abandoning the print option would greatly reduce the number of U.S. citizens who learn about the work before it's given to foreign workers.
If U.S. workers don't step forward, then the employers can hire workers through the H-2A visa program for seasonal farm workers and the H-2B program for temporary non-farm jobs with, for example, landscaping companies, restaurants, hotels and amusement parks.
The administration has announced plans to expand the H-2B program this year. It comes at a time when Trump's hotels, under scrutiny for hiring undocumented workers, have been hiring more workers through the H-2B program instead.
The H-1B program relied on heavily by Silicon Valley companies to bring in highly skilled workers also requires public notification through newspapers. But it would not be affected by the administration's proposed rule changes.
If the administration is serious about ensuring that qualified U.S. workers get first crack at new jobs, it should ensure that those workers learn about the positions. Limiting the notification process undermines that goal.
The San Jose Mercury News