Friday, March 20, 2009 | 2 a.m.
When Gregory Kamer was transferred to Las Vegas from Washington, D.C., more than 25 years ago to work as a lawyer for the National Labor Relations Board, he figured he’d be in and out of the desert in a year.
Then one year turned into three and then four and next thing he knew Las Vegas was home.
In that time, Kamer has built one of the strongest labor and employment law firms in the state — Kamer Zucker Abbott — representing more than 200 companies and government agencies including Wynn Las Vegas, MGM Mirage, several downtown Las Vegas properties, Southwest Gas Co., the Las Vegas-Clark County Library District and Hooters.
His interest in labor law is academic as well as professional: He earned a doctorate in law from Emory University and completed postdoctoral work in labor and employment matters at Georgetown University. He has also taught labor relations courses at UNLV.
IBLV: What first drew you to labor law?
Kamer: When I went to law school it was a default. I went into college thinking I was going to be a doctor, as so many of us do. And I was in my third year at Washington University as a pre-med and in order to graduate with honors from Washington U you had to do an honors project. And I was working in a children’s hospital inducing the growth of fibroblasts with some chemical I can’t remember now. But in order to get to my lab, I had to go through the kids’ wards, and I remember thinking “I can’t do this. I can’t be around this kind of suffering.”
And so now, all of a sudden, my career plans are up in the air. I was thinking: “What am I going to do?” I had student loans and was on a scholarship, and I wasn’t ready to go into the workforce in 1975 when I was going to graduate.
And so I said: “Why don’t I try law school?”
I went to Emory and did not like my first year there. I thought property (law) was boring and criminal law wasn’t my cup of tea and contracts (law) just didn’t really make it for me. I thought maybe I made a mistake, maybe I should be a forensic physician, do something like that.
Then a friend of mine who was working for the labor board said: “Why don’t you try labor law? I think you’ll really like it. It’s exciting and it affects people’s lives and you can really have an impact.”
And I did, I took my first labor law course and thought, “Yeah, this is cool.” ... The second most stressful event in an adult’s life is the involuntary loss of a job — these are critical issues. This is what determines the quality of life you have.
I realized that I couldn’t be around the suffering as a doctor has to, but I could do something that would have a positive effect on people’s lives — I went into labor law.
I really loved my three years with the National Labor Relations Board because you’re truly a neutral. The act encourages collective bargaining, but you’re not pro-union or pro-employer, you’re supposed to be pro-statute and work with that statute, and I really enjoyed that role.
Even after grad school I didn’t really understand what labor relations were, even after the degree at Georgetown. I understood it academically, but I didn’t understand the workplace. It took working at the labor board and seeing workers coming in and companies coming in — because the labor board will represent companies when there is illegal strike activity, secondary activity, will represent employees against labor unions when they engage in improper conduct and, of course, we’ll represent employees when employers and unions engage in improper conduct. So you really got to see the whole mix of it.
I very much realized I’d made the right career choice, that this is what I wanted to do. I like to communicate, I like connecting, I like to write. Law worked because I liked acting and drama in college, but try making a living as an actor. When you’re an attorney you get to write, you get to perform, you get to direct. You get to do it all.
So for me it was a good way to make a fine living and do something positive for society and do something I liked. Everything finally all kind of came together, and labor law particularly met my need to be part of the social contract.
In your work with the National Labor Relations Board, you were a neutral party. How did you decide to represent management and open your own firm?
I went into labor (law) pretty much as a neutral and made a decision that I could do a lot more good working for the right companies (representing) management, making sure that workers were treated fairly.
When the (Nevada) Resort Association offered me the position as labor counsel (in 1983) it seemed like a dream job — and it was. I did that for three years.
In 1984 we had the very extensive six-week Culinary strike that put 30,000 people out on the street, and three people died in violence and the MGM swimming pool was blown up. As the labor counsel I had responsibility for the labor activities for that strike and really learned my craft there.
In 1986 I decided I’d try to open my own shop. People said, “You’re crazy, how can you do it? Boy, it’s a shark tank out there.” And it really was fun. It’s been great.
You mentioned earlier that the practice has changed in the years since you started working here. How has it changed and how has the legal community, itself, changed?
Well, look around you. When I started I did not have a computer on my desk. Even when I first got a computer on my desk, about 12 years ago, it was a paperweight for many years.
The information age has so significantly changed the legal profession. That is the biggest change I have seen.
And in terms of our litigation, there is a whole field we didn’t even think of. Think of 20 years ago — a fax machine was something out of “Star Trek.” A telephone you can get information on — like my iPhone — come on, this is dreaming!
So technology has significantly changed the practice of law. We can take a walk 40, 50 feet down (the hall) and go to the library and you will see a library full of books as if we were doing a TV ad. People don’t really use those books. You get on your computer and you access your databases and you find the law through computer databases. You can better target and find the law, you clip and paste in terms of how you put your research together.
The other attorneys, the next generation attorneys ... are so computer literate, they don’t need the assistance like I do. I can’t really format a letter as well as my assistant. They don’t really need the assistants for that as much as they need them to make calls and do subpoenas. So even the way the support staff is utilized has changed significantly. The number of support staff we need has changed because the lawyers are so self-contained now. So that has changed. And the way you practice law, in regard to e-discovery, has changed.
The use of e-mail has created smoking guns, which before never really existed. So now a significant part of a good litigation budget is going to be protecting electronic documents and finding electronic documents.
What I find interesting is that because we are so informal with e-mail, counsel are always looking for that golden piece where someone has said the wrong thing in an e-mail and it can be easily misinterpreted. I think over time that will lose its flair. I think over time people will realize that e-mail is a very informal mechanism of communication and what you see in an e-document isn’t necessarily what the truth is. But right now there’s a certain sensationalism to the misstatements of e-mail on both the plaintiff’s side and defense side, which I am hoping over time will tone down.
Just like 15 years ago being accused of sexual harassment was a big deal. Now it’s rather pedestrian. Unless you do something really horrible, it’s just a “he said, she said,” “she said, she said,” “he said, he said” — the whole panoply of claims and power differentials in abusive sex in the workplace. So things change, but right now I see electronic discovery in litigation as the biggest change. And I think the thing that has changed law the most has been the information age.
In terms of the practice in town, when I came here I felt like I knew everybody in town. My bar number is 270. My associates have bar numbers that are in the ten thousand numbers. So that has changed and it has made the practice a lot more impersonal. It has taken away the connections. The integrity issues, the honor issues — I think aren’t there anymore. It’s much more impersonal.
I find that is also problematic with the electronic communications. While it’s a wonderful thing to be able to reach somebody with e-mail, it still doesn’t have the same character as a telephone conversation.
Fifteen years ago I spent probably 80 percent of my time on the phone. Now I spend maybe 15 to 20 percent of my time on the phone and then it’s because I don’t want to communicate through e-mail. Too much gets lost: The timbre in your voice, what people are really trying to say to you, and while it has a great place in terms of being able to get instant access — this is the fast age you get everything (snap, snap, snap), you don’t get the full texture of issues and people’s feelings and what’s involved. They’re both good tools, but it’s a question of knowing when to utilize each of them. So that, too, has enormously changed the practice of law.
What’s also been a major change is the multijurisdictional practices. Before, if you wanted to have your name in a law firm, you had to be licensed in this jurisdiction. Now in this community we have all sorts of partners who have never practiced in this town who have branch offices in this town.
That has changed the nature of the practice. I hear from jurists that they don’t cotton to these people who aren’t linked to the community.
Some of the firms that have branch offices here are doing a great job of making sure they’re committed and giving back to the community, and they’re not just an outpost in Las Vegas.
And, of course, we’re in a very interesting time right now financially in that the economy is in recession and our community seems to be hit harder than many communities in the United States. Our housing market has collapsed — or so it would certainly appear — and it would appear that our tourist industry has been attacked by the president. As in, “Oh, you’re not going to Las Vegas even though we’re the best buy in the country. Don’t go to Las Vegas on a junket, go to San Francisco and pay three times as much for a hotel room.”
We’re sort of getting it from all sides, but I’m optimistic, even with all that. With the new casinos going up, I’m optimistic because the fundamentals are still here. We have the sunshine, we have the infrastructure, we have the rooms, we have the incredible workforce that knows how to give service, and, at the end of the day when things settle down and the bank crises have evolved, people are still going to need houses, people are still going to retire, people are still going to want the sunshine.
It’s hard to find people who say, “I want to retire to Michigan because I like shoveling snow.” Or the rain — “I want to retire to Washington state so it can rain 70 days out of the year and be cloudy 300 days out of the year” or whatever. We do have the weather, even if the summers are a little hot, we do have air conditioning. I think if people keep a positive (attitude), we’ll be growing again very soon.
How has the economic downturn affected your practice?
You know, it really hasn’t. Being a labor lawyer, I represent businesses that employ workers and when you’re growing you have issues of how are we going to hire, how are we going to hire in a nondiscriminatory way, how are we going to manage the workforce, how are we going to manage our contracts? When you’re contracting, you have issues of how are we going to contract in a lawful way, what are we going to do with our agreements, how are we going to honor them, what is going to change?
Knock on some really hard wood, there always seems to be more than enough work if you’ve built a reputation and lived up to that reputation.
The nice thing is I work with people who are smarter than me and better lawyers than me, so it’s a wonderful thing to be in this firm and have the work pouring in and still being very selective.
So it hasn’t affected us, it just changes some of the issues. Whereas before, people are selectively jumping ship and you’re trying to enforce restrictive covenants and covenants not to compete and no rating agreements, now you’re looking at how do we shed this portion of our business and still retain the best we can and not get into issues with our collective bargaining agreements or with charges of discrimination?
How has the downturn affected employer-union, employer-employee relations in the negotiation setting?
The nice thing is — and I’ve negotiated hundreds of labor agreements and individual employment agreements, collective bargaining agreements — the agreements between a union and an employer have a life that exists for a number of years.
When many of these contracts were drafted people weren’t contemplating a downturn. I always do, as a naysayer putting contracts together and looking at the “what ifs,” but the people didn’t. And what I’m seeing is that the responsible labor unions are being very responsible with their employers in terms of how they enforce these contracts in tough times. In those contracts where I’m currently negotiating ... there isn’t a question of the economic necessity.
Creditability issues always permeate a negotiation and, hopefully, in good relationships the parties have built up that credibility over time even if they’re antagonistic. Well, this time around the block people are still jockeying in a negotiation — that’s what you do — but the economic exigency isn’t an issue. When you see major corporations stuck with a fraction — literally we’re talking a quarter or a fifth — of what they were worth just 12 months ago, labor unions can’t argue with you (about) economic necessity.
It makes the negotiation that much more able to, hopefully, reach a conclusion because the economic exigency issues aren’t a question. There is no “How bad is it really?” Just open a newspaper.
What are the most important issues in general that employers and unions are worried about right now in negotiations?
There’s always job security issues. And job security can be defined as the individual worker’s security or the security of the enterprise — the ability to continue operating in an effective way. So that’s always an issue. But it’s more of an issue when jobs are scarce. When you have something like our current unemployment rate — 9, 10 percent — people are out of work. We have a huge unemployment rate, and people are hanging on tenaciously to their jobs.
I don’t really think the issue is, “How much more am I going to get this year? It’s “Am I going to be able to keep what I have?” and for employers, “Am I going to be able to pay you?”
I find it absolutely incredible that some of the government workers are insisting on step increases and wage increases because they were there before, realizing that the private sector is shedding jobs and people are losing their jobs left and right.
We do represent some public-sector employers, and I’m not going to talk about those specific negotiations, but I’m just going to talk about what Gov. (Jim) Gibbons is proposing and the resistance that it saw. As a member of the public not involved in that, it’s hard to understand or swallow where some of these public-sector unions are coming from.
We’re talking about cutting mental health, we’re talking about cutting essential services, kids’ health and you have individuals saying: “No, I’m getting my step increase because that’s what I’m supposed to get.” It’s as if people are living in a fantasy world.
You look down the highway to California, and the California economy is so much more diverse than ours, and Gov. (Arnold) Schwarzenegger is in a world of hurt.
So it’s sort of fortuitous that our Legislature, which only meets every other year, is meeting this year. Let us hope that they get a real dose of reality and can set the pace for what needs to happen in the government and let us hope we can come up with an appropriate resolution with those labor relations.
But it’s interesting in a way, whether public sector or private sector, you want your pension, you want your health insurance, you want a living wage. And if you’re the employer, be it the government or the private sector, you’ve got to be able to pay it. And you can only pay it if your revenue stream is there.
This is the perfect storm where the engine that’s driven this economy is suffering and now the government that relies upon those revenues is going to be suffering. I just hope people open their eyes and stop jockeying and come up with real solutions for a real crisis.
I’m not running for office, I swear.
President Barack Obama has a reputation for being pro-labor. How do you expect that to affect labor in general in the U.S. and in Las Vegas in the near future?
He’s already signed the Ledbetter Bill, which gave individuals the right to sue for discrimination in wages, but extended the period of time you can sue.
There are other pieces of legislation in the pipeline. The absolutely most frightening piece of legislation — and I say this as an American, not as a labor lawyer — is the Employee Free Choice Act. I have never seen a single piece of legislation that could do more damage to this nation than the Employee Free Choice Act. If it is passed as currently proposed, it will take away the most fundamental right that we as Americans have, and that is to make political choices by secret ballot.
The Employee Free Choice Act addresses how a worker selects representation, whether they choose to be in a union or not in a union or which union they choose to be in. And the Employee Free Choice Act would take away decades of an employee’s right of whether he wants to be in a union or not in a union in the privacy of a ballot box, without someone looking over his shoulder and saying, “Oh, sign this card,” without having to explain what that card means.
At least in the secrecy and privacy of a ballot booth, individuals get to choose. What makes it so offensive is that elements of organized labor are so committed to reversing the trend (of lower union enrollment) and pointing to all the reasons why the trend has reversed, saying, “It’s all because of employers violating the law, employers intimidating workers,” and not looking at themselves and saying, “Maybe people just don’t want to be in a union.”
If employers aren’t following the law, then prosecute them. That’s what you’re supposed to do. But don’t take away the fundamental right to chose by secret ballot whether you’re going to be in a union or not because the way I see it is if they take away my right to choose a union by secret ballot, when are they going to take away my right to chose a politician by secret ballot? Because what’s more important to me, whether I have to pay union dues and have to report to a union, or who is going to be my next senator? The more important issue is the workplace on a day-to-day basis. And you’re going to take that right away. This is going to be a battle that will be fought in Congress.
But to answer your question, what is going to be the effect of President Obama, he’s already committed that he will sign the bill. There is a cadre of opposition, at least in the Senate, that will fight this bill as currently proposed. The sacrosanct element is the secret ballot, which I say, once you destroy that, once you set that precedent in labor elections, the next step is in political elections. It’s a very slippery slope.
The other part of the bill that is horrifying is if the parties can’t reach an agreement within 60 days, for the first two years of the contract a neutral party will be able to determine what the contract will be. And that isn’t what collective bargaining has ever been. That will be an incredible change and social experiment. I question whether that change is even constitutional, but there will be better minds than mine, and jurists that will get to decide that issue.
So I see the Employee Free Choice Act as the most significant and frightening aspect of the Obama administration and the commitment to signing it, if it is presented to the president.
Most hotel operations grant card check neutrality to the Culinary Union, but not for other unions. Why does the Culinary get this treatment?
I really have a tough time addressing that, other than to say that the employer as (the law is) currently crafted has the right to grant card recognition. They can do it to any union they want; that’s a choice the employer makes in conjunction with the union.
I still question the individual employee’s choice, that whether that choice has really been respected when an employer acknowledges a card check. I don’t believe a card check reflects the position.
As to why hotels in town have accepted card check for Culinary and may not accept it for others, it’s all about relationships. It’s what we talked about earlier. It’s what the town used to be about. Everybody knew each other. The lawyers knew each other, the hotel operators knew each other. The Culinary Union and some of these operators have known each other for decades. They’ve built the relationship. They’ve established credibility. So I could only surmise that when an employer chooses to honor a card recognition from Culinary and opposes it from others the employer believes that card was obtained in an appropriate manner and that when they sign that contract, they’re going to have a union that will work with them in a positive relationship. Whereas, oftentimes the union-employer dynamic is one of frustration or friction or antagonism and it’s not a win-win situation but a win-lose situation. So that would be why some would recognize a card check and some wouldn’t.
As a labor academic — and I am a AAA arbitrator, I taught at UNLV for 11 years — card check is not the way to choose something as critical as whether or not I’m going to give my right away to a third party. Because, when someone selects a third-party representative, that third-party representative speaks for you. You can’t override what that third party-representative says. That’s a critical choice.
The good news is Nevada is still a right-to-work state. The good news is, in Nevada even if a majority of the employees working in jobs similar to yours have chosen to form a bargaining unit and even if a contract is achieved, if you don’t want to belong to a union, you don’t have to. That’s what a right-to-work state means. You can’t be compelled to pay union dues, you can’t be compelled to join the union. Your terms and conditions will be negotiated by the majority representative.
There are bills in our Legislature today that would change right to work and that would obligate you within 30 days of employment to join a union, such as in California, such as in New York, such as in Hawaii, such as exists in a majority of the states. I think there are about 22 right-to-work states and 28 nonright-to-work states.
In other words, in order to get a job in a place where a contract exists, you would have to join the union within 30 days of employment or you lose your job. And, right now, that’s currently going to be considered by our Legislature. They’re going to attack the right to work.
When I say it’s a perfect storm, you’ve got right to work challenged and you’ve got the Employee Free Choice Act and it will be devastating for individual worker rights at a time when the economy nationwide, globally, is suffering. I think there are very few economists who would say that bringing a union into a workforce increases productivity. For many years the mantra of labor unions has been less work for more pay. That’s not how you pull yourself out of a depression or a recession, that’s how you get yourself into a catastrophe.
As far as employers in general are concerned, are there any hard rules they should have in mind when making decisions about layoffs and cutting staff?
Especially in these times, when you are economically challenged, you need to maintain your most productive workers, and when you do that you need to do it in a way which can be documented and supported.
Realistically, in a perfect world if you have to cut, you want to cut the workers who aren’t producing as much as the others because revenues are down, you have to be that much more efficient in the hard times.
With that said, how does an employer do that? With good management skills. They need to do what they should have been doing all along: Communicating with employees, respecting their employees, being consistent and leading by example. Respect, integrity, consistency, those are the models for good management. Communicating with the employees and letting them be part of the team. They need to continue to be part of the team, to share information and to move on as a team.
You’re seeing it in employers that are looking at creative ways to maintain benefits, creative ways to share some of the burdens of economic hard times; reduced hours for everybody if it can be worked out.
That’s what I see happening and that’s how I see the model of the future being as we go through these times. People say tough times make you better and the strong survive. And the good operators will survive. I think that’s very true whatever business you’re in.
Can you give us some perspective on what’s happening right now with the tip sharing controversy at Wynn Las Vegas?
As to the individual Wynn dispute, I was in a hearing today (Feb. 19) with the labor commissioner and the representatives of some of the dealers who challenged the process.
At this point in time the (Nevada) Supreme Court has already dismissed a major portion of the allegations that were filed early in ’07 that went through to the Supreme Court, which sent it down to the labor commissioner to go through a more formalized process. There will be a hearing on that process on tip sharing issues at Wynn in July. And then the labor commissioner will decide.
The labor commissioner has already been confronted with the same labor commission with all of the same facts and ruled that it was lawful, but he didn’t hold a hearing. Now there will be a hearing.
The parties tried to challenge it and do an end run around the labor commissioner and went into the District Court and that was what was thrown out as well as many contractual claims, which were thrown out. And now it’s whether statutorily the employer has the right to impose a tip pool and who can participate in that tip pool. That is the real issue. And the imposition of tip pools goes on at carwashes, at restaurants, casinos, at hotels. That is a statewide practice. And there are almost 30 years of court decisions that have interpreted that as being lawful.
The Wynn (executives) made a change in their casino management, they created a position that is now like a step above or different from the dealer, which is a customer service team lead and incorporated them within the tip pool and the dealers didn’t like that. And that’s what was challenged. The problem that the dealers face is that the practice of employers mandating tip pools for any employee is the accepted practice throughout the state.
As to how casinos work, that was unique to the Wynn operation based on the Wynn circumstances. But if you go into a restaurant you have a waiter, you have the busboy, you have the front door; they all share in the tips. And that’s the burden that the people challenging the Wynn will have to overcome, and I don’t think they will. It was (lawful), it was the right thing to do at the time and I believe the Wynn still believes it was the right thing to do.
There is a general perception that business owners don’t like unions on their properties. Is this perception accurate and why?
That is not just an accurate perception, that is reality. Any employer worth his salt doesn’t want a nonequity partner coming in and telling you how to run your business. The most important part of your business is your personnel, which usually, for most businesses, is one of the largest capital expenditures.
Management manages. When unions do what they’re supposed to they get into what are wages, hours, conditions of employment going to be. They interfere with your ability to manage. They interfere with an employer’s ability to run a business in an efficient manner. If you look at many of the casino hotels, for example, that have shut down, they all had multiple unions: the Castaway, the Dunes, the Landmark, the El Rancho, and the Marina — they’re all shut down, they all had a bunch of unions in them. Unions don’t make you efficient.
Now unions will tell you they’re going to give you job security. But if the employer shuts down because your demands are outrageous — (unions) have the power to demand an artificially higher wage that the employer can’t afford — you ultimately handicap the enterprise. Or you put more people in more jobs doing less work. That’s not particularly efficient. That’s an anti-capitalist model, an anti-entrepreneur model. The model of a good business is utilize the least amount of human potential that you can utilize to still accomplish your mission and still be efficient.
I think the labor model is broken and has been for decades. That’s not to say there aren’t good people on the labor side or that there aren’t people who are committed to doing the right thing or to helping the worker. That’s not what I’m saying. But since their economic model is based upon the more members they have, the more individuals working, the more dues they collect, institutionally, they have to make you less efficient, otherwise they’re not increasing their capital.
If you want everybody to be on the same page, there needs to be a way to get around (the fact) that the way the union grows is by growing the workforce even if additional workers are not necessary. And that’s where I see a fundamental problem and that’s where most managers see a fundamental problem.
If an employer doesn’t want his property unionized, what are the best ways to avoid it?
If an employer communicates, has the respect of its workers, treats its employees fairly, has invested in its workforce to the point where the workers trust the employer, then relying on that trust that’s built up over years is the way to legally and effectively combat a third party coming in.
Those employers who are well run and those employees who are working for properly well-run companies that are communicating and managing the workforce, they’re not going to want to sign a union card, they’re not going to want to have a union vote. They’re going to realize their employer is paying them a fair wage and giving them appropriate benefits.
The union is going to come in as a salesman saying, “Wages can get higher, benefits can be better, you can work less.” You can be out of work too, because your company is now going to be less efficient and not able to compete in a global marketplace. So the way to keep them at bay is to communicate, respect that workforce, build up credibility with that workforce and treat them fairly.
Hey look, there are good employers out there and bad employers out there. If you’re a bad employer, you deserve the unions that you get. But if you’re a good employer — and fair not just to workers but to your investors, to your management and to the public — that’s how you combat it.
At the height of labor organization, which was 1945, 35 percent of the private labor force in the U.S. was unionized. Today that number is closer to 8 percent. The unions would say it’s because employers have been violating the law. But the labor board has been there all along. I was enforcing those labor laws 30 years ago. When employers violated employees for joining a union they were prosecuted and they’re still prosecuted to this day.
Maybe it’s that employees have realized, especially those that have worked with unions, that maybe they don’t need a union. Where’s the job security of the United Auto Workers who don’t have jobs anymore, or the steelworkers who don’t have jobs anymore or the oil workers and the petroleum workers or all the industries that organized labor have effectively been in and are no longer effective industries. Cars are being produced today by some of the Japanese carmakers and they’re being done nonunion.
Culinary negotiations are due again in 2012. What’s the likelihood the Strip could see another major strike?
There are so many imponderables to that question, including what legislation changes. But I believe that the reason the last big strike was in 1984 was it was disastrous for the Culinary Union. They lost a significant amount of membership as a result of that strike. The other big strike the Culinary had was a single employer against the Frontier, which later morphed into the New Frontier.
Striking isn’t necessarily an effective tool. And smart unions — and the Culinary Union is a very smart union — know that that’s not the way to get concessions and smart operators know you have to pay fairly and appropriately.
So I don’t see the likelihood of a labor dispute in the next negotiation. Of course, things change, circumstances change, leadership changes. Who knows what this economy will look like? Hopefully we’ll be in boom times again, and we’ll have tons of money to throw around and it will be great.
You haven’t asked me about is immigration and how is that going to affect us. And what is going to happen to the workforce and are there going to be immigration laws.
I don’t know what’s on horizon in that direction. People are talking about individuals abandoning America and going back. Remember when they were talking about how are you going to deport 11 million undocumented workers? Many of them allegedly, (according to) your newspaper (the Las Vegas Sun), are leaving and going back home because there’s no work here.
The real way to enforce, if you’re going to have immigration laws, then you can’t have a nation with open borders where anybody walks in and walks out. Especially where you do have a significant terrorist threat in the world, you’d have to be an ostrich not to concede that. So you need to protect your borders.
You have only so many resources, you can’t let anybody draw on it. It’s like that gal that had eight children with six other children at home. You know what? You might like kids, but 14 kids and no dad and no job is no way to run! If we had open borders that would be the equivalent as a nation.
Why have we had so much illegal immigration? The magnet of jobs, the magnet of a better life. We all want that.
But where we fell down and where the politicians fell down was in the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 when they granted amnesty and all of a sudden it was: “Hey, you can work illegally and get amnesty and all of a sudden you’ve won the lottery.” The statute made it very difficult for employers to verify immigration status without running the risk of discriminating against undocumented workers or against noncitizens.
The government has to be much more real and true and allow employers and put the burden on employers to verify whether that workforce is lawful or not and not hamstring them. So that unless you’re documented, you’re not going to work. And then all of a sudden you will have solved your immigration problem. But there’s so much politics and partisanship in this issue that no one is addressing it.
Now, maybe as a result of these economic times where people are struggling for these jobs, maybe that will happen. But you don’t want abuse of undocumented individuals where undocumented individuals are afraid of getting stopped by the police because they’re afraid of getting deported.
This is not an easy issue. There are true humanitarian issues here. There are kids who were born here who are now American citizens whose folks aren’t legal.
We need to throw away the partisan labels and deal with the immigration issue in a way that’s going to work. Because all of us are affected by undocumented workers in positive and negative ways and that really has to be one of the challenges of this administration as well. It has enormous implications for a workforce.