Thursday, May 17, 2012
Congressman visits CFI
By SUE WATSON
U.S. Rep. Alan Nunnelee (R) and his wife Tori toured Contract Fabricators Inc. recently to see the gigantic oil and coal refinery vessels that are being manufactured in Holly Springs.
Boyce DeLashmit, president, sat with the Nunnelees to spell out what he needs Congress to do and then they toured the facilities.
Contract Fabricators was established in 1983 in Holly Springs. Its primary customers are oil and power plants. Since 1983, CFI has grown into a multi-million dollar operation, employing 164 workers. It operates at three locations – Holly Springs, Kemper County and on the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway at Yellow Creek Port close to the industrial park in the Iuka area. The port serves as an important transportation corridor for CFI’s large vessels.
DeLashmit invited Nunnelee to tour his Holly Springs facility and to discuss two topics of his concern. The first is how to retain a highly skilled workforce. He said Mexicans, some of whom have been employed nearly two decades at his facility, are a critical source of employees – willing to be trained and to work.
Recently he was required to lay off 15 Mexican workers, putting his business in a shortage of trained labor, he said. He wants Nunnelee to help address this labor shortage. Secondly, he said he wants to impress on the representative the need to curtail entitlement programs.
“The whole reason we asked him to come by is because we do have this labor shortage and we have depended on migrant workers to fill our labor gap,” DeLashmit said.
The federal government does not allow employers to ask persons if they are legal or illegal workers or to verify that the IDs they provide are authentic before hiring and putting them to work. DeLashmit said he already has lots of time and money in a foreign worker before he can verify the worker is using legal identification.
But his Mexican workers have worked as if they are legal, he said, paying taxes and Social Security just as other employees do. If they are found to have provided illegal identification forms, he must terminate their employment.
But those he terminates because of improper documentation move on to cash-paying jobs and are not deported, he said. In cash-pay jobs they do not contribute to the tax or Social Security systems. He cited similar problems faced by Mississippi’s furniture manufacturing businesses that have lost highly-trained and skilled workers after finding they provided false identification.
“We trained these people and they were such good workers, ethical and very skilled,” he said. “We’ve had a shortage of people to do these jobs. Last summer Homeland Security came here and subpoenaed our records and audited us.”
He said he was told it is a felony with up to a 10-year prison sentence to continue to employ anyone who has been found to be working illegally.
He told Nunnelee Mexicans are not taking Americans’ jobs, but are taking jobs Americans won’t do “like picking fruits and vegetables, laying brick, and roofing houses.”
DeLashmit said he is not opposed to immigration reform and is in favor of shutting off the illegal crossing of the borders and he opposes general amnesty for Mexicans who have worked here without documents.
He is in favor of legislation that would permit foreign workers to work using work permits or work visas, he said.
If they are allowed to work legally using a permit or visa, those who are willing to work could then work legally while they try to earn their citizenship, he said.
DeLashmit said with few exceptions, Americans don’t want to do these hard jobs, while Mexicans are willing to do jobs Americans turn down or quit.
“It takes four to five years to learn how to weld the way we have to weld,” he said. “You can get welders, but you have to train them. We are American Society of Mechanical Engineers certified.”
CFI is building 18 vessels for the Kemper County coal gasification facility and needed the 15 Mexican workers it was required to lay off, he said.
Second on DeLashmit’s agenda with Nunnelee was to ask for tougher limits on the entitlement and welfare programs.
DeLashmit said he is opposed to all government handouts to individuals who are not disabled.
Nunnelee discussed arguments in proposed legislation regarding food stamps. The statistics say that the average length of use of food stamps is about 90 days but about 50 percent of those on food stamps have been receiving them for seven years. He said there is talk in Congress of putting a five-year cap on receiving food stamps.
He said the food stamp program is one example of a federal program out of control.
“People won’t work without incentives,” he said. “This does me a world of good to actually see (what your needs are),” Nunnelee said.
DeLashmit said he is not in favor of extending periods of unemployment support – that he believes people will not look for a job until they are forced to.
“If the government will issue work permits or work visas, we will be willing to sponsor them,” he said.
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