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How a Willow Grove Business Made Trump Look Very Smart About Immigration

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(This post originally appeared on PhillyMag)

“We accept responsibility for the charges as outlined, and we apologize to our customers, associates and all other stakeholders for what has occurred.”

Those words were said by Scott Asplundh, chairman and CEO of the Asplundh Tree Company, after the company was fined a whopping $95 million last week for violating immigration rules. It’s the largest-ever fine for an immigration violation. Thanks Scott. Donald Trump is applauding you. You’ve made him look very smart, which is in and of itself quite an accomplishment.

According to this USA Today report, Asplundh — a 90-year-old family-owned company located in Willow Grove that employs more than 30,000 people around the world — also employed thousands of “unauthorized workers” between 2010 to 2014. Translation: illegal immigrants. Management claims they were “willfully blind” because lower-level supervisors made the hiring decisions with little oversight and moved these workers around to avoid detection. Three Asplundh managers, including a vice president, have pled guilty.

None of this surprises others who compete or work along with Asplundh in the area. “I saw this all the time,” a client of mine who runs a 100-person landscaping firm in Newtown, Pa. told me over the weekend. (He declined to be identified here.) “We don’t employ illegal immigrants. But many in our industry do. And it makes it tougher for all of us.”

It sure does. So thanks again, Scott, for completely justifying the president’s immigration arguments. You made him proud. By behaving this way, you’ve provided fuel to those who support deporting illegal immigrants.

This behavior from a local company will undoubtedly make it much tougher for Mayor Jim Kenney to argue against the Justice Department’s crackdown on “sanctuary cities.” Even as the mayor contends that deporting illegal immigrants from sanctuary cities like Philadelphia will compromise the city’s safety and economic growth, anti-immigration groups will use examples like Asplundh to show how those very immigrants are hurting everyone around them by taking their jobs away.

And this argument will be tough to overcome. My God, this is a huge company with a well-known brand and a respected reputation! Yet, for years they employed thousands — thousands! — of undocumented workers under the nose of the government. We all know why. It’s just money and greed.

By using undocumented workers, the company could offer them less pay and no benefits. By doing this, they lowered their overhead and were able to undercut their competitors’ pricing, thereby hurting the livelihoods of those companies (and their employees) who abided by the law. They shut out legal immigrants from opportunities that they deserved. And please, don’t blame a workforce shortage. There are many out there who would do the work if compensation was fair. But how to raise wages when companies like Asplundh (and their corrupt executives) keep them depressed by employing undocumented aliens?

Asplundh isn’t the only company engaging in this illegal activity. My landscaping client knows others in the area who routinely do the same, although he refused to name names. And that’s just in Philadelphia, where manual labor like this kind is mostly tied to seasonal jobs. The problem is bigger in warm-weather states like Texas, Arizona, California and Florida, where companies — even very large companies — flout immigration laws and exploit illegal immigrants because they can.

Everyone knows that the immigration problem in this country needs better laws and more clarity. Everyone appreciates the value of immigrants and are grateful for the opportunities that America provided to their ancestors who migrated here. Unfortunately, some prefer taking harsh measures like deporting entire families and taking the chance away from “dreamers” to make a difference.

But more unfortunate is the behavior of companies like Asplundh, which make it much more difficult for those who sympathize with the plight of illegal immigrants to fight on their behalf. Thanks again, Scott.


La Colombe’s Todd Carmichael Wants A $15 Minimum Wage…But Why Stop There?

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(This post originally appeared on PhillyMag)

Todd Carmichael wants a $15 per hour minimum wage, and he’s got good reasons.

In an opinion piece he recently wrote on, Carmichael – the founder of the popular coffee chain La Colombe – said that paying employees a livable wage is something that employers should do because it’s good for both businesses and employees.

“It doesn’t just make for happier employees, lower turnover, and a better tax base,” he wrote. “It makes for happier customers who are willing to come back. It makes for a better bottom line. That’s how a tiny Philadelphia coffee roaster managed to spread nationally and grow into a $400 million market cap: by keeping people first.”

He’s right. But why stop there? Read More…

All of You Equifax Haters Couldn’t Be More Wrong

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(This post originally appeared on PhillyMag)

There are plenty of reasons to hate Equifax. But you shouldn’t.

Yes, it’s true that, because of the company’s poor safeguards and incompetent personnel (particularly its chief information officer and chief security officer, both of whom “retired” over the weekend), the private data of more than 140 million individuals was stolen by unknown hackers. And yes, that includes you. If you don’t believe me, then head on over to and check. When you likely find out that your social security number, credit data, home address and mother’s maiden name — information that can easily be used by hackers to gain access to your financial accounts or apply for credit and loans using your identity without your knowledge — has been stolen, you’ll likely hate Equifax. But don’t. Read More…

The One Obvious Thing That Will Dramatically Improve PHL

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(This post originally appeared on PhillyMag)

Been to the Philly airport lately? You’ll like what you see. Sure, PHL isn’t laid out as well as Charlotte, nor does it have a SkyLink like DFW or the airiness of Indianapolis. But the people running the place have made vast improvements.

The terminals are bright and food selection is varied. In fact, I highly recommend Tony Luke’s roast pork in Terminal F, although I’m always tempted by the skirt steak offered by the Hub nearby. Renovations in Terminal B — which include new restaurants, tech-friendly seating areas, and (gasp) lots and lots of more power outlets — are welcome and very much appreciated. Getting in and out of the airport has never been easier — SEPTA runs every 20 minutes, and parking, taxis, and Ubers are plentiful. Read More…

How Philly’s Accountants Can Easily Raise $100 Million for the City

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(This post originally appeared on PhillyMag)

If you have up to three kids and make less than $54,000 a year, you are probably owed about $6,300 this year from the federal government. In fact, the government has likely owed you this money for the past few years, and you can apply for that too. No, I am not making this up.

It’s called the Earned Income Tax Credit. It’s money owed by Washington to low-income individuals and, unfortunately, too many people in Philadelphia are leaving it on the table. How many? According to City Councilman Allan Domb, about 40,000 people in the city are eligible for an average refund of about $2,500. The amount of money left on the table last year? About $100 million.

“It’s crazy!” Domb recently told me. It’s also part of his plan, as I previously wrote, to pull 100,000 people in the city out of poverty. Read More…

The One Big Thing Missing From Allan Domb’s Plan to Grow the City

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(This post originally appeared on PhillyMag)

As we’ve unfortunately learned, some business leaders may not be the most effective political leaders. But Allan Domb doesn’t fall into that category.

Since taking office as an at-large City Council member last year, Domb has dived into the job with enthusiasm, commitment, and energy. He doesn’t need to be doing this. He’s made plenty of money selling and managing real estate over the past few decades. But clearly he wants to make a difference. He wants Philadelphia to grow — and not just because the city’s growth will help him sell and manage more real estate. But because he cares about the city’s future. Read More…

What New Jersey Really Should Do to Decrease Smoking

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(This post originally appeared on PhillyMag)

I used to smoke up until my mid-20s. And then I stopped. Partly because I married a nonsmoker, but also because I started seeing this image of the smoke I inhaled filling up my lungs and infecting my body. That image gave me pause. Would I want my kids one day to be smokers? Of course not. We all know how bad it is. So why kind of example would I be setting if I smoked?

Yet still, lots and lots of people still do it. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 15 out of every 100 adults in the U.S. are smokers – that’s about 36.5 million adults. Many of these smokers are intelligent, hard-working people who have access to the Internet, are aware of the health risks, read the dire warnings on their cigarette packages, and likely know a relative or friend who has died from something related to the habit. And yet they still spend anywhere from $5 to $13 for a back of Marlboro Reds, depending on where they live. This is not good judgment – and unfortunately it affects me. Read More…