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Characterizing themselves as being "in the middle—not the end" of negotiations over how immigration reform should handle the question of guest workers, the presidents of the AFL-CIO and the Chamber of Commerce released a joint statement laying out the broad strokes of three reforms:
First, American workers should have a first crack at available jobs. To that end, business and labor are committed to improving the way that information about job openings in lesser-skilled occupations reaches the maximum number of workers, particularly those in disadvantaged communities.

Second, there are instances—even during tough economic times—when employers are not able to fill job openings with American workers. Those instances will surely increase as the economy improves, and when they occur, it is important that our laws permit businesses to hire foreign workers without having to go through a cumbersome and inefficient process. Our challenge is to create a mechanism that responds to the needs of business in a market-driven way, while also fully protecting the wages and working conditions of U.S. and immigrant workers. Among other things, this requires a new kind of worker visa program that does not keep all workers in a permanent temporary status, provides labor mobility in a way that still gives American workers a first shot at available jobs, and that automatically adjusts as the American economy expands and contracts.

Third, we need to fix the system so that it is much more transparent, which requires that we build a base of knowledge using real-world data about labor markets and demographics. The power of today’s technology enables us to use that knowledge to craft a workable demand-driven process fed by data that will inform how America addresses future labor shortages. We recognize that there is no simple solution to this issue. We agree that a professional bureau in a federal executive agency, with political independence analogous to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, should be established to inform Congress and the public about these issues.  

The creation of a guest worker program is a major concession by unions—how major will be determined by the details—while, as Suzy Khimm notes, the creation of a new federal bureau to track labor markets would be a concession by business.

There's a lot left unanswered here, with dangers addressed in excruciating detail by a new Southern Poverty Law Center report on abuses in current guest worker programs (via). Would guest workers be tied to a single employer? If so, guest workers would have much less ability to protest mistreatment, even illegal actions by their employers, opening the entire system up to abuses. How would the jobs included under the guest worker program at any given time be defined? How strong would wage and hour protections be in theory, and how strongly would they be enforced? Would recruitment of guest workers be monitored, given that many guest workers pay extortionate amounts to get their jobs in the first place?

It's not that guest worker programs absolutely 100 percent have to be abusive. It's just that they usually are in practice, and that having a pool of low-paid, easily abused workers is a big reason the business lobby wants guest workers. So this is an area where it's in the best interest of people who are working in the United States now and people who hope to be soon to proceed with the utmost caution.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 01:25 PM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Is This About Bringing New Temporary Immigrants (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    worldlotus, Egalitare

    in, or is this meant to apply to the 11 million undocumented people we already have?

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 01:30:07 PM PST

    •  It certainly isn't about U.S. workers. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Rich in PA

      We got the shortest paragraph.

      Nothing is mentioned about how U.S. workers will be able to dispute that they are qualified for a job or that they were never even called for an interview or were rejected for some bogus reason.

      Will all interviewed and rejected U.S. workers allowed to attend and witness the interview process of the foreign worker?  How else will the process be fair?

  •  Key component has to be that the permit cannot be (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Egalitare, worldlotus, exNYinTX

    tied to the employer. A work permit should mean just that: you can work anywhere doing anything, no matter if you quit the job or are fired. That last thing I want to see is a bunch of people who should they get fired, then get deported. That's fucked up and puts too much power in the hands of employers. Also it disadvantages Americans because how can you compete with indentured servitude?

  •  "American workers" (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Define that too rigidly, and you're essentially condoning the status quo and not meaningfully changing it.  

    We need to give legal standing to ALL, whether they decide to follow through on citizenship or not.

    When you are right you cannot be too radical; when you are wrong, you cannot be too conservative. --Martin Luther King Jr.

    by Egalitare on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 02:32:09 PM PST

    •  I'm not getting you...what do you legal standing, (0+ / 0-)

      just the right to work?  Or work, live and vote?  

      •  Some sort of immediate "document"... (0+ / 0-)

        ...that affords the legal enforceable rights to be eligible for employment (as BBB writes above not just indentured to one employer, but any job) set up household, attend school, be able to call first responders without any fear, etc. In short, live day to day out of the shadows.


        Maybe we call it "ObamaCard" or "ObamaVisa"'just to rub it in.

        I think voting ought to come only with citizenship, but that's my personal bias.

        When you are right you cannot be too radical; when you are wrong, you cannot be too conservative. --Martin Luther King Jr.

        by Egalitare on Sat Feb 23, 2013 at 02:02:54 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Everybody needs to vote. (0+ / 0-)

      We should not have people here who can't vote.

      No guest workers, indentured workers, temporary workers, maybe workers, or sometimes workers.

      Whatever deal we come up with Progressives must resist the creation second-class citizens.

      Maybe there are some jobs for which Americans can't be found (there aren't, but lets pretend otherwise). If so, let the foreign workers who have those specific skills join us as full citizens with the right to change jobs, and with the right to representation in the government that taxes them.

  •  I say let them all in, (0+ / 0-)

    let them work wherever they want, for whoever wants to hire them, at whatever wages they can get, but no government benefits until they get legal status.

    Is that too simplistic?

    •  The entire six billion people (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Rich in PA, ManhattanMan

      impoverished people in the rest of the world would like to come this month.  We should have no numerical annual limit at all?

      I could fetch from war torn Africa, two hundred people to clean my house and work on my farm in an even exchange for a back porch to sleep on, a smock to wear and three hot meals per day, and this would be OK with you so long as they don't dare get any government benefits?

      Cause if they don't like it, I will remind them that I have ten more waiting abroad to take the place of each one who displeases me in any way.

  •  a simple answer (0+ / 0-)

    is to dispatch "guest workers" through the Union hiring hall, just as the Longshoremen's Union used to do.  You went to the hall, and if there were still calls after all the members were out you were dispatched as a "casual" for the day.

    Fake Left, Drive Right . . . not my idea of a Democrat . . .

    by Deward Hastings on Fri Feb 22, 2013 at 08:19:47 PM PST

    •  To be fair, the wage per 15 minutes should (0+ / 0-)

      offer higher per hour if no legal U.S. workers raise their hands until all U.S. workers have cleared the room.  

      If there is even one legal worker, and each dollar added does not get him interested, then they can withdraw the job until tomorrow if they do not want to keep raising the salary.  If the employer is desperate, he will be willing to pay $100 or more per hour.

      If the room has been cleared of legal workers, only then will they can be allowed to hire an illegal worker for the next full day only at the last highest offered wage the last legal worker accepted for any job that day.

      I should be in charge of making these rules!

  •  Nothing about ensuring American workers are (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    IT Professional, ManhattanMan

    attracted to the jobs by actual wages they can live on, is there

    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

    by zenbassoon on Fri Feb 22, 2013 at 09:14:42 PM PST

    •  That's what the minimum wage is for. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      All jobs will be offered to U.S. legal workers at the minimum wage. Duh!

      College educated? - Minimum wage- take it or we get to import a  foreigner at a higher wage.

      Masters or PhD Degree? - Minimum wage- take it or we get to import a foreigner at a higher wage.

      You will take the job at minimum wage? Oh, I forgot to mention that you are not qualified because you don't have this 7-Sigma bogus certificate which is only acquired in India.

      •  I was actually thinking about the farm jobs that (0+ / 0-)

        "no American wants"

        "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

        by zenbassoon on Sat Feb 23, 2013 at 06:50:13 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  It's not just low wage ag and construction workers (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    but also tech has it's own Guest Worker Program called the H1b and H2b that has stolen opportunity for American tech workers.

    Mother Jones has a good article this week.  It has lots of good comments to back this up.

    Congressional elections have consequences!

    by Cordyc on Fri Feb 22, 2013 at 09:19:38 PM PST

  •  Hispanic or Latino % of My Hometown (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Rube Goldberg

    ...was all but zero 50 years ago, but the local cannery bussed in workers from south of the border and housed them in quansit huts on site. Seasonal labor, never seen in town, or even at the Catholic church on Sundays.

    26,400+ people live in the city these days, and 26+% are Hispanic or Latino according to the last census (so, very likely, many more) and to me the amazing thing is... That's about 7 or 8000+ people, the population here 50 years ago. And there really would be no significant "downtown" without them.

    Why should anyone consider them anything other than Americans..?

    And there is no "white card" to play. Google: White Hispanic Latino

    And let's not forget the MILLIONS of Americans living in Mexico:

    Might this legitimately qualify as irony?

  •  If a foreigner just wants to come here and (0+ / 0-)

    exploit the United States for his personal gain and doesn't want to immigrate and become a citizen, I have a problem with that. I don't like the permanent resident green card idea, even though it is mostly used as a stepping stone to citizenship. People who we allow into our country to work should be here to become American citizens. I think it is wrong to have various second class citizen statuses, the lowest being an undocumented, low wage earner working seasonally in a field and the highest being an H1B visa holder that is working in some high technology firm bringing in a fantastic salary. Why pay for the cow when you can get the milk for free.

    People are going to come the US overwhelmingly because they want a better life for themselves. Poor people around the world want to come here because things are bad at home. If we don't address this overwhelming demand to come here by the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of some other countries teeming shore. The homeless, tempest-tost etc. spoken about on the Statue of Liberty, YOU WILL ADDRESS NOTHING. You will not solve the problem.

    Make farmers hire real workers and pay them a legal wage. It shouldn't matter that the worker is a foreigner here legally or whether it is a born and raised American citizen. Paying wages that are below the minimum allowed by law is illegal, even if you pay this to an undocumented worker.

    I don't want a "concession" by unions on who should work. Make them union members as they walk off the boat if you are worried about them taking union jobs. Stop being so white about it. We need to:

    1. Secure the boarders (Obama has done this)
    2. Allow lots more legal immigration and shift immigration to allowing mainly poor people to come here for a better life. (This is the crux of the problem. You don't do this you will have solved nothing.)
    3. Allow immigrants to come to the United States legally to do that employment that illegal immigrants currently do with the proviso that wage laws are enforced. (No more ultra low wage dishwashers, construction workers, farm workers etc. In the future both the employer and the worker should be equally afraid of "La Migra." If you are not paying your workers the legal wage, you as the employer are now an illegal under the law.)
    4. For those immigrants that are coming to the United States to become American Citizens, that their process should be faster than those who are here but don't want to make the commitment to being loyal US citizens.
    5. Allow immigrants who entered the country when the immigration laws did not adequately address the true nature of immigration (economic desperation) to change their status to legal by paying a fine and assessing a penalty of a year or shorter towards a more permanent status.

    Please consider the environment - do you really need to print this comment?

    by joelado on Fri Feb 22, 2013 at 11:50:01 PM PST

    •  There should be a checkbox on (0+ / 0-)

      immigration forms as such:

      Check one only:

      a) I want to become an American Citizen

      b) I am here to exploit America for my own personal gain.

      Anyone who checks b) will be turned back and not allowed to enter.

      Immigration issue solved. Who knew it was so simple?

  •  This is imperfect & inadequate, but it's a step (0+ / 0-)

    They are already more productive than the Boehner led House has been. And yes that's a very low bar.

    When you are right you cannot be too radical; when you are wrong, you cannot be too conservative. --Martin Luther King Jr.

    by Egalitare on Sat Feb 23, 2013 at 02:13:58 AM PST

  •  sidebar: sponsored by PYMNTS (0+ / 0-)

    Al Gore to Discuss Role of the ‘Global Mind’ in Driving Innovations in Global Commerce on March 20 in Boston


    Roger Hochschild, President and COO of Discover, who will describe how Discover’s innovation ambitions make it easier for commerce to be exported so that innovators in one country are able to see their innovations take shape all over the world.

    Jeff Jordan, Partner Andreessen Horowitz and former CEO of eBay, is pretty sure of one thing: physical retail is dying. “The piece of the pie left over for physical who will share his insights on how the Global Mind has and will contribute to the creative destructive of physical commerce as we know it today for the benefit of what Gore describes as Earth, Inc. moving forward."

    Michael Joseph, Director of Mobile Money at Vodafone and the “father" of M-Pesa, will not only help the delegates understand the value of the Global Mind in developing countries, but how he plans to expand it to 37 countries around the world and what you need to know to ignite new commerce networks in markets hungry for the opportunity.

    Karl Metha, CEO of Visa PlaySpan and White House Technology Fellow, will help us understand how innovating the gaming industry has informed the largest payment network in the world’s innovations in payments and the biggest economy in the world’s focus on improving financial access while reducing costs.
    Troy Woods, President and COO of TSYS, will underscore why now is the time to step up the pace in innovation and who will suffer most if the collective payments industry doesn’t.

    Gary Flood, President MasterCard Global Products and Solutions, will facilitate the discussion between these amazing payments innovators, the former Vice President of the United States and The Innovation Project 2013 guests. Flood has been with MasterCard for 25 years and will lend his insights into the role of a payments network in stimulating innovation for the benefit of merchants and consumers worldwide. is reinventing the way in which companies in payments share relevant information about the initiatives that shape the future of commerce and make news.

    Al Gore identifies with his favorite system of government on lecture circuit for "The Future': Aristotle's belief in 'polity' a mixture of oligarchy and democracy.

    by anyname on Sat Feb 23, 2013 at 03:37:36 AM PST

  •  Well, that's an icky start to the day. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    IT Professional

    We should have whatever level of immigration people our political system wants to agree to.  But it should be a single immigration regime, not this guest-worker nonsense that reduces people to labor machines even more explicitly and abusively than we're accustomed to, which is saying a lot.  If there are jobs Americans won't do, maybe Americans are on to something.

    You know, I sometimes think if I could see, I'd be kicking a lot of ass. -Stevie Wonder at the Glastonbury Festival, 2010

    by Rich in PA on Sat Feb 23, 2013 at 04:27:36 AM PST

  •  Legalize all undocumented persons (0+ / 0-)

    We need to legalize all the undocumented people in the USA. Having over 11 million undocumented people here is bad for all of us.

    •  What do we do with the next (0+ / 0-)

      eleven million people who come over the fence or over stay their visa after we legalize these 11 million?

      Is it not bad for all of us if we have to support all 6 billion poor people in the rest of the world just because they made it here?

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