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Guest workers have been a major sticking point in immigration reform efforts in the past and a major subject of negotiation this time around. Over the weekend, though, the AFL-CIO and the Chamber of Commerce reached an agreement on the outlines of a guest worker program for non-seasonal, non-agricultural workers.

The basic tension is this: Corporate interests want a big new guest worker program with as few protections as possible for the guest workers and for permanent resident workers. Unions and other worker groups want to be sure that workers in the United States—whether born here or immigrants—don't lose jobs or see their wages undercut as companies turn to guest workers, and that the guest workers' rights aren't limited by having their visas tied to a specific employer. So the question has been how any deal would address these concerns.

The new agreement gives business a substantial new guest worker program, starting at 20,000 visas in the first year and rising in steps to 75,000 in its fourth year. After that, it would rise and fall according to a set of economic indicators including the unemployment rate, never going below 20,000 or above 200,000. Construction visas would be capped at 15,000, and some skilled construction jobs would be excluded from the program. As for other key concerns, Ashley Parker and Steven Greenhouse report:

Labor groups wanted to ensure that guest workers would not be paid less than the median wage in their respective industries, and the two sides compromised by agreeing that guest workers would be paid the higher of the prevailing industry wage as determined by the Labor Department or the actual employer wage.

Under the deal, guest workers would be allowed to pursue a path to citizenship and to change jobs after they arrived in the United States.

If unions had to accept a new guest worker program—and, realistically, they did—this contains enough of what they wanted to be respectable. The guest workers' ability to seek permanent status after a year and the fact that they aren't tied to a single employer are immensely important. But oversight and enforcement of the worker protections, especially around wage levels, will be crucial.

This should help clear the way for immigration reform to move forward. Except that Sen. Marco Rubio responded by, as First Read put it, "tapping the brakes." So look forward to a whole lot more posturing from the Florida Republican as he tries to use immigration reform to further his own political career to the greatest extent possible.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Mon Apr 01, 2013 at 08:24 AM PDT.

Also republished by Invisible People, In Support of Labor and Unions, and Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  So, Legalize "The 11 Million" (8+ / 0-)

    Or 12 million, or however many million, create another guest worker program, in addition to the 11 that already exist, blow the caps off those current guest worker visa programs which do have caps like the H-1B -- and call it 'comprehensive immigration reform'.

    And for the next twenty-seven years both political parties can continue to blame each other as to why the American people can't attain both lower prices and higher wages in the same time and space.

    Brilliant.

    I won't be coming home tonight, my generation will put it right - Genesis 9:3

    by superscalar on Mon Apr 01, 2013 at 09:21:51 AM PDT

  •  There should be no Guest Worker Programs (6+ / 0-)

    Until all Americans who want a jobs can get one - at a living wage plus benefits too.

  •  What you don't want (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Hockeyray, IT Professional

    is a situation where the workers have no right to vote and the voters can't find a job.  That's political suicide and it's my metric.  

    Laura, where do you suppose this falls on that measuring stick.

    sTiVo's rule: Just because YOU "wouldn't put it past 'em" doesn't prove that THEY did it.

    by stivo on Mon Apr 01, 2013 at 10:25:53 AM PDT

  •  Hard not to laugh hysterically at this part: (6+ / 0-)
    Construction visas would be capped at 15,000
    There's more undocumented construction workers than THAT right here in one mid-sized city.  

    "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

    by lgmcp on Mon Apr 01, 2013 at 05:48:44 PM PDT

  •  Great (5+ / 0-)

    This should definitely increase wages for US workers!

    /Wait, what?

    (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
    Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

    by Sparhawk on Mon Apr 01, 2013 at 05:49:05 PM PDT

  •  so instead of shipping jobs to the China wages, (5+ / 0-)

    the corporados will import the China wages here to the jobs.

    How convenient for them.

    •  the front page of this blog (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ban nock, IT Professional

      promotes all this as being "good" and needed - immigration reform or bust and all that.  
      which is why i rarely read the front page anymore.
      this is a utter travesty for Americans already brutalized in the this economy and hurting. .

      We consume the carcasses of creatures of like appetites, passions and organs with our own, and fill the slaughterhouses daily with screams of pain and fear. Robert Louis Stevenson

      by Christin on Mon Apr 01, 2013 at 06:28:45 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Standards for construction in China are very (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      IT Professional

      different than in the US in almost every way. It's hard to see how a construction worker from a third-world country like China is going to function within the safety and environmental regime which exists in the United States. This provision makes absolutely no sense.

      "The two pioneering forces of modern sensibility are Jewish moral seriousness and homosexual aestheticism and irony." Susan Sontag

      by Shane Hensinger on Mon Apr 01, 2013 at 06:36:08 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  can current citizens get a visa? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ban nock, dfe, IT Professional

    I and a few(several) million other US "intentionally undocumented" (long term unemployed status)already citizen people feel (probably in what might seem a un-PC way by now), that we are ALREADY in the front of whatever new shiny kewl line is being created.

    Gotta love that unions are "in agreement". May they lay in the same tar-pit with the republican base. I suppose they are taking union dues to butter their bread as they champion our new working class heroes.

    Way to care about your fellow Americans, just keep cheering because we get more people who will work for shit wages and will vote Democrat because they haven't been sold out 50 fucking times!!!!

  •  The knee-jerk xenophobia here bothers me. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    askew

    It is a myth that these immigrant workers are directly competing with American workers. There is very little economic truth to this as compelling as the "us versus them" mentality always is.

    The willingness of people here to attack the progressive leaders and organizations who are standing up for workers is troubling at the least.

    I suppose if you think that the only way to help Americans is to hurt immigrants, than this reaction is understandable. I would like to think that the general DailyKos reader is smarter than that.

    The truth is that standing up for immigrant rights is not only the right thing to do, it is also ultimately good for the American worker.

    •  Guest worker is not the same word as immigrant (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MrWebster, IT Professional, Hockeyray

      We've been s crewed by Reagan then bush then Clinton then bush and I'll tell you what I don't feel like getting screwed by any more fucking assholes no matter what union or party they are from.

      How big is your personal carbon footprint?

      by ban nock on Mon Apr 01, 2013 at 07:33:42 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Did you read the original article? (0+ / 0-)
        If unions had to accept a new guest worker program—and, realistically, they did—this contains enough of what they wanted to be respectable. The guest workers' ability to seek permanent status after a year and the fact that they aren't tied to a single employer are immensely important. But oversight and enforcement of the worker protections, especially around wage levels, will be crucial.
    •  Depends on where and what (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Cordyc, IT Professional

      Where I live in OC, CA all of the fast food places around me used to be staffed by middle-aged Hispanic males with weak English skills. Then there was a big crack-down on undocumented workers and almost instantly all of the staff changed. All of the workers who had been there for years were gone and in their place was a group of employees in their late teens and early 20's who spoke English as a first-language.

      The previous work-force was very competent and long-term, while the new work-force is a mixed bag and many are their only a short time. But on the whole, I am happy that young American citizens are getting a chance at traditional entry level jobs jobs that were virtually entirely closed off to them until recently.

      •  Read from a union organizer the orgins of this. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        IT Professional

        This pertains to the fast food industry.  During the emergence of the fast food industry it did employ many teenagers.  As that first generation of teenage workers got older and left high school, they turned to a job they knew which was fast food as they left high school.  They used those jobs to fund college, pay for an apartment, as a way station until they moved on, buy a car, etc .

        However. the thing all of those now young adults had in common was a demand for greater number of hours.  But guess what happens when somebody starts pushing 40 hours? Various wage laws come into effect.  

        Well, the fast food industry relies on part time, low wage labor.  So the industry turned to an easily exploited and willing population of illegals to populate those jobs.  So in essence the fast food industry purged itself  of local teenagers, young adults, and even senior citizens trying to make an extra buck.

        •  I worked in fast food when I was in College (0+ / 0-)

          Interesting. I never knew too many students who wanted to work anything but part time. Of course when I went to college in the early 80's when tuition was only $600-$1000 so you didn't need to work more then part time.

    •  Can you tell me how a middle class job with the (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      6412093, wa ma, IT Professional

      union and with union benefits would be unappealing enough to remain unfilled by an American worker?

      I honestly don't get why the union is supporting guest worker programs at all?   My husband is union and this is a huge sticking point with them. If we fight for union wages and union benefits and the job is a good paying union job....I don't see why any one of the millions of unemployed American workers wouldn't want to fill that position.  

      •  The biggest single problem is agriculture and (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        askew

        housekeeping/property maintenance.  The unions rightly want to prevent immigrants, who are willing to work for vastly lower pay, from becoming a mainstay of union jobs such as construction and the skilled trades, which companies would like to see happen; this deal prevents that.  But the problem we face with agriculture and domestic work is that no-one is willing to pay the wages that you're talking about; the price of food would raise considerably and I think we'd just be undercut by imports from Mexico.  After all, look at the California Farmworkers' "take our jobs" program - Americans simply won't do that kind of work for that kind of pay, and they won't pay enough for food and essentials such that Americans could be paid to do that work.

        Long term, we need to make a conscious policy decision about whether we're either willing to pay $6 or 7 for a gallon of milk or instead going to let agriculture die out as an industry.  But that policy decision won't be made today.  As a practical matter, we're making that decision over and over again.  In the past, we've chosen lower prices, effectively shutting down most mills and textiles across New England.

        I don't have a good solution for this.  Look at car washes in LA - every other city has automatic car washes.  But in LA, immigrants still will work for less than the cost of an automatic car wash.  So now you're the dictator of California for a day - solve that problem.  Do you demand their wages to be raised, resulting in their firing and replacement with machines?  I don't have an answer to that; I really don't.

        "The first drawback of anger is that it destroys your inner peace; the second is that it distorts your view of reality. If you come to understand that anger is really unhelpful, you can begin to distance yourself from anger." - The Dalai Lama

        by auron renouille on Mon Apr 01, 2013 at 08:26:18 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yes you demand the wages rise. (0+ / 0-)

          Why is that not a good thing.  Why would you care more for the corporate profits than the worker?

          •  lol. (0+ / 0-)

            I guess you skipped to the end of my comment, because you didn't really address the issues I raised.

            "The first drawback of anger is that it destroys your inner peace; the second is that it distorts your view of reality. If you come to understand that anger is really unhelpful, you can begin to distance yourself from anger." - The Dalai Lama

            by auron renouille on Tue Apr 02, 2013 at 08:40:38 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  To clarify, you didn't address the question I pose (0+ / 0-)

            The car wash situation shows that when workers receive a living wage in that specific job, it's no longer sustainable - the owners will replace the workers with an automated car wash.  So they go from making a shitty wage to making no wage.  Is that an improvement?  I'm not commenting on profits, I'm noting that it's harder than it looks to fix these inequities.

            "The first drawback of anger is that it destroys your inner peace; the second is that it distorts your view of reality. If you come to understand that anger is really unhelpful, you can begin to distance yourself from anger." - The Dalai Lama

            by auron renouille on Tue Apr 02, 2013 at 09:26:16 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  Bull SXXT!!! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      IT Professional

      If the weren't given a direct path to taking the jobs, these employers would HAVE TO rely on domestic labor, wouldn't they? They would be MORE LIKELY to pay HIGHER wages, wouldnt they?

      I suppose if you think a greased path for American Employers to hire Non-Americans  is good for the American worker, I pray to god your employer thinks your job is better done by a scab on a visa.

      The truth is that the advent of American Citizens scabbing American jobs from union worker via "right to work" laws for was ultimately bad for all the workers, as we now know if we didn't then Why is this different?  Because the unions are gone? Because people from other countries are automatically innocent of the economic withering of the middle class they participate in for their personal gain?

      If MORE foreign workers were good for American Employment, we'd already have .5% unemployment. We don't, your argument is FALSE, no matter how many US businesses and non-Americans repeat the lie. We all don't buy the kumbuya kabuki, we're stupid xenophobes though...

      The way to help Americans is not to take as many jobs off the table as possible for sure, and give them to people who are not from America. Sorry we'd already been through "free trade prosperity"....

  •  Not true. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    IT Professional

    Resort owners in Apsen imported  H-2B labor to displace locals who were making more money because of competition local labor.  Resort owners literally created ghettos of both imported labor and illegals around the resorts.  Guess what, now the rich landed gentry of the area are claiming the workers are causing environmental damage.

    Also there is no knee-jerk responses.  Typically the charge of racism is brought up by two groups.  One are the right wing racists who hate anybody of color, and then some liberal who thinks it is racist to simply bring up the issue of imported slave labor and illegal immigrants.  The second is more insidious as it in the end pits exploited working class Americans against imported legal or illegal labor working in the same conditions.

  •  Guest workers in name only. Interesting. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    askew

    Guest workers are like in many Arab countries, where they bring in people from the Philippines or poor Muslim countries to do their manual labor; they have no long-term right to presence and no means to attain local citizenship.

    This isn't really a guest-worker program - it's what we've needed all along, an immigration visa explicitly for people who are coming in to do unskilled labor at fair wages.  As "deals" go, the Chamber kind of got the short end of this stick, and if immigrants under that kind of visa begin to replace the undocumented folks who work under the table and find it difficult to enforce their wage & hour rights, the stick will get even shorter for them.

    "The first drawback of anger is that it destroys your inner peace; the second is that it distorts your view of reality. If you come to understand that anger is really unhelpful, you can begin to distance yourself from anger." - The Dalai Lama

    by auron renouille on Mon Apr 01, 2013 at 08:32:21 PM PDT

  •  Canada: The rising risk of a guest-worker class (0+ / 0-)
    Canada now takes in nearly as many temporary workers as it does immigrants. The number has tripled in the past decade. These foreign workers aren’t just picking tomatoes. They are serving coffee at Tim Horton’s, and working at abattoirs and fish plants. In other words, they are doing permanent work.

    By law, employers can pay them five to 15 per cent less than Canadians. That is because, in theory, there are no locals available to fill these jobs. In practice, however, Ottawa needs to do a better job auditing employers to make sure they have made an effort to recruit and train locals. Otherwise, this program is problematic on many levels and ends up being a subsidy for businesses.

    The presence of temporary workers also has the effect of depressing wages and decreasing investment in training, says Ratna Omidvar, the president of Maytree, a private foundation and research body. This feeds into negative stereotypes about immigrants. With some exceptions, such as those who come in as live-in caregivers, it is difficult for temporary workers to gain permanent residency. After four years, they must go home. Their families cannot join them. They must wait four years to apply again to work here.

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/...

    2012 Canadian Immigrants: Permanent - 247,247 Temporary Workers - 190,744. U.S. guest worker levels seem minuscule compared to Canada which has 10% of U.S. population. http://www.cic.gc.ca/...

  •  I'm all for a guest worker program (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    IT Professional

    But as a skilled construction worker, there one phrase in this article that saddens me:

    oversight and enforcement of the worker protections, especially around wage levels, will be crucial.
    In a right to work state, in residential construction, there is no oversight or enforcement of current labor laws, for citizens or non-citizens. This has always been and will always be the break point for skilled labor.

    Local business owners can and do make their own rules when it comes to the rights of skilled labor, especially in the building trades.

    In more than 20 years in the construction trades I have yet to see an OSHA inspector, nor have I been involved with anyone who has brought action against an employer for violation of labor laws.

    As far as I can tell, there is no enforcement or oversight.

    So, by accepting an additional 200,000 more visas, we just increase the skilled labor pool for business. Nothing more.

    In a world of the blind, the one eyed man is a pariah. Ask Galileo. Ask Darwin.

    by OKParrothead on Tue Apr 02, 2013 at 01:45:30 AM PDT

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