Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Temporary Foreign Workers Programs to be Scrutinized by Congress

Tomorrow (April 30, 2009) a senate subcommittee will hold hearings on immigration and specifically on the temporary worker programs. Revision of these programs was part of the comprehensive reform proposals in the previous congress. Labor was ultimately split over the specific reforms. Change to Win which represents many immigrants in the service industries and light manufacturing was especially attracted to the legalization provisions. The more traditional AFL-CIO, while supporting legalization, objected that the temporary worker provisions did not protect American workers -- nor the temps for that matter. Now both union organizations are agreed in supporting a new comprehensive reform that will contain legalization and meet the AFL-CIO's objections on temporary workers. The business groups that were allied in the fight for the Kennedy-McCain Bill are outraged. The key to unions reform is establishing a commission that would determine when and how many temporary workers are needed. Business is used to the lax administration of the program under the Bush administration and to the control it afforded over workers -- e.g., temporary workers could not change employers. The unions want a program that gives more freedom for the workers to change jobs and tougher enforcement of safety, housing and wage regulations. With the shift of Arlen Specter to the Democrats and a united union support, prospects for comprehensive reform seem to have improved. But the unions might have a hard time convincing their own membership to support the reform and business may drop out of a pro-reform coalition. Most Republicans are already opposed. That will make the task to passing reform in late summer or fall even more difficult. The devils in the details, as they say in Washington. (See Arizona Republic article.)

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