The AFL-CIO and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have struck a tentative deal on guest worker programs that could pave the way for a comprehensive immigration reform bill to proceed in the U.S. Senate.
The legislation had yet to be drafted at Labor Tribune press time; however, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) told ABC News that while there was not a final deal on immigration legislation just yet, the bi-partisan “Gang of Eight” senators working on immigration reform had reached a “substantive agreement” on the major components of an immigration plan.
‘NO HIGHER PRIORITY’
“The labor movement has no higher priority in 2013 than to build a workable immigration system that will allow 11 million aspiring Americans to become citizens,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said. “Each day we have become more encouraged that our goal is in reach, and quickly. Each day we hear from working people of every background that we need a fair system that lifts up everyone.”
The agreement between the AFL-CIO and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce includes a new kind of worker visa program called the W-Visa, which will work for everyone, not just employers.
“The strength of the consensus across America for just reform has afforded us the momentum needed to forge an agreement in principle to develop a new type of employer visa system,” Trumka said. “We have created a new model, a modern visa system that includes both a bureau to collect and analyze labor market data, as well as significant worker protections.”
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE AGREEMENT
• The W-Visa is not a temporary visa. Workers will have the ability to self-petition for permanent status after a year and they are not tied to a single employer.
•Unlike other employer visa programs, this one will be data driven. Data will be compiled by a new bureau called the Bureau of Immigration and Labor Market Research. The bureau will be a separate and independent component within U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The director of the bureau will be appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. The bureau will be staffed by experts in economics, labor markets, demographics and other specialties needed to identify labor shortages and make recommendations, among other things, on the impact of immigration on labor markets as well as the methods of recruitment of U.S. workers into lesser-skilled, non-seasonal jobs. The bureau will publish shortage lists by occupation and make annual recommendations and reports to Congress on how to improve employment-based immigration. The bureau also will have a role in setting the annual W-Visa cap. USCIS will fund the bureau through registered employers and registered openings fees for employers.
• W-Visa holders will be paid fairly, meaning their wages will not adversely affect the wages or working conditions of U.S. workers. Wages will be the actual wage level paid by the employer to all other individuals with similar experience and qualifications for the specific employment in question, or the prevailing wage level for the occupational classification in the area of employment, whichever is greater. Extensive recruitment of U.S. workers will be required.
• W-Visa workers will be covered by state and federal employment laws to the same extent that other U.S. workers are covered. W-Visas will not be available to employers who have laid off workers within 90 days and will not be available to employers during a strike or lockout.
COMMON SENSE IMMIGRATION
The AFL-CIO has been pushing hard for immigration reform. Trumka said that effort is just getting started.
“A new visa program is only a small part of our campaign to build a common sense immigration system,” Trumka said. “Mass deportations are a moral and economic crisis. The senseless thwarting of DREAMers' efforts to live the American dream is a crisis. And we are leading a national campaign for reform that addresses these crises.
“From making sure citizenship for the 11 million is achievable not only in theory, but in fact, to maintaining family unity, the labor movement’s immigration campaign is just getting started.”