While immigration reform advocates are still examining the legislation’s 844 pages, here are highlights that address some of the united labor movement’s key immigration principles, including moving forward on creating a road map to citizenship.
Gregory Cendana, executive director of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA), warns that the national debate around creating a commonsense immigration process “has largely ignored a disturbing trend in businesses: the modern-day indentured servitude of temporary workers.”
The AFL-CIO and the SEIU are standing up to Republicans and business groups for fair wages in federal immigration reform. While the group of bipartisan senators, called the “Gang of Eight,” working on the immigration bill say that the bill is 90% done, much contention remains around the "guest" worker provisions in the bill. [In fact, the so-called “guest” worker provisions in the bill are not “guest” worker provisions at all. The AFL-CIO has insisted that any new foreign workers be allowed a road map to citizenship and portability between employers so that they are not indentured to a single employer as a condition of remaining in the United States —as is the case under most existing temporary worker programs.]
While the White House, Congress and outside groups debate the details of what the exact shape of the country's immigration system will be, an article from ABC-Univision details three shocking examples that make clear any legislation addressing the topic must include protections for temporary workers brought to the United States.
In an op-ed column in The Miami Herald, William and Mary professor Cindy Hahamovitch traces the history of landowners exploiting temporary agricultural workers in the United States for personal gain. These farm employers are currently calling for more temporary workers to be allowed into the country, and they want fewer regulations on those workers. Hahamovitch points out the irony of the landowners condemning the current system, which is one they helped create and has allowed them to exploit foreign-born workers for decades.
Like many people who come from other countries to work in the United States, Juan José Rosales left his homeland in Mexico to make a better life for himself, trading the prospect of a better financial situation for a temporary amount of time away from. He said a recruiter promised him he would get between $7 and $8 an hour while working in the fair and carnival industry on an H-2B visa. And that's when things went wrong.
How did we end up with all these low-wage, no-benefit temporary jobs in our economy?
Erin Hatton, of State University of New York at Buffalo, had a fascinating read in the New York Times this weekend, The Rise of the Permanent Temp Economy, tracing the rise in America of the temp industry, and how it forged "new cultural consensus about work and workers."
As more and more employers duck paying workers decent wages, health care and training costs by hiring contingent/temporary workers, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) must step up its protection efforts for those workers, a new report urges. Martha McLuskey, one of the authors of the Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) report, At the Company’s Mercy: Protecting Contingent Workers from Unsafe Working Conditions, says:
Increasingly, employers are treating them as expendable, accepting high injury rates because the company is largely insulated from the economic consequences.