Immigration reform is making for strange bedfellows
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, at left, and Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tom Donohue
January 29th, 2013
02:50 PM ET
10 years ago

Immigration reform is making for strange bedfellows

Washington (CNN) - AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tom Donohue are working together to reach an understanding about a guest worker program. This was the topic of discussion at a recent breakfast between the two men, who usually find themselves on opposing sides of the negotiating table.

The guest worker program has been a flash point in the immigration debate. It divided the labor and business communities during the 2006 immigration battle when the Chamber fought to increase the number of temporary workers and labor pressed to keep that number low in the name of protecting its members.

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This time around the two men are teaming up in the hopes of eliminating this major roadblock on the road to immigration reform.

The disagreement is over the number of foreign workers allowed to enter the U.S. on a temporary basis. Business interests want to recruit willing immigrant workers when Americans are unwilling to do the job.

Labor leaders want the number of guest workers to be tied to the health of the U.S. economy. When U.S. unemployment is high and more Americans are looking for jobs, labor leaders believe the number of low-skilled foreign workers allowed to work in the U.S. should be lower. But when U.S. employment is strong and Americans are well-employed, more foreign guest workers should be allowed to enter.

Staff members from both the labor community and the Chamber of Commerce have been talking about finding a reasonable formula that both sides can support.

But this issue isn't the only sticking point between the two communities.

Many in the labor community are concerned about suggestions that immigrants seeking citizenship be required to meet certain work requirements. Depending on how these requirements are defined, it's possible that some workers in the so-called 'shadow economy' may find it difficult to prove employment. Those affected could include household workers and day laborers.

On the other side, many in the business community are concerned about new federal requirements for businesses would conflict with already complex state immigration laws. This could make it difficult for even well-intentioned business owners to avoid illegal hiring.

Business leaders want to ensure that any new federal regulations relating to E-Verify – an internet-based system for determining the legal status of workers – would trump state laws that might be in conflict.

Filed under: AFL-CIO • Chamber of Commerce • Immigration
soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. Ratt

    Any Republican who votes for this 'Amnesty' Bill will be toast in 2014.

    January 29, 2013 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  2. Rick McDaniel

    Labor has a legitimate beef with a time when Americans need jobs, we should NOT be giving away American jobs of any kind, to illegal immigrants when Americans need WORK!

    January 29, 2013 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  3. Rudy NYC

    States have no jurisdiction in setting their own immigration policies, anyway. I would think the Commerce Clause gives the federal government the sole authority to legislate immigration and their impact on business. All of these supposed concerns over E-Verify at the state level by conservatives is just a delaying tactic designed to prolong their cheap labor forces. This country's economy was founded on slave labor, and cannot survive without a labor force working for slave wages.

    Personally, I don't buy into this entire argument about "jobs that Americans don't want to work" at all. That rationale has been by every immigrant group since the end of the Civil War. It began when "jobs" were offered to former slaves with the wages being simply room and board. Immigrants came to our shores, accepted the jobs but they also earned wages.

    Each successive wave of immigrants since that time has come in with the same line. "We work harder." "We worker harder than [the ethnicity of the previous decades long wave of immigrants]." In addition, each successive wave also put down the former slaves because they had originally turned down the "jobs" that were offered to them for room and board. Witness the President of Mexico a decade ago declaring that Mexicans went to the US looking for jobs because black Americans were lazy.

    Over the generations, the original refrain evolved into "jobs Americans don't want to work" and other variations. But it is all the same message.

    January 29, 2013 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  4. J'Cincinnati'Redd

    I mean the GOP is gonna sell us down the river.most of the latino population will not turn around and vote republican just because you them their legal pappers. trust me 70% will vote for clinton in 2016. OBAMA, has done a good job seperating the GOP.

    January 29, 2013 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  5. Name lynn

    Them republicans is mad @ obama because is for the lantios, an the people dont get a life.

    January 29, 2013 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  6. Rudy NYC

    Rick McDaniel

    Labor has a legitimate beef with a time when Americans need jobs, we should NOT be giving away American jobs of any kind, to illegal immigrants when Americans need WORK!
    Tell that to big business and their pawns, the Repubilcan Party.

    Back in 2002, 80% of maids and maintenance workers at California's big hotels were African Americans belonging to unions make double digit per hour salaries with benefits. By 2009, empowered by changes in labor laws, 80% of those same workers were of hispanic descent making single digit per hour salaries with no benefits....and no union. Profits soared, while tstate income ax revenues plummeted. Similar stories can be told across many industries and trades across the country but most acutely in California.

    January 29, 2013 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  7. Tea Party Member

    If you prevent employers from hiring illegals they should deport themselves. If they still don't go back to there home countries we should round them up and force them to leave with only the clothes on their backs.


    January 29, 2013 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |