What Immigration Reform Could Mean for American Workers, and Why the AFL-CIO Is Embracing It, by Robert Reich: Their agreement on is very preliminary and hasn’t yet even been blessed by the so-called Gang of Eight Senators working on immigration reform, but the mere fact that AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and Chamber of Commerce President Thomas J. Donohue agreed on anything is remarkable.
The question is whether it’s a good deal for American workers. It is...
The unions don’t want foreign workers to take jobs away from Americans or depress American wages, while business groups obviously want the lowest-priced workers they can get their hands on.
So they’ve compromised on a maximum (no more than 20,000 visas in the first year, gradually increasing to no more than 200,000 in the fifth and subsequent years), with the actual number in any year depending on labor market conditions... Priority would be given to occupations where American workers were in short supply.
The foreign workers would have to receive wages at least as high as the typical (“prevailing”) American wage in that occupation, or as high as the prospective employer pays his American workers with similar experience — whichever is higher.
The unions hope these safeguards will prevent American workers from losing ground to foreign guest-workers.
But employers hope the guest-worker program will also prevent low-wage Americans from getting a raise. As soon as any increase in demand might begin to push their wages higher, employers can claim a “labor shortage” — allowing in more guest workers, who will cause wages to drop back down again.
So why would the AFL-CIO agree to any new visas at all?
Presumably because some 11 million undocumented workers are already here, doing much of this work. The only way these undocumented workers can ever become organized – and not undercut attempts to unionize legal workers — is if the undocumented workers also become legal. ...