Daily Updates

March 30, 2013

Source: Business, labor get deal on worker program

WASHINGTON (AP) — Big business and labor have resolved a dispute over a low-skilled worker program that threatened to hold up agreement on a sweeping immigration bill, according to a person familiar with the negotiations.

The deal was struck in a phone call late Friday night with AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, U.S. Chamber of Commerce head Tom Donohue, and Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, who’s been mediating the dispute.

The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of a formal announcement, said the deal resolves disagreements over wages for the new workers and which industries would be included. That had led talks to break down a week ago.

The deal must still be signed off on by the seven other senators working with Schumer to negotiate a bipartisan immigration bill — but that’s expected to happen. The agreement between business and labor removes the biggest hurdle to completion of the immigration bill to secure the border, crack down on employers, improve legal immigration and create a pathway to citizenship for 11 million illegal immigrants already here.

The bipartisan senate group is expected to introduce the bill the week of April 8 after Congress returns from a two-week recess.

The AFL-CIO and the Chamber had been fighting over wages for tens of thousands of low-skilled workers who would be brought in under the new program to fill jobs in construction, hotels and resorts, nursing homes and restaurants, and other industries.

On Friday, officials from both sides said there was basic agreement on the wage issue, and Schumer said a final deal on the worker dispute was very close.

“We’re feeling very optimistic on immigration: Aspiring Americans will receive the road map to citizenship they deserve and we can modernize ‘future flow’ without reducing wages for any local workers, regardless of what papers they carry,” AFL-CIO spokesman Jeff Hauser said in a statement earlier this week. “Future flow” refers to future arrivals of legal immigrants.

Under the emerging agreement between business and labor, a new “W” visa program would bring tens of thousands of lower-skilled workers a year to the country. The program would be capped at 200,000 a year, but the number of visas would fluctuate, depending on unemployment rates, job openings, employer demand and data collected by a new federal bureau pushed by the labor movement as an objective monitor of the market.

The workers would be able to change jobs and could seek permanent residency. Under current temporary worker programs, personnel can’t move from employer to employer and have no path to permanent U.S. residence and citizenship. And currently there’s no good way for employers to bring many low-skilled workers to the U.S. An existing visa program for low-wage nonagricultural workers is capped at 66,000 per year and is supposed to apply only to seasonal or temporary jobs.

The Chamber of Commerce said workers would earn actual wages paid to American workers or the prevailing wages for the industry they’re working in, whichever is higher. The Labor Department determines prevailing wage based on customary rates in specific localities, so that it varies from city to city.

The low-skilled worker issue had loomed for weeks as perhaps the toughest matter to settle in monthslong closed-door talks on immigration among the senators, including Republicans John McCain of Arizona and Marco Rubio of Florida. The issue helped sink the last major attempt at immigration overhaul in 2007, when the legislation foundered on the Senate floor after an amendment was added to end a temporary worker program after five years, threatening a key priority of the business community.

The amendment passed by just one vote, 49-48. President Barack Obama, a senator at the time, joined in the narrow majority voting to end the program after five years.

 

1
Text Only
Daily Updates
  • 10 Things to Know for Thursday

    Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Thursday.

    April 23, 2014

  • In Other News, April 23

    April 23, 2014

  • US weighs clemency for inmates jailed for 10 years

    The Justice Department is encouraging nonviolent federal inmates who have behaved in prison, have no significant criminal history and have already served more than 10 years behind bars to apply for clemency, officials announced Wednesday.

    April 23, 2014

  • High court tosses $3.4M award to child porn victim

    The Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected a plea to make it easier for victims of child pornography to collect money from people who view their images online, throwing out a nearly $3.4 million judgment in favor of a woman whose childhood rape has been widely seen on the Internet. Two dissenting justices said Congress should change the law to benefit victims.

    April 23, 2014

  • Airport security vulnerabilities not uncommon

    For all the tens of billions of dollars that the nation has spent on screening passengers and their bags, few airports made a comparable investment to secure the airplanes themselves.

    April 23, 2014

  • Deal signs bill expanding gun rights in Georgia

    Gov. Nathan Deal has signed legislation expanding where people with licenses to carry can bring their guns in Georgia.

    April 23, 2014

  • Indian film awards arrive in Tampa, Fla., but why?

    The so-called Bollywood Oscars have been held in Macau, Singapore, London — and now, Tampa?

    April 23, 2014

  • Indictment: Prosecutor targeted in kidnapping plot

    A North Carolina prosecutor was the intended target of an elaborate kidnapping plot, but the kidnappers looked up the wrong address on the Internet and abducted the prosecutor’s father instead, according to an indictment released Tuesday.

    April 23, 2014

  • Republican activists push party on gay marriage

    As bans against gay marriage crumble and public opinion on the issue shifts rapidly, some Republicans are pushing the party to drop its opposition to same-sex unions, part of a broader campaign to get the GOP to appeal to younger voters by de-emphasizing social issues.

    April 23, 2014

  • Missouri executes inmate for 1993 farm slaying

    Missouri executed an inmate early Wednesday only a few miles from the farm where prosecutors say he orchestrated the 1993 killing of a couple whose cows he wanted to steal.

    April 23, 2014