The GOP has a new jobs bill. House Republican Representatives Ted Poe of Texas and Raul Labrador of Idaho have proposed nearly twice as many annual visas for low-skilled guest workers than the Senate bill had included in its version of an immigration bill. The House will propose nearly 400,000 new H-2B visas for temporary foreign guest workers in non-agricultural work (for unskilled and semi-skilled labor.)
With a record number of Americans on food stamps and 5 years of prolonged high unemployment, why would the GOP insist on MORE guest worker visas? The labor market is already over-saturated and the job growth we've had during this "recovery" has been seeing an increasing number of part-time low-paying jobs and temp work.
The immigration bill that passed in the Senate in June created the new class of visas for low-skilled (low paid) workers and increased the allotment of them annually, starting at 20,000 and maxing out at 220,000. Businesses, as always, have criticized the cap as too low.
A higher cap could prove popular among House Republicans and would please many businesses that rely on low-skilled workers (laborers). The bill drew protests from the AFL-CIO as labor unions wanted to limit visas for low-skilled workers, saying foreign workers compete for jobs with U.S. workers and further depresses already declining wages.
The H-2B program (for unskilled non-agricultural migrant workers) is one that, according to a recent Government Accountability Office report, is subject to extensive fraud and abuse. One can subscribe the Department of Labor's newsletter to get weekly alerts about the names of employers who are already abusing guest worker wages, and when caught, the fines they must pay. Businesses groups (lobbyists) such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable have been promoting more of the same.
There are tons of abuses per each type of work visa, such as McDonalds abusing J-1 visas. That's why we see Congress trying to create ever more categories, so they can manipulate the terms for more cheap exploitable labor to displace U.S. workers and repress wages and worker rights.
The proliferation of low-wage jobs is leading to anemic growth in incomes. A broader measure of income released by the Commerce Department on Friday showed that inflation-adjusted incomes actually fell slightly in June.
Temps accounted for nearly 8,000 of the jobs added in July, and along with retail and restaurant workers, made up more than half of the employment gains. Low-wage workers have been a big part of overall job growth since the recession officially ended in 2009.
Arne Kalleberg, a sociology professor at the University of North Carolina (and the author of the book Good Jobs, Bad Jobs) says, "These jobs count as jobs in the jobs reports, but there's very little attention paid to the kind of jobs these are. They tend to be low-wage jobs, they tend to be in retail and personal service-type sectors, many of them are part time."
Over the past year, lower-paying sectors such as retail, restaurants, hotels and temporary-help agencies accounted for more than 40% of job growth. Many of those jobs are part time; the share of Americans working part time, which spiked during the recession, has shown little improvement and has been trending upward for much of this year.
Walmart is the largest private sector employer in the U.S. with more than 1.3 million employees, and also hires temporary workers, and calls them "flexible associates". America's second largest private sector employer is a temp agency called Kelly Services with 538,000 workers.
Regarding more guest worker visas, Shawn McBurney, senior vice president of governmental affairs for the American Hotel and Lodging Association (a lobbyist), says, "Ideally, there should be no cap. It should be driven by the market."
Republican representative Ted Poe said the driving philosophy behind the House bill is that the number of visas should be responsive to the demands of the market. "Sure, there's a cap, but we need to have a market-based system, and some areas of the country need temporary workers in one area, but not in others." (Ted Poe meant a business market-based system, not a labor market-based system).
When senators had initially wrote their immigration bill, they had turned to the AFL-CIO (pro labor) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (pro business) to negotiate details of the visa programs. The AFL-CIO says it accepted the visa program only as part of a broader bill that included other union goals, such as opening a path to citizenship for many of the 11 million undocumented workers and immigrants who are already living in the country illegally (many who were brought here by their parents).
Labor leaders say the proposed Poe-Labrador bill is a potential threat to that compromise, and that they wouldn't accept the low-skilled low-paying visa program as a stand-alone measure. Some Senate Democrats are concerned about renegotiating the immigration bill because worker visas are so sensitive that their inclusion had once helped prompt the AFL-CIO to oppose the last big effort to rewrite immigration laws in 2007. "That's what derailed the bill the last time around," said Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois.
The House proposal would be a big win for the construction industry. While the Senate bill prohibits the construction industry from snapping up more than 15,000 low-skilled visas, the House legislation isn't expected to set caps for specific industries. Mr. Poe said the lawmakers had been thinking about how the bill could help industries such as construction. "We could use 15,000 visas the first day in Texas. We have that much demand for construction workers," he said, not mentioning the high unemployment rates for those in the construction industry.
From January 2007 until July 2013, the United States is still down 1.932 million construction jobs. Clearly there is an oversupply of construction workers, for wage increases have hit the skids. These are good jobs, with an average wage of $24.28 an hour for construction workers, not for managers or supervisors. Flooding the supply of construction workers will lower those wages, which is assuredly the real reason to import cheap foreign labor.
Besides extremely low "effective" corporate tax rates, cheap labor, whether here or abroad, has always been a priority for businesses and their GOP representatives. For decades their focus has not been on hiring Americans, nor have they been concerned about the average American worker's standard of living.
Daniel Alpert, managing partner of New York investment bank Westwood Capital, told Yahoo Finance's Daily Ticker, "We have become a nation of hamburger flippers, Wal-Mart sales associates, barmaids, checkout people and other people working at very low wages. That's why job growth is not increasing consumption or the ability to go out and buy stuff."
- The labor-force participation rate fell to 63.4 percent in July, near a 35-year low.
- The civilian employment-population ratio was near the lowest in 30 years, down from more than 63 percent before the recession.
- There are a skyrocketing number of Federal workers on forced leave because of sequester cuts.
- The U.S. currently has a GDP growth rate of only 1.7 percent.
- The Economic Policy Institute says, "We could have a jobs deficit of more than 8 million jobs."
House Republicans Reps. Poe and Labrador plan to introduce their modified version of an immigration bill (to flood the labor market with more cheap labor) in the fall, when Congress returns from its 5-week paid summer vacation.
As an aside, from the Department of Labor's newsletter on August 1, 2013:
- Myth: Raising the minimum wage will benefit only teenagers.
- Not true: The typical minimum wage worker is not a high-school student earning weekend pocket money. In fact, less than 20 percent of those who would benefit from a federal minimum wage increase are teenagers, but 60 percent are women. Plus, those workers who would benefit from a minimum wage increase brought home 46 percent of their household's wage and salary income in 2011.
Congress should pass a law stating that all American companies (and their foreign subsidiaries) pay their overseas workers the same federal minimum wage as workers are paid in the U.S. --- maybe that would help curb the offshoring of domestic jobs. A Nike employee in Vietnam would see their wages rise from 20 cents a hour to $7.25 an hour, unless of course, we raised our minimum wage to $15 an hour.