Remember last month when the Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO made a big show about having agreed to a set of principle regarding regarding a comprehensive immigration bill? Most media credulously reported this as a breakthrough on the path to an immigration bill. Both my colleague Conn Carroll and I were skeptical, noting that the stated principles were nothing more than a vague series of talking points.
Now we know we were right to be skeptical. Today, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka told ABC News they may not have a deal with Chamber after all:
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said negotiations continue with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a major business group, over a new visa program to allow low-skilled workers into the U.S. But a bipartisan Senate group drafting an immigration bill has struggled to come up with language that will satisfy business and labor, and the issue has emerged as a major sticking point in the process.
“I’ll be honest with you. I can’t guarantee we’ll get an agreement with the Chamber,” Trumka said during an interview with Univision News last Friday. “But one thing I can guarantee you is that we won’t stop fighting for immigrant workers until they get citizenship.” (Emphasis added.)
The issue that it holding this up is a the question of a temporary work program for immigrants. Big Business wants one and the cheap labor it would provide but Big Labor is vehemently opposed to program that brings in foreign workers it won’t be able to organize. This is the same issue that sank the last major effort on Capitol Hill for a comprehensive immigration bill in 2007. You can read more on that here and here.
The issue remains highly contentious and for all of the talk of shared principles, Trumka concedes they have yet to reach a deal on it:
Trumka added that it’s a priority for him that such a (temporary worker) program includes a path to citizenship for low-skilled immigrant workers, that those workers aren’t “tied” to a single employer, and that they are paid wages that are equal to American workers. He also said that labor favors provisions that would allow immigrant workers to reunite quickly with their families in the U.S. He reiterated that the proposed 2007 guest-worker program was a “bad program” that “exploited workers.”
“They’re not temporary and they’re not guests,” Trumka said of the foreign workers. “If it allows Latino workers to be continually discriminated against, that would be a deal breaker for us.”