POLITICS

Big Business in a bind over supposed guest worker deal

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Sean Higgins

As my colleague Byron York has noted, the reports of a deal on an immigration may be a bit premature. So what exactly happened? Well, it appears that after talks began to make some progress Friday, Big Labor rushed to tell the media they had a deal with Big Business — before the latter had actually signed off on it.

This is hardball politics. The leak of the news serves to put pressure on the Chamber to go along and get along. The labor activists are trying to create a situation where if the deal falls apart Big Business will blamed. The media spin will be that there was a deal and then the Chamber  backed away.

Here’s the Washington Post’s account from today’s edition:

The agreement came late Friday after several days of negotiations between the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO, the country’s largest labor organization, as well as the eight senators involved in drafting the comprehensive immigration bill.

The two sides agreed on how to overcome the final sticking points, including how much the foreign workers would be paid and which industries would be exempt from the guest-worker program. Final approval came in a phone call Friday night arranged by Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) with Chamber president Thomas Donohue and AFL-CIO head Richard Trumka, said the person involved in the talks, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private deliberations.

Trumka said in a statement Saturday night: “We have created a new model, a modern visa system that includes both a bureau to collect and analyze labor market data, as well as significant worker protections.” He also reiterated the AFL-CIO’s support for the overall reform effort, including the path to citizenship for undocumented migrants.

But the complexity of the matter was highlighted when one member of the business community said Saturday afternoon that the lead negotiators on the business side had not seen written details of a final agreement and cautioned that declaring the matter resolved was premature.

Business groups are still waiting to see the details. I don’t know where it’s coming from,” the business official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the negotiations. “I don’t want to blow this up at all, but to say everyone’s signed off on this is getting ahead of ourselves.” (Emphasis added.)

These negotiations between the the AFL-CIO and other major labor groups and the Chamber of Commerce over a guest worker program are the last remaining hurdle  in getting a comprehensive immigration bill.

Both groups want a bill, hence the restrained, qualified nature of the business community source’s reaction. They “don’t want to blow this up.” But the leak has put the Chamber’s back up against the wall as well.

 

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