POLITICS

Chamber of Commerce, Big Labor to make joint push for immigration reform

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Sean Higgins

The Hill has a good piece up today about how the Chamber of Commerce has reached out to both the AFL-CIO and the Service Employees International Union to join it in lobbying Congress to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill:

“The cause of the undocumented is our cause, and the Chamber can be a powerful ally in expanding citizenship to all working people in the United States,” said Ana Avendano, the AFL-CIO’s director of immigration and community action.

Advocates for immigration reform say a team-up between business and labor would be a blockbuster development that could lend momentum to their cause.

“It bodes very well for the prospects for immigration reform in 2013,” said Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum. “When you have [Chamber President] Tom Donohue and [AFL-CIO chief] Richard Trumka saying nice things about each other and immigration reform, it gives you a sense that something might happen after all.”

They also seem to have learned from the failure of the last comprehensive reform effort:

One topic being debated is how best to treat temporary-worker programs, an issue that divided labor during the last attempt at immigration reform, in 2007.

Both sides want to improve temporary-worker programs. Business wants more access to labor outside the country for jobs that they can’t find U.S. workers to fill. Unions, however, have worried that such programs can lead to low wages and poor working conditions for immigrant workers.

“We are looking to come together on joint principles for a depoliticized approach to the labor market in which impartial experts, rather than politicians, determine the future flow of workers,” Avendano said.

The alliance may seem odd but the Chamber has long been a supporter of a liberal immigration policy. Many service sector businesses rely heavily on immigrant workers.

Big Labor has been slower to embrace immigration. In the past many viewed immigrants as scab workers. But that attitude shifted in recent decades after unions got better at organizing service sector industries.

 

 

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