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Business, labor disagree on guest workers

Feb. 8, 2013 at 9:33 AM   |   Comments

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WASHINGTON, Feb. 8 (UPI) -- Unions and business agree on the need to reform U.S. immigration law but disagree on the issue of guest workers permitted into the country, the two sides said.

They've discussed a "data-driven system" that would determine how many "provisional workers" would be allowed into the United States in each year to work on farms, resorts and elsewhere, The New York Times reported Friday.

Many labor unions have joined with the Chamber of Commerce and other business groups in supporting E-Verify, a federal electronic system that verifies newly hired workers' status.

One guest-worker proposal advocated by labor would direct Congress to establish a commission that would use economic, industry and regional data to determine how many provisional workers should be allowed in annually to work in industries that have seasonal increases in their labor demand. Business groups have said they were concerned that such a panel would act too slowly to meet employers' needs.

"Instead of a system that works at the whim of any employer, it will be a data-driven system," AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka said.

Employers repeatedly applied for new batches of guest workers under the current system, Trumka said.

A data-driven system would ensure an adequate flow of immigrants to help employers meet seasonal needs, he said.

Randel Johnson, the Chamber of Commerce's senior vice president for labor policy, said the organization opposes the proposed commission because it "would never be able to determine shortages in a timely manner that reflect the always-changing realities of the marketplace."

Demetrios Papademetriou, president of the Migration Policy Institute in Washington, said it would be "extremely difficult" for the two sides to reach agreement on guest workers, warning that the push for immigration reform could fail without such a deal, the Times said.

"They could get very close on this issue but might not be able to build a bridge to the other side," Papademetriou said. "One side starts from wanting zero guest workers and the other starts from unlimited. The unlimited side might move a lot but the one that started with zero might not."

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