Tomorrow the Congress is scheduled to vote on a $1.1 TRILLION omnibus spending bill. There is very little to like about the bill. It is typical of past funding bills that were crafted in back rooms with limited transparency, it is chock full of trinkets and pork to ensure it passes. Buried in the bill is a provision that accomplishes nothing beyond paying obeisance the US Chamber of Commerce… and hurting American workers.
Via National Review:
Pro-labor advocates are criticizing a new addition to the Senate’s omnibus spending bill, a provision they say would quadruple the number of H-2B visas for unskilled guest workers, for a total of more than 250,000. The visa program has been described by the AFL-CIO as “deeply harmful” to American workers; and the omnibus insert, sponsored by [mc_name name=’Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’M000702′ ] (D., Md.) and [mc_name name=’Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’T000476′ ] (R., N.C.), has already been condemned by a bipartisan group of senators, including Bernie Sanders (D., Vt.), [mc_name name=’Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’B001277′ ] (D., Conn.), and [mc_name name=’Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’S001141′ ] (R., Al.).
The Mikulski-Tillis bill appears to be a copy of the Save Our Small and Seasonal Business Act (SOSSBA). Like SOSSBA, the Mikulski-Tillis bill would exclude returning H-2B temporary workers from the normal annual cap of 66,000. Although SOSSBA was previously in place, Congress failed to renew it in 2008. The H-2B program is designed to import temporary, seasonal, non-agricultural guest workers, mostly in the areas of landscaping, forestry, hotels, seafood processing, restaurants, amusement parks, and construction. Many of these unskilled jobs traditionally go to society’s most vulnerable — including single women, the disabled, the elderly, minorities, teenagers, students, and first-generation immigrants.
H-2B employers love the program because, as with the H-1B program for skilled foreigners, the worker’s visa is tied to his employment, which makes him less likely to unionize. Unsurprisingly, the Chamber of Commerce lists expanding the H-2B program as one of its “Policy Priorities for 2015.” And like most of our immigration programs, the H-2B operates mechanistically, giving jobs to foreign workers without any consideration for domestic labor conditions: Regardless of the state of the economy, the cap stays the same.
This is simply unconscionable. Bringing in foreign workers to displace American workers is wrong and that is all this program does. There is no place in the nation that is so short of entry-level unskilled workers that they need to be imported.
An Economics Policy Institute analysis of federal data in March found there are many more unemployed workers than job openings in many of these industries. In construction, for example, EPI found there are six unemployed workers for each job opening.
“Flooding this loose labor market with additional low-skilled labor hurts the wages and reduces the job prospects of those who are recent immigrants and native-born who are struggling the most,”Sessions wrote in the November letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee.
The number of Americans participating in the job market overall is at its lowest rate since 1977 — nearly 40 percent of Americans 16 and older are not working or looking for work. And wages and share of income for the bottom 90 percent of American wage-earners declined over the past 40 years, as the foreign-born population increased dramatically, according to the Congressional Research Service.
This is like the H1B program only it is targeted to hurt the most marginal elements of the workforce. To add insult to injury, the workers brought in to displace Americans are essentially in a state peonage. They can’t change employers. They can’t complain. If they cause difficulties then their visa goes away. This is not a free market at work, this is crony capitalism at its nadir.