Si Se Puede: Anti-Labor Legislation

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Kevin Lynn

Once again the Bush Administration and Congress are shilling for big business at the expense of labor. Labor much like capital is ruled by the law of supply and demand. According to the UFW website , last month more than 5,000 UFW supporters sent e-faxes to the Department of Labor (DOL) telling them instead of gutting the current guest worker program, they should be enforcing the regulations that are currently on the books to protect farm workers.

“The UFW filed a complaint with the DOL charging that Salinas based Tanimura & Antle—one of the largest vegetable growers in the country–violated federal law by denying jobs to qualified U.S. farm workers–including its own laid-off employees–while hiring temporary foreign workers under the H-2A program. Tanimura & Antle had received approval from the DOL to bring in workers for the 2007-2008 lettuce season based on their claim that they faced a shortage of labor and needed to hire guest workers.

This is a prime example of the problems with the current H2A program. Rather than enforcing the laws currently on the books, the new proposed law weakens enforcement standards and makes it easier for some growers to break the law by not attempting to hire US workers first.

The Department of Labor already does little to stop employer abuses under the H-2A program. If violations like this are happening under the current law, just imagine the difficulties local US farm workers would face if the changes proposed by the Bush Administration go into effect.”

But it is not just the H2A and the growers and Bush, it is the H2B program and non-agricultural employers and co-opted Democrats that are seeking to undermine hard won wages and benefits. At this very moment employers are lobbying Congress hard to remove the cap on the number of “temporary” workers that they import. These businesses would rather hire foreign workers instead of increasing wages to attract American workers.

The Save Our Small and Seasonal Business Act by Representative Bart Stupak (D-MI) would permanently exempt H2B workers from the visa cap if they have been in the U.S. for any one of three proceeding years. In 2006 alone, there were 97,279 workers in the U.S. with H2B visas, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

HR 1843 has 148 co-sponsors and a discharge petition has been filed in an attempt to bring it to a floor vote. Its Senate companion, S 988, has 44 co-sponsors at this time.

It is particularly galling that Congress would consider this measure at this time of economic uncertainty when the livelihoods of American workers are already under threat. Please act now and contact your representatives in the House and Senate to keep this “anti-labor” legislation from coming to a vote.

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