Major US Labor Unions Bolster President Obama’s Immigration Initiative

April 15th, 2009

President Obama’s recent pronouncement of his desire to move forward on comprehensive immigration reform within the next few months is being met by a growing chorus of support from a diverse array of groups.  The most recent bedfellows are two of the nation’s major labor groups – the A.F.L. – C.I.O. and Change to Win federation.  When Congress proposed comprehensive immigration legislation in 1997, these two groups could not agree on a common apprach and the legislation failed.

The accord between the A.F.L. – C.I.O. and Change to Win endorses legalization of the undocumented workers in the US but rejects any broad program for temporary nonimmigrant workers (guest worker program).  The business community will certainly oppose any legislation that does not include expansion of a temporary worker program, according to Randel Johnson, the Chamber of Commerce’s Vice President of Labor, Immigration and Employee Benefits.  Rather, the unions have endorsed the idea of a national commission to determine how many permanent and temporary foreign workers should be admitted each year to work based on the US labor market demand.  Tamar Jacoby, president of ImmigrationWorks USA, a group that organizes business to support comprehensive immigration reform, questions whether the commission will be effective in determining the supply and demand of workers.

Also, the unions face strong opposition from anti-immigration restrictionists who believe that undocumented workers are taking jobs from American workers.  However, the growing body of data shows just the opposite – that legalization of the estimated 12 million undocumented workers is the quintessential stimulus plan for our weakened economy.  More legal workers will mean an expanded tax base and the creation of new businesses and jobs for more Americans.  Furthermore, the A.F.L. – C.I.O. and Change to Win agree that legalizing the status of the workers would be the best way to protect labor standards for all workers.