The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

Breaking News

March 23, 2013

Senators close in on immigration deal

(Continued)

WASHINGTON —

If that can't be resolved in a way the two sides can agree to, the expectation is that the senators would come to their own agreement on the issue and include it in the bill, and hope the chamber and AFL can live with it or modify it as the bill moves through committee and Senate floor action.

The AFL-CIO argued that the Chamber of Commerce was trying to pay below median wage for any given group of workers, but the chamber said it would pay about the same as American workers get.

In the case of housekeepers, for example, the chamber proposal would mean $8.44 per hour, which falls below the federal poverty level for a family of four, while the AFL-CIO position was $11.39 per hour, according to one official familiar with the labor perspective who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the delicate negotiations. The new visas would cover dozens of professions such as long-term care workers and hotel and hospitality employees. Currently there's no good way for employers to bring many such workers to the U.S.; an existing visa program for low-wage nonagricultural workers is capped at 66,000 per year and is supposed to apply only to seasonal or temporary jobs.

As the day wore on, senators met hour after hour in a private chamber just off the Senate floor, and the chamber and AFL-CIO traded jabs, each accusing the other side of imperiling negotiations.

A proposal from the Gang of Eight that would divide the workers into three wage categories — two of them beneath median wage — was rejected by the AFL as insufficient, said Ana Avendano, assistant to the AFL-CIO president for immigration and community action. Avendano said the AFL proposed language stipulating that the new visas only should be used when employing foreign workers would not hurt wages and working conditions of U.S. workers, but that Republicans rejected that.

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