| WASHINGTON, March 28
WASHINGTON, March 28 U.S. labor unions said on
Thursday they were closer to resolving problems with wages for
future unskilled immigrant workers like janitors and
housekeepers - an issue that has stalled progress on a U.S.
Senate proposal to overhaul the immigration system.
"We have moved off poverty level wages and are moving
forward and are working on a standard that will protect U.S.
workers," said Andrea Zuniga DiBitetto, legislative
representative for the biggest union the AFL-CIO.
Late last week, disputes over a new visa program for foreign
workers between the AFL-CIO, the labor federation, and the U.S.
Chamber of Commerce threatened to derail immigration reform
talks between a group of four Republican and four Democratic
The AFL-CIO had accused Republicans and businesses of trying
to undercut wages. And the Chamber, the biggest business lobby,
said unions were jeopardizing the immigration reform effort.
Now the AFL-CIO is saying that the unions, the Chamber and
lawmakers are coalescing around the idea of using a wage
standard that already exists in current law rather than specific
Both high-skilled and low-skilled visa programs specify that
visas will only be issued if they do not drive down the wages of
those doing the same job in the United States.
"I think there is an agreement that it should be a standard
and we are finalizing what that standard should say," said
DiBitetto. "We are working with them to find the language that
the senators and labor and the Chamber can agree to," she said.
The Chamber also a took a more conciliatory tone on Thursday
and said any temporary worker program would require that an
immigrant worker "be paid the greater of actual wages being paid
to comparable American workers or the prevailing wages as
determined by the Department of Labor."
The bipartisan Senate group is aiming to introduce
legislation in April that would give millions of illegal
immigrants a way to earn citizenship as well create a process
for dealing with the future flow of unskilled labor into the
The temporary worker program is one of the remaining issues
left for senators to resolve and one that has contributed to the
downfall of other immigration reform efforts in the past.
The unions and the business community have already reached
an agreement on other contentious parts of the new worker
program, including how many visas will be issued per year,
according to the AFL-CIO.
Unlike existing visa programs, the new one would take into
consideration the health of the economy and unemployment figures
and expand and contract the flow of workers based on those
factors, the labor group said.