WASHINGTON, February 13 – Senate and House negotiators agreed to prohibit banks and other firms that take taxpayer bailouts from replacing laid-off U.S. workers with lower-paid foreign workers.
The proposal by Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) was added to the economic recovery package in the Senate. A conference committee retained the provision in the version of the bill that is expected to win final congressional approval later today.
An investigation by The Associated Press found that a dozen banks now receiving more than $150 billion in bailouts requested visas for more than 21,800 foreign workers over the past six years to replace laid-off American employees. The same banks announced at least 100,000 job cuts in recent months.
The measure would require the bailed-out banks to hire only Americans for two years, unless they could prove they were not replacing laid-off Americans with guest workers. Because the banks have announced mass layoffs, the measure would effectively place a moratorium on the H-1B visa program.
“With thousands of financial services workers unemployed, it is absurd for banks to claim they can’t find qualified American workers,” Sanders said.
“While we are suffering through the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, the very least we can do is to make sure that banks receiving a taxpayer bailout are not allowed to import cheaper labor from overseas while they are throwing American workers out on the street.”
In addition to banks, the Sanders-Grassley provision also restricts the hiring of guest workers at any other firms that receive funds under the Troubled Asset Relief Program or from emergency loans made by the Federal Reserve.