Sanders: Immigration Bill Hurts Workers

WASHINGTON, June 20 - Senator Bernie Sanders today joined AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Richard L. Trumka; Ed Sullivan, president of the Building and Construction Trades Department of the AFL-CIO, and United Food and Commercial Workers President Joe Hansen in detailing how the immigration bill would hurt workers in the United States and other countries.

Sanders said:

"There has been, needless to say, a lot of debate about the Senate immigration bill. Unfortunately, almost all of that debate has centered on illegal immigration and has down-played the very consequential provisions in this bill dealing with ‘guest workers.'

"Let's be very clear about what's happening economically in America today. While the wealthiest people have never had it so good, the middle class is shrinking, poverty is increasing, and millions of Americans are working longer hours for lower wages.

"Since President has been in office, median income for working-age families has declined each and every year. Ominously, even college graduates are now beginning to see a decline in real earnings. And, the American people understand very clearly what is going on economically. A recent Gallup Poll showed that almost 70 percent of Americans believe that the economy is getting worse. And, another recent poll showed that by nearly a two-to-one margin, Americans believe that life for the middle class has gotten worse over the past decade.

"In the midst of this harsh and tragic economic reality, we need legislation which will improve wages and income in America, lower the poverty rate and expand the middle class.

"Unfortunately, the guest worker provisions in this bill will only make a bad situation even worse, will drive down wages even further, not only for low-wage workers, but for highly-skilled professionals as well.

"The same corporations that supported disastrous trade agreements such as NAFTA and PNTR with China (which have cost us millions of good-paying jobs), the same anti-worker businesses that have fought against an increase in the minimum wage, and that vigorously oppose the rights of workers to unionize, the same business groups that have proudly proclaimed their belief in outsourcing, and have literally urged companies to move American jobs abroad, are many of the same exact companies ho are strongly supporting this bill and the guest worker programs contained in it.

"Why? The answer is simple. What companies that employ both low-wage and high-skill employees want is to defy the economic law of supply and demand.

"Instead of paying American workers higher wages and better benefits if there are labor shortages, their solution is to simply bring low-wage workers in from abroad. And let me tell you, there is a never-ending supply of low wage workers from all over the world who would be delighted to work in America.

"In terms of guest worker programs for low-wage workers, corporate America claims it need foreign workers to do the jobs ‘that Americans just won't do.'

"Really? If these same companies raised wages and provided decent benefits for their workers instead of lowering wages and benefits, I think they would find more than enough Americans flocking to those jobs. In fact, Wal-Mart, which is part of one of the coalitions supporting this immigration bill, found that thousands of workers applied for a few hundred of their jobs at two of their stores that they recently opened - even though their wages are not particularly good.

"And, in terms of professional jobs, the corporate supporters of this legislation tell us they need more H-1B visas because Americans presumably aren't smart enough to be computer professionals, engineers, university professors, accountants, financial analysts, nurses, psychologists, lawyers, elementary school teachers, etc., etc.

"Well, I certainly don't believe that.

"Finally, on top of everything else, while high-tech companies like IBM, Motorola and Dell are telling Congress that they need to import more high-skilled workers from overseas, these very same companies are busy laying-off thousands of American workers.

"It is absolutely clear that our current immigration policies are a mess and we need to make changes. In my view, however, we must and can do that in a way that does not further undermine the working families of our country who are already under severe economic duress."