May 24, 2007
Washington, D.C.—””The sad fact is that our nation is currently incapable of enforcing our country’s most basic labor laws and workplace protections. To suggest that a new guestworker program can be constructed with adequate workplace protections is disingenuous,”” said United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) International Vice President Michael Wilson in testimony before the House Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security and International Law.
“”The core issue is a failed immigration system that compounds its failure by victimizing workers,”” said Wilson, who is Director of the UFCW Legislative and Political Action Department. “”Our country’s archaic immigration policy—incapable of dealing with 21st century immigration patterns and economic realities—is undermining the very ideals and values our country was built on, and serving neither business nor workers.””
Immigrants and native-born American workers in underpaid economic sectors are experiencing workplace abuse, wage erosion and deteriorating working conditions. Meanwhile, immigration enforcement measures that consist of raiding workplaces, breaking up families, and devastating communities offer no sensible remedy to this situation and are antithetical to fundamental American values.
The guestworker programs are not the solution and would allow employers to turn permanent, full-time, family-supporting jobs into temporary, go-nowhere jobs that exploit immigrants and native-born workers alike.
“”Before we enact any new Guestworker program,”” continued Wilson, “”Congress should begin with making sure that the basic workplace protections already on the books are enforced. Guestworker creates a culture in which people believe that a person’s race, color, or national origin relegates them to a life of low-paying, no-future jobs. It also discourages domestic workers from those lines of work, segregating the workforce. Finally, when guestworkers choose to exert workplace rights—the right to a safe and healthy workplace or the right to form a union—they risk losing their jobs or being deported. In effect, this amounts to compulsory consent to abuse and exploitation, and lowers working standards for all working people.””
The UFCW is committed to working with all members of Congress on achieving meaningful immigration reform that is consistent with fundamental American values, protects all workers, provides immigrants an opportunity to fully participate in the democratic system and achieve the American dream.