Senate Democrats Block Funding for Guest Worker Protection Rule

by Mike Elk

Mike Elk

On June 14, five Democrats on the Senate Appropriations Committee joined 14 Republicans to help pass an amendment sponsored by Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) that would block funding for the enforcement of a new H-2B guest workers protection rule issued by the Obama administration. Approximately 115,000 guest workersare working in the United States on H-2B guest worker visas. The program allows companies to bring in workers into the United States to work when they claim that they cannot find American workers to do the job.

However, workers’ rights advocates claim the program is often abused by companies to hire workers in industries like construction. Currently, 14.2% of construction workers are unemployed. A recent Department of Labor internal audit found that nearly half of all companies using H-2B guest workers are not in compliance with federal laws about their usage.

Labor advocates claim that the H-2B visas programs are often used to pay workers lower wages. One study by the Economic Policy Institute found that workers on H-2B visa in the seafood industry make on average $10,000 a year less than American workers in the seafood industry.
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How to Support Hunger Strike of Indian Migrant Workers

Five migrant workers from India who are fighting against their exploitation under the H2B program (see May 8 article “Gandhi Joins with Martin Luther King“) have begun a hunger strike.

They are demanding:

  • Continued presence in the U.S without the threat of deportation
  • The right to participate in a criminal trafficking investigation into their former employer, Northrop Grumman subcontractor Signal International, and the US and Indian recruiters who cheated them.
  • Congressional hearings into abuses of the guest worker visa program in the US Gulf Coast
  • Concrete action from the Indian government to protect future Indian workers.

The American News Project has made a great video on this struggle.
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