AFL-CIO Holds Congressional Briefing that Touts Improvements in DOL’s New H-2B Rule

Comprehensive new rule makes H-2B program more fair, better for workers and economy

Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–March 30, 2011  – Today, economic, civil rights, labor, and immigration experts held a congressional briefing organized by the AFL-CIO to discuss the Department of Labor (DOL) comprehensive final rule change that will make improvements to the H-2B program. The briefing focused on how the new rule strengthens protections for U.S. and H-2B guest workers and allows employers to hire more seasonal workers to fit their needs. 

Speakers at the congressional briefing included Tanya Clay House, Director of Public Policy for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law; Ross Eisenbrey , Vice President of the Economic Policy Institute; Father Clete Kiley, Director of Immigration Policy for UNITE-HERE; and, Rachel Micah-Jones, Founder and Executive Director of Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, Inc.

Drawing from their wide array of expertise, the panelists provided insight into how the new rule’s advancement of workers’ rights also expands immigrant and civil rights while improving the U.S. economy.

In light of Senator Lindsey Graham’s recent introduction of a resolution disapproving the rule, it is especially important that lawmakers fully understand the changes being made to the H-2B program. The DOL rule strengthens oversight of a program that has been misused to the detriment of American workers and to take advantage of some of the most socially and economically vulnerable workers who are seasonally employed in hazardous industries such as construction, food processing, and landscaping to name a few.  

“The H-2B visa program is too susceptible to abuse without some significant protections for both U.S. workers looking for employment, and for temporary immigrant workers who may be lured here under false promises,” said Fr. Clete Kiley of UNITE-HERE, “We need to be vigilant with those employers who would game this system. The DOL regulations are a step toward such vigilance.”

“This comprehensive rule will effectively address numerous problems faced by H-2B guest workers, who are predominately workers of color and often subjected to widespread exploitation,” said Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law Public Policy Director Tanya Clay House.  “The rule will also strengthens unemployed U.S. workers’ fair and equitable access to much-needed jobs and provides greater safeguards to protect all workers.”

“For H-2B workers and US workers, the Department of Labor’s Final Rule is a modest, but crucial, first step. The rule fixes a few of the program’s many flaws by guaranteeing H-2B workers’ rights that most people would take for granted” said Rachel Micah-Jones, Executive Director of a bi-national advocacy organization center, Centro de los Derechos del Migrante.

Ross Eisenbrey, Vice President of the Economic Policy Institute emphasized the economic benefit of the rule change, saying, “Employers claim there are no U.S. workers for jobs in landscaping and hotels, but when qualified U.S. workers show up, they want the right not to hire them.  This rule gives U.S. workers a fair shot at jobs before employers go abroad to hire.”