The AFL-CIO and Chamber of Commerce, currently in the process of negotiating a plan to let in future immigrant workers as part of an immigration reform bill, announced they'd agreed on a set of broad common principles on Thursday. But they cautioned that they still haven't reached a final agreement on a more detailed framework.
According to a joint statement, the two groups agreed that American workers "should have a first crack at available jobs" before employers can import foreign labor.
Second, they agreed that employers should be able to bring in workers during labor shortages, but that it "requires a new kind of worker visa program that does not keep all workers in a permanent temporary status, provides labor mobility in a way that still gives American workers a first shot at available jobs, and that automatically adjusts as the American economy expands and contracts."
Finally, the two groups agreed that there should be some effort to track economic data to help determine legitimate business needs for foreign workers. "We agree that a professional bureau in a federal executive agency, with political independence analogous to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, should be established to inform Congress and the public about these issues," they wrote in their statement. The two sides did not specify which metrics should go into deciding how many workers businesses can recruit from abroad, a sticking point in talks so far.
"We are now in the middle – not the end – of this process, and we pledge to continue to work together and with our allies and our representatives on Capitol Hill to finalize a solution that is in the interest of this country we all love," the statement concluded.
The Senate and White House, who have yet to release detailed plans for bringing in future immigrant workers, have encouraged labor and business to work out their own plan. Disputes between the two sides helped kill the 2007 comprehensive reform bill, which the AFL-CIO and some pro-labor Democrats opposed over its guest worker program. The release of a common set of principles comes shortly after both sides denied rumors that talks between them were in jeopardy.