H-2B Exploiters Beat Obama Administration in Senate Committee Vote

By David North on June 15, 2012

The power of exploitative employers to derail any meaningful improvement in temporary foreign worker programs was shown again yesterday, when the Senate Appropriations Committee voted 19-11 to postpone for a year the Obama administration's mild changes in the H-2B program.

It was, sadly, one of those rare bipartisan moments in Washington. Several Democrats voted with a solid bloc of committee Republicans to continue the exploitation of these low-skilled, non-agricultural workers.

News reports were not in agreement on exactly how many Democrats joined the Republican bloc. The AP story said "several", the New York Times said four, and the Daily Kos listed five: Kohl (Wis.), Landrieu (La.), Mikulski (Md.), Nelson (Neb.), and Pryor (Ark.). In any case, a 19-11 vote in a committee (thus involving almost a third of the entire Senate) is almost certain to foreshadow Senate passage, and the GOP-controlled House is highly likely to agree.

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) objected to a requirement that employers advertise for American jobs until 21 days before the work begins. According to the Times he said that "workers in the United States were likely to quit hard, dirty jobs, leaving employers without time to find foreign replacements."

Never mind that when paid appropriately, Americans collect garbage and mine coal.

Conceivably the president could veto the entire Labor/DHHS/Education Appropriations Bill over this provision, but that is unlikely. There were no reports that the White House sought to bring any of the four or five maverick Democrats into line to support the Labor Department's regulations to make more of these jobs available to Americans, and to improve the wages for the foreign workers who take on these low-skilled jobs.

Sen. Mikulski, usually seen as a flaming liberal, has always sided with the crabmeat processors on Maryland's Eastern Shore, whose wage levels routinely do not attract resident workers; Senators Landrieu and Nelson are two of the most conservative Democrats in the body.