Battle in Congress to protect guestworkers and U.S. workers

The following statement is by National Guestworker Alliance (NGA) Executive Director Saket Soni:

The NGA applauds the legislation introduced by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) to protect job stability and quality for U.S. workers while protecting guestworkers from extreme exploitation. The forestry industry is one of many places that employers abuse guestworker programs to undercut U.S. workers and drive down working conditions and wages to dangerously low levels.

While Sen. Merkley and Rep. DeFazio are trying to reform the H-2B guestworker program for the better, Republican members of Congress are doing the opposite: Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-LA) and 14 Republican co-sponsors introduced a bill last week to block new H-2B rules by the Department of Labor that would protect U.S. workers and guestworkers alike.

The bill proposed by Sen. Merkley and Rep. DeFazio is further evidence of why the Department of Labor’s new H-2B rules are so important. For too long, industries have been used to rules that let temporary workers be treated as captive labor, and let U.S. workers be excluded. Republicans in Congress are fighting to keep things that way. Department of Labor, Sen. Markley, and Rep. DeFazio are fighting to put an end to it.

NGA and its allies believe that U.S. workers and the guestworkers working alongside them deserve safe, decent work, including protections from retaliation when they bring abuses to light. We will be working to make sure these important protections go into effect. We call on employers, policymakers, and elected officials who are serious about creating long-term, living wage jobs in the U.S. to join us.

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