House vote puts greed over worker dignity

On July 18, 2012, the U.S. House Appropriations Committee voted to block funds for the Department of Labor to implement its new rules for the H-2B guestworker program.

Below is a statement by Saket Soni, Executive Director of the National Guestworker Alliance:

“With today’s vote, Congress has once again put corporate greed ahead of struggling workers and small businesses that play by the rules. As the Senate did last month, the House has voted to block the Department of Labor’s new rules for the H-2B guestworker program—rules that would help end the exploitation of guestworkers and the unfair exclusion of U.S. workers. Businesses that rely on exploitation to turn a profit are fighting desperately to block the rules, and today the House took their side.

“This vote is particularly galling so soon after the revelation of forced labor among H-2B guestworkers on the supply chain of Walmart. As a New York Times editorial on the case explained, the relentless drive of Walmart and other corporations to push profits ever higher is forcing down wages and conditions at every point on the supply chain. While all workers suffer, guestworkers are often the most vulnerable, facing severe labor exploitation that can rise to the level of forced labor.

“The rules that the House voted to block are meant to prevent precisely this kind of abuse. Severe labor exploitation in federal guestworker programs is more the rule than the exception, as the National Guestworker Alliance report Leveling the Playing Field details. While guestworkers are locked in to situations of forced labor, U.S. workers are locked out by employers who unfairly exclude them, preferring to hire cheaper, more exploitable guestworkers instead.

“We continue to believe that the DOL’s common-sense rules will prevail in the end. U.S. workers need them as much as guestworkers do. In the meantime, this vote will hurt business owners who aren’t abusing the H-2B program to turn a profit—and will cheer corporations like Walmart that profit from forced labor.”

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