24M U.S. workers need guestworker whistleblowers

Starting on Tuesday, May 14, the Senate Judiciary Committee will consider amendments on guestworker programs in the Senate immigration reform bill S.744.

The following statement is by Saket Soni, Executive Director of the National Guestworker Alliance:

In a U.S. economy where tens of millions are struggling, guestworkers on H-2B visas are trapped at the bottom. These so-called “low skilled” temporary workers are in fields from hospitality to construction to landscaping to food processing. They routinely face severe employer abuse, and retaliation when they try to blow the whistle.

The conditions of these workers—and their ability to come forward as whistleblowers—impacts the job quality of more than 24 million U.S. workers who work alongside them in the same sectors. When employers can get away with exploiting H-2B workers, U.S. workers get trapped in a race to the bottom with captive immigrant workers, and wages and conditions fall for all.

The current Senate immigration bill not only fails to include protections for H-2B whistleblowers, it would as much as quadruple the size of the H-2B program over the next four years, from 66,000 workers to 264,000.*

Big business has pushed hard for access to as many cheap workers as possible in exchange for supporting immigration reform. If we want to ensure that the employers can’t erode wages and conditions for all workers by exploiting guestworkers, we need to protect the guestworker whistleblowers who stand up to abuse and raise the floor for all workers.

Senator Richard Blumenthal has introduced an amendment that would provide protections for H-2B whistleblowers who stand up against employer abuse. It is critical that the Senate immigration bill include these protections—for the future of all America’s workers.

* See Senate bill S.744, Subtitle F, Sec. 4601, “Extension of Returning Worker Exemption to H-2B Numerical Limitation” 24M U.

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