09/24/2012

SPLC denounces congressional vote blocking rule that protects U.S. workers’ wages

The SPLC today criticized Congress for blocking a new regulation that would protect U.S. workers by allowing the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to regulate the wages paid to foreign laborers recruited into the U.S. through the federal H-2B guestworker program.

“We’re disappointed that our nation’s lawmakers continue to block fair wages for H-2B guestworkers and U.S. workers alike,” said SPLC Legal Director Mary Bauer. “Just last month, a federal court endorsed the new DOL wage rule and expressed dismay that the agency continues to enforce its old rule, which drives down wages for both H-2B workers and U.S. workers.

“Congress should take a stand for these workers rather than support the systemic and chronic underpayment that is encouraged by the old rule.”

The new regulation, announced by the DOL in 2011, would ensure that H-2B guestworkers receive fair pay for their work. Without it, businesses can offer lower wages to these temporary, low-skill foreign guestworkers, creating unfair competition that undercuts U.S. workers and leads to lower wages for them as well.

Employers and employer associations that use the H-2B program challenged the DOL rule in two separate lawsuits last September. But a federal court in Pennsylvania last month upheld it in one of the suits, empowering the DOL to ensure the U.S. labor market is not harmed by the importation of H-2B workers.

In a final vote this past weekend, Congress used the appropriations process to block DOL funding to enforce the rule.