March 31, 2013

Deal clears way for immigration reform package

Big business and labor resolve disagreements over wages for low-skilled workers in a new program.

By ERICA WERNER / The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

After apparent miscommunications earlier this month between the AFL-CIO and the Chamber of Commerce on the wage issue, the deal resolves it in a way both sides are comfortable with, officials said.

Workers would earn actual wages paid to American workers or the prevailing wages for the industry they're working in, whichever is higher. The Labor Department would determine the prevailing wage based on customary rates in specific localities, so that it would vary from city to city.

There also had been disagreement on how to handle the construction industry, which unions argue is different from other industries in the new program because it can be more seasonal in nature and includes a number of higher-skilled trades. The official said the resolution will cap at 15,000 a year the number of visas that can be sought by the construction industry.

Schumer called White House chief of staff Denis McDonough on Saturday to inform him of the deal, the person with knowledge of the talks said. The three principals in the talks – Trumka, Donohue and Schumer – agreed they should meet for dinner soon to celebrate, the person said.

Separately, the new immigration bill also is expected to offer many more visas for high-tech workers, new visas for agriculture workers, and provisions allowing some agriculture workers already in the U.S. a speedier path to citizenship than that provided to other illegal immigrants, in an effort to create a stable agricultural work force.

 

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