On April 4 the New York Times published an article quoting several major construction industry group’s concerns that the “Gang of Eight” proposed guest worker program, being pushed in the US Senate, does not realistically address the needs of their industry.
Their concern is that the current form of this plan allows for too few workers (only 15,000 in the first year for the construction industry out of a total of 20,000 visas) in an industry that employs 6 million. However their concerns fail to consider that nearly their entire undocumented work force will likely be given provisional authority to live and work in the US, and will not suck up any of these proposed guest worker visas.
Once the undocumented work force is factored in, providing only 15,000 guest worker visas (up to 75,000 visa in four years) makes sense. In these terms, the purpose of these visas is to meet future growth in demand for workers, not provide hundreds of thousands of visas to the existing undocumented construction work force that is already in the US.
What makes no sense at all is that the guest worker program in its current form does not allow for higher skilled workers like electricians, crane operators or elevator repair technicians, provisions that was strongly fought for by the AFL-CIO.
Once the current undocumented workforce is legalized, there will likely be no shortage of legal unskilled construction workers. However there will likely be a shortage of skilled construction workers, a shortage deliberately devised by the AFL-CIO in an effort to artificially limit the size of the work force to artificially raise wages above their actual value by limiting competition domestically or otherwise.
Therefore the concerns raised by the construction trade groups appear misplaced.
Rather than being upset at the overall numbers of available visas, these trade groups should be more concerned with the limitations on the types of workers they will be able to sponsor.
They should argue simply that the Department of Labor would ensure that prevailing wages would be paid to all guest workers. Denying skilled construction workers these visas, therefore, will hurt the economy by increasing construction costs and creating artificial construction delays. Costs and delays that could be avoided if construction companies were allowed to sponsor skilled workers where they establish there is a local shortage to meet demand.