Sanders trying to reform foreign worker program

10/25/07 5:51PM By Ross Sneyd

(Host) Senator Bernie Sanders is trying to reform federal laws governing when companies can hire foreign workers.

Companies that can't find enough people to fill jobs can hire a foreign worker under what's known as an H2B visa.

But Sanders says he believes too many employers turn to that program in an effort to hold down wages.

(Sanders) If we believe in economics 101 and supply and demand, if employers are having a hard time finding workers there is a solution. You don't have to bring in cheap labor from abroad to depress wages for American workers. You raise wages.

(Host) Sanders cites the state's ski resorts as an industry that relies too heavily on foreign workers when they should pay enough to attract Vermonters.

Parker Riehle is president of the Vermont Ski Areas Association.

He says seven percent of the people who worked at the state's ski resorts last year were foreign workers.

Riehle says the industry would rather hire local people because it's less expensive and less bureaucratic.

(Riehle) So at the end of the day, once we do fill all our spots with as many local Vermonters as we can, there's still a 5-10% or so range of openings that we still need to fill. And then and only then do we turn to the H2B program.

(Host) Sanders says he's pushing a bill in the Senate to put stricter limits on the visa program. That would include a requirement that employers pay the ``prevailing wage'' in their industry before hiring someone from overseas.

 

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