Wednesday, November 15, 2017

CONYERS: Statement Of House Judiciary Markup Of H.R. 170, "Protect And Grow American Jobs Act"

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
H.R. 170, the “Protect and Grow American Jobs Act,” as introduced, would increase the wage level that H-1B dependent employers must pay to avoid jumping through certain hoops in the H-1B immigrant visa program.  These are employers who heavily rely on foreign workers and have 15 percent or more of their workforce on H-1B visas. 

I did not support a predecessor bill last Congress because I did not believe it went far enough to prevent abuses in the H-1B program that have led to the displacement of American workers. 

Academics, labor unions, and the high skilled workers they represent have long argued that the H-1B program is used by employers to replace U.S. workers with lower paid foreign H-1B workers and that the program is in need of fundamental reforms.

Today we will be considering a substitute amendment negotiated by Ms. Lofgren and Mr. Issa, that will improve the bill and serve as a first step in curbing abuse of the H-1B program.  Although this amendment does not fix the many problems in the H-1B program, it will reign in some of the most egregious abuses perpetrated by H-1B dependent employers.

The amendment increases the wages that must be paid by dependent employers to H-1B workers who will be placed with other employers.  By requiring that such workers receive at least the average wage in the relevant occupation and area of employment, the amendment prevents H-1B dependent companies from severely undercutting U.S. workers.

The amendment also provides the Department of Labor with the authority to conduct random audits to ensure compliance with these and other new requirements and establishes new norms in this temporary worker program. I hope these reforms will be expanded to the entire H-1B program and other temporary worker programs.
Going forward I believe several additional matters can be addressed.   The current H-1B law fails to protect workers’ rights and labor standards.  In fact, most H-1b employers do not even need to attest that they first tried to recruit an available, qualified U.S. worker or promise that they will not displace existing U.S. workers. In addition, current law also provides an economic incentive for employers to misuse the H-1B program as a way to cut labor costs because they can pay H-1B employees as low as the 17th percentile of an occupational wage in a given area.

I look forward to working with my colleagues on broader reforms to the H-1B program.  

I thank the Chairman and yield back the balance of my time.

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