State Capitol News
11:31 pm
Sun March 30, 2008

Arizona struggling to create guest worker program

Phoenix, AZ – Efforts to enact the first-ever state-run guest worker program have hit a snag over the question of which industries should
benefit. Arizona Public Radio's Howard Fischer explains.


The proposal by Sen. Marsha Arzberger and Rep. Bill Konopnicki
would have the state set up a system where businesses that claim
they can't get enough legal workers could petition to bring some
in on a temporary basis from Mexico. There appears to be some
consensus foreign labor is needed. But the question is where.
Rep. Russell Pearce said he wants a program limited to
agrictulture.

(I can't support Americans being laid off, construction industry,
housing structure in half, other areas, I just can't support
importing workers when we're having Americans laid off.)

He said in a free market economy no company would have trouble
finding workers if it pays -- quote -- the right wages. Arzberger
said that hasn't been the case.

(I'm talking about the well-paid workers who have skills, or
they're willing to train and learn skills that these industries
need very badly. I'm not talking about the fast food people. They
can do whatever they can do. That's not the people I'm concerned
about. But that steel fabrication business pays these workers $50
an hour and can't get them.)

Even if Arzberger and Pearce can reach accord, that doesn't solve
the problem. Any plan to allow foreign nationals to come to
Arizona to work would need federal approval that may or may not
come. For Arizona Public Radio this is Howard Fischer.