HIGHLY SKILLED WORKER MIGRATION
WHEREAS, the impact of globalization is now being felt in nearly every division of the AFT, as an increasing number of highly skilled foreign workers are being recruited to fill jobs in our sectors. The reserve pool of labor has become global, and employers are able to search worldwide for workers willing to accept the wages and working conditions on offer in our local communities; and
WHEREAS, shortages of American workers in the health, education and technical fields are the result of systemic failures that demand treatment of root causes, rather than Band-aids and quick fixes. International recruitment may help to staff our schools, hospitals and public institutions, but does little to address underlying problems; and
WHEREAS, the tenuous legal status of migrant workers makes them vulnerable to exploitation and increases their need for proactive union defense and support. For-profit recruitment firms operate with virtually no regulation under the current system, and the abuses that some migrant workers have suffered at the hands of recruiters have been dramatic and reprehensible; and
WHEREAS, recruitment firms have accelerated the privatization of public jobs, particularly in the information technology fields. They have also found new ways to inject profit points in to our public systems by, for instance, collecting exorbitant placement fees from foreign teachers in order to secure positions in U.S. schools; and
WHEREAS, “brain drain” of highly skilled workers and essential service providers is a perilous problem in the developing world. In particular, the recruitment of foreign healthcare workers by the United States and other developed countries has grown to such proportions that it is affecting the sustainability of entire health systems in some developing countries (despite development and dissemination of AFT-supported documents such as the “Voluntary Code of Ethical Conduct for Recruitment of Foreign-Educated Nurses to the U.S.”); and
WHEREAS, migrant workers are our brothers and sisters. They generally choose to migrate in order to better support their families, and their right to make that choice must be respected. Moreover, their commitment to providing quality services should be recognized and applauded; and
WHEREAS, there is a delicate balance between the human resource needs of developed countries such as the United States, the rights of the individual workers to better themselves economically and a collective concern for the strained and needy systems of many sending nations:
RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers take a leadership role and work with other unions and relevant organizations in the development of national standards for the ethical recruitment of international health, education and technical workers and demand that the U.S. government actively monitor and enforce those standards; and
RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers organize migrant workers into and within our union and support and defend issues of concern to those members; and
RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers continue to track highly skilled worker migration patterns, trends and impact in order to guide union policy regarding this change in our job markets; and
RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers promote further development and expansion of career and technical education to help build the capacity of skilled workers here in the United States; and
RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers promote solidarity and cooperation between unions in sending and receiving countries to better affect migration trends and protect migrant workers; and
RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers educate our members and the public about the negative effect that recruiting essential service providers from developing countries has on their citizens and their healthcare and education systems; and
RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers continue to educate its members to oppose expressions and incidents of racism directed against migrant workers; and
RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers work to ensure that all current and future immigration policies for the relevant field include strict workplace and human rights protections for migrant workers, including, but not limited to:
· Job security and employment in a position that is commensurate with education, qualifications, skills and experience.
· Freedom from discrimination.
· Equal pay for work of equal value.
· Access to grievance procedures.
· Safe and sanitary work and living environments.
· Effective and culturally appropriate orientation, mentoring and supervision.
· Freedom of association and collective bargaining, including the right to strike, if necessary.
· Civil rights and equal protection under the law.
· Professional development and education; and
RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers continue to call attention to the issues within our professions and our institutions that cause worker shortages in the first place and advocate for meaningful and lasting solutions to those problems. (Executive Council, July 2009)