Thursday, 12 February 2009

Employers and the Stimulus Package - the word from Chicago

Well, if you saw my previous post, you'll see that I'm interested in what government - at fed and state level - will be doing to ensure that employers are creating fair and inclusive workplaces as part of both the economic recovery and modernization agendas. Yesterday, John Kass from the Chicago Tribune sought to address the same issue. Not endorsing his views, but sharing them with you. In part, because he writes about a proposed provision for the Stimulus Package that's been scrapped. The provision is meant to require all employers to use government provided software to check the immigration status of prospective employees. This is an issue for UK cities and employers (and no doubt, Europe more widely), where the legal requirements on employers were strengthened in 2008. What interests me about Kass' article is that employers and campaigners here in the UK have both raised the issue that employers find it difficult to know an applicant's status. In turn, such difficulties with the system, according to UK campaigners, potentially have a detrimental impact on social justice. Kass worries about businesses undercutting their competitors by hiring cheap, illegal labour. Key social justice issues raised in the UK (and I assume also in the US) are (a) the poor treatment of these workers, and (b) some employers respond to stronger requirements on them to check immigration status by refusing to hire people from certain communities because they don't want to run the risk of falling foul of the law.

In this context, employers and campaigners might (albeit for different reasons) think that the software used in the U.S. is a good thing (and would be beneficial to businesses here in the UK). Regardless, this is definitely a shared policy issue/challenge on both sides of the Atlantic. As for what this agenda means for American and British cities - beyond the issue of software - the backdrop to this issue is increasingly hostile views and attitudes towards migrant workers during a recession, and the knock on effect these can have on inter-community relations in urban areas - where the majority of migrants workers live.

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