Making franchising’s voice heard on immigration

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As the immigration reform debate heats up in Washington ahead of the anticipated release of the Senate “Gang of Eight” legislative framework next week, IFA is making the voice of franchising heard to ensure the industry has the workers it needs as it continues to grow in the years ahead as part of any guest worker program that is included in the legislation.

On Wednesday, IFA Pres. & CEO Steve Caldeira penned an op-ed with Jerry Howard, CEO of the National Association of Home Builders, that appeared in The Wall Street Journal, arguing for a market-based guest worker program:

“Elegant political deals, anchored by common principles agreed to by business and labor groups often at odds, may bring cheers in Washington. But the real key to success will be a final immigration measure that is comprehensive in nature. That would mean ensuring that the government isn’t put in the position of picking winners and losers, and that the legislation is appropriately aligned with the constantly changing needs of small and large businesses.

An employer’s access to lower-skill workers participating in the visa program should be triggered after a check with the domestic labor market. If Americans want the jobs that employers need to fill, they would be first in line to get them and there would be less need for foreign workers. But the need will always exist to some degree, and a guest-worker program that permits a market-based supply of lower-skill workers is essential. Without such a program, no immigration reform bill will be worthy of the name. With one, the framework will be set to power the most prosperous economy in the world.”

The piece serves as a great reminder of the economic impact of the franchising industry to the overall economic recovery, and how a guest worker program that works for our businesses will help power the economy, which continues to create jobs at rates faster than other businesses.

Also on Wednesday, IFA was quoted in this POLITICO story that noted the concern of IFA and other leading business groups with the emerging details of a the potential legislative framework of the immigration reform package coming from the Gang of Eight and negotiated by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the labor unions.

International Franchise Association CEO Steve Caldeira also told POLITICO he is concerned about the size of the program and economic indicators used as triggers.

“Obviously we would like to see a number higher than 20,000 workers at the start of the program,” said Caldeira. If Americans want the jobs that employers need to fill, they would be first in line to get them and there would be less need for foreign workers.”

The POLITICO story led to an appearance on Thursday evening by IFA President & CEO Steve Caldeira and ImmigrationWorks USA CEO Tamar Jacoby on FOX Business’ Cavuto program to discuss whether or not the “deal” negotiated by the Gang of Eight is sufficient.

In the segment, Caldeira and Jacoby expressed praise for the Senate negotiators and the business and labor groups involved in crafting the current framework.

“We believe in the basic principles negotiated by the Gang of Eight and the Chamber and Labor, but we believe it does not go far enough as it relates to guest worker program. The caps that you just mentioned on the program account for not even 1/10 of the workers we’ll need in franchise industry as well as construction industry…In our industry, we added 150,000 jobs last year, we forecast 162,000 jobs this year, but we can’t find the workers to meet the forecast of demand moving forward.

As the debate evolves in the coming weeks and months over immigration reform, IFA will continue to engage in an integrated lobbying, grassroots, media outreach and member engagement campaign throughout the country to ensure the franchise industry’s voice is heard. This campaign included a roundtable at last week’s Franchise Update Multi-Unit Conference in Las Vegas and at the upcoming Restaurant Leadership Conference in Arizona. The Las Vegas outreach resulted in a story in the Las Vegas Review-Journal featuring comments from Aslam Khan, George Zografos, and IFA VP for Government Relations & Public Policy Jay Perron, as well as an April 1 Las Vegas Review-Journal opinion piece by IFA member Patrick Walls, the president of Capriotti’s Sandwich Shops.