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What issue is uniting Big Labor & the Chamber of Commerce?

Undocumented Mexican immigrants walk through the Sonoran Desert after illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border border on January 19, 2011 into the Tohono O'odham Nation, Arizona. (Getty Images)

According to a report from The Hill today, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has reached out to the country's most prominent labor unions to make a joint push for immigration reform this year.

Apparently Chamber president Tom Donohue and the AFL-CIO's Richard Trumka have struck up quite a friendship.  “I’m working personally with Mr. Trumka, the head of the AFL-CIO, on a number of issues that we can come to some accommodation,” Donohue announced last week when asked about immigration reform.

This new friendship also apparently extends to the Service Employees International Union.  Eliseo Medina, SEIU’s secretary-treasurer, said he has had serious discussions with the Chamber about potential new immigration legislation.

“What I’m seeing with the Chamber is they have a new energy and have demonstrated much more commitment to this issue than before,” Medina told The Hill. “Our conservations with the Chamber have not only been about the substance of a bill, but also what action it would take for us to work together to get it passed.”

So what sort of common ground does the nation's largest business lobbying group share with the AFL-CIO and SEIU?

“The cause of the undocumented is our cause, and the Chamber can be a powerful ally in expanding citizenship to all working people in the United States,” said Ana Avendano, the AFL-CIO’s director of immigration and community action. ...

Talks about an immigration proposal are occurring at the staff level at the Chamber and the AFL-CIO. One topic being debated is how best to treat temporary-worker programs, an issue that divided labor during the last attempt at immigration reform, in 2007.

Both sides want to improve temporary-worker programs. Business wants more access to labor outside the country for jobs that they can’t find U.S. workers to fill. Unions, however, have worried that such programs can lead to low wages and poor working conditions for immigrant workers.

Stay tuned -- this should be interesting...

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