Morning Must Reads: J-1 Visas, Teacher Layoffs In Pittsburgh & High Unemployment in Cumberland County

The U.S. State Department has announced that it will not accept new sponsoring organizations and that it will hold the number of J-1 visas steady at 103,000 in 2012.

If that sounds to you like not much of a reform of the J-1 visa program, you are not alone.

It was an existing sponsor of the Council for Educational Travel (CETUSA) and the employers Exel North American Logistics Company, SHS Onsite Solutions and The Hershey Company that are alleged to have violated the law regarding "discrimination, forced labor, substandard conditions of work, wage theft, and infringement on associational rights."

Despite protective measures added to a foreign guest worker program, many international students who came to the U.S. for jobs and culture this year again compared their experiences to slavery...

The new measures fall short, according to a University of Pennsylvania law professor who heads the school’s international human rights and immigration clinic.

'It’s not enough that [the department] has launched an investigation. There has to be transparency and accountability in the process,' Sarah Paoletti said.

She said sponsors like Council for Educational Travel, USA, should be supervised by an independent body that could conduct spot checks and hold exit interviews with students.

Some Summer Work Travel participants have earned as little as $1 an hour, the AP said, and have wound up in homeless shelters during their U.S. stays.

After the Hershey workers' protest, the U.S. Labor Department said it had opened two investigations into conditions at the company's warehouse: one by the Wage and Hour Division, the other by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

As Table 1 illustrates, the Pittsburgh Metropolitan area has lost 4,600 public-sector jobs in the last year. The Pittsburgh Public School Board is looking to add another 300 to that total.

In an attempt to overcome a $38.2 million budget shortfall, the Pittsburgh Public School board will consider a proposal to eliminate about 300 teaching positions for the next school year and consider closing an additional school.

In Cumberland County, 463 people showed up to apply for 50 job openings, a ratio of 9.2 to 1. Nationally, the ratio of unemployed workers to job openings is 4.6. We estimate the number in Pennsylvania is somewhere between 3 and 4. A healthy ratio is half that. The labor market in Central Pennsylvania, as it is everywhere, is a buyer's market.

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