With worker pay and benefits under pressure—according to one analysis, the average earnings of a construction worker relative to other occupations has slipped significantly since 1990—it's understandable that the building trades unions would drive a hard bargain before giving their blessing to an immigration reform bill. The process is far from over, but Senate Democrats almost certainly consulted this important constituency while drafting the version of the immigration reform bill the Senate adopted. The House of Representatives is writing its own version.
Over the years, during which the average construction worker's paycheck has been losing its buying power, Hispanic immigrants poured into the U.S. Today, according to federal statistics that include homebuilding, more than one out of three U.S. masons and more than half of all concrete and drywall workers now identify themselves as Hispanic. As of 2010, about 40% of these workers said they had entered the U.S. in the previous 10 years. How many of these workers entered the country illegally? No one can say, but illegal workers are known to be the lowest paid and most exploited. Immigration reform could help change the dynamics of the marketplace and help push wages higher for these and many other workers, especially if business improves.