Friday, October 17, 2003

Good News For A Change

Government-Business-Labor Coalition Helps Immigrant Workers

This is interesting. Hispanic workers in Texas are having some success getting back pay and making their workplaces safer by working with Justice and Equality in the Workplace, a coalition organized in July 2001 to help inform Hispanic immigrants about their rights as workers and to uncover illegal employment practices and discrimination.

The coalition is made up of the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Federal Contract Compliance and Wage and Hour Division, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Mexican, Colombian, Guatemalan and El Salvadorian consulates, the City of Houston, the Harris County AFL-CIO, the Catholic Diocese of Galveston-Houston, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the Hispanic Contractor's Association in Houston, the Associated General Contractors of America's Houston chapter, the Houston Chamber of Latino Business Owners and, lately, OSHA.
Realizing that a disproportionate number of Hispanics die in construction-related accidents, Randy Magdaleno, chairman of the Hispanic Contractor's Association's Houston chapter, wanted to get involved with the coalition.

He said that workers need to get safety training and be encouraged to point out unsafe conditions.

"It may hurt us, but we need to start making changes," Magdaleno said. "We're going to have to speak out and say this is not a safe work environment."

Last year, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and joined the coalition. Since the coalition formed, the U.S. Department of Labor has received more than 700 complaints and recovered $1.5 million in back wages for immigrant workers. OSHA has issued 35 safety and health standard citations with penalties of more than $90,000 to employers that have broken labor laws by putting immigrant workers in danger. And the Mexican Consulate and the mayor's office have received hundreds of complaints, mostly from those like Herrera who allege they were not paid their wages.
See, I don't just report bad news.