Confined Space
News and Commentary on Workplace Health & Safety, Labor and Politics

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Betrayal in North Carolina: Unions Condemn OSHA Impersonators

Through the miracle of the blogosphere, the story of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency sting on undocumented immigrants in North Carolina is finally making its way through Washington D.C. As Confined Space reported earlier this week, ICE agents, impersonating OSHA staff, sent out a flyer announcing a mandatory safety training to lure undocumented immigrant workers into arrest at the Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro, North Carolina.

Today, the AFL-CIO and the United Food and Commercial Workers union issued press releases condemning the ICE for impersonating OSHA trainers.

AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Linda Chavez Thompson stated:
Not only do such tactics scare workers away, making it less likely that workplace dangers will be exposed, but these tactics don’t comply with the government’s own policies. It is OSHA’s policy to keep the identity of those who file complaints confidential and not to collect data concerning citizenship status. The reason for these policies is simple: if workers believe that they or their families are at risk of being deported, they will not speak out about dangerous or unhealthful conditions. ICE’s actions not only undermine OSHA’s mission, but they also seriously erode the trust between agencies charged with protecting workers and the immigrant community.

Instead of scaring workers into silence by these types of immigration enforcement actions, the Bush Administration should be focusing on crafting real solutions to our broken immigration system. We have long advocated for a solution that includes a path to citizenship for undocumented workers who have been working hard, paying their taxes and contributing to their communities, and guarantees that all workers—whether US or foreign born—have enforceable rights and decent work.
UFCW President Joe Hansen also issued a statement calling on the Bush Administration to "denounce the kind of trickery that undermines safety on
the job."
“OSHA is responsible for worker safety and health,” said UFCW International President Joe Hansen. “For ICE to stage a sham OSHA meeting in order to round up and arrest people undermines OSHA’s mission, and is a step backwards for state and federal efforts to reduce worker injuries and death. Furthermore, that kind of action minimizes OSHA’s ability to do the critical work of protecting America’s labor force.”

“This unscrupulous action has shattered the trust between OSHA and the workers who depend on the agency the most,” said Hansen. “More and more often, it is immigrants who work in the most dangerous industries such as construction or meatpacking. How can OSHA reach these at-risk workers with safety information now? To these workers, OSHA no longer means safety, but betrayal.”
Meanwhile, the Raleigh News Observer called the ICE's tactics an "unfortunate way to lure suspected illegal immigrants to a sting operation."
North Carolina's labor department has faced a difficult task in trying to reduce the number of Hispanics being hurt or killed on the job. But it has been making headway by seeking out Latino crews and offering safety courses. By using the safety meeting ruse, the federal agency risked undercutting the state's efforts.
I thought you might also be interested in hearing what other bloggers are saying:

Effect Measure

This kind of thing is beyond the pale.
Jordan of Confined Space reports that immigration authorities posed as OSHA agents to capture illegal aliens. OSHA has been striving to win the trust of undocumented workers for decades. Now the feds have thoughtlessly shattered that trust. The stakes are high because immigrants are more likely to work in dangerous jobs and less likely to get the safety training they need.
Tbogg: "This is sad and stupid."

Federal Immigration Officers think up a policy guaranteed to kill immigrants - a sting operation disguised as an OSHA (occupational safety and health administration) meeting, putting the lie to decades of effort by OSHA to convince illegal immigrants that they can talk to OSHA without fear. These racist, evil fucks deserve to be shot - no, to be buried alive in an industrial accident - but since the Bush administration is in charge, probably they’ll be given raises.
Upper Left:
This is just so wrong in so many ways.

There's a federal agency stomping in without coordinating with the relevant state agencies, upending years of work to nab a few dozen low wage workers. Should those workers have been in the US, let alone on the job? Probably not. Are our borders more secure because North Carolina workplaces may be more dangerous? Not hardly.

There's the matter of a federal agency using fraud and entrapment in pursuit of its mission. Not to foil some spy movie scheme to destroy the world. Just to nab a few dozen mostly Central American laborers. Did the INS get, or even bother to seek, some kind of authority to pose as OSHA workers? If so, what other agencies are they using for cover? Can we be sure that any interaction with a federal worker isn't an interview with the INS?
Crooked Timber:
[Undocumented workers] rarely know their rights, are reluctant to complain about abuses for fear of deportation, and as a result are killed or maimed far more frequently in workplace accidents than they should be. This utterly, utterly shameful operation will make undocumented workers even less likely to contact OSHA about workplace safety than in the past – and as a result will lead to more cripplings and deaths.
Finally, we're still waiting to hear from Capitol Hill and the White House. Any day now....


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