Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Immigrant Workers: Exploited In the Gulf Cleanup

Peter Rousmaniere blogs so I don't have to. Peter, over at Working Immigrants, writes about a new study by researchers at Tulane University and the University of California, Berkeley that reveals that undocumented workers are being abused even as they provide critical help to rebuild New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, the most costly natural disaster in American history.

Among their problems:

Workers reported working with harmful substances (29 percent) and in dangerous conditions (27 percent) while 19 percent said they were not given any protective equipment for dangerous work.

Only 9 percent of undocumented workers have health insurance compared to 55 percent of documented workers. 83 percent of documented workers said they received medications when needed compared to 38 percent of undocumented workers.

Meanwhile, another study showed similar findings. Risk Amid Recovery: Occupational Health and Safety of Latino Workers in the Aftermath of Gulf Coast Hurricanes, is the result of a joint project between UCLA-Labor Occupational Safety and Health Project and the National Day Laborers Organizing Network and was made possible with funding from National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences.

Risk Amid Recovery was based on interviews with 53 immigrant workers and 28 community, union, church, and relief workers in Biloxi and Gulfport, Mississippi; and in Slidell, New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Kenner, Louisiana from December 2005 through February 2006. The researchers found that
Like other workers and returning residents, Latino workers confronted a variety of hazards. The most frequently mentioned of these was mold; other toxic exposures and safety hazards were also common. Most workers, however, received neither health and safety training nor protective equipment. Respiratory, skin and other health problems incurred on the job were exacerbated by unsanitary living conditions. Most workers lacked access to medical services. Many reported wage violations and harassment, including threats of deportation and denial of access to shelter facilities.

There were many reasons that these hazards were tolerated; fear of losing a job or housing being the main ones.