Contact: Laura K. Abel, Brennan Center for Justice (212) 998–6737
D. Michael Dale, Northwest Workers’ Justice Project (503) 730–1706
New York, NY – Today the Brennan Center for Justice and Northwest Workers’ Justice Project urged Labor Secretary Hilda Solis to answer Mexico’s query about the treatment of foreign workers in the U.S..
Mexican workers and US organizations have complained about the United State’s failure to enforce basic employment rights due Mexican citizens who find temporary work in the United States. The complaint chronicled frequent instances of exploitation and rights abuses US employers visited upon “H-2B” visa holders and initiated international consultation procedures set forth in a labor side agreement to the NAFTA treaty.
The workers complained of suffering brutal physical injury, wage theft and unsafe housing. Under existing practices, they cannot adequately enforce their rights through federal or state labor departments and are often are denied redress in court because they do not qualify for civil legal aid.
In response to the workers’ initial complaint, the Mexican government asked the United States Labor Department sixty-nine detailed questions regarding the extent to which state and federal laws, courts and agencies protect the employment rights of the workers lawfully present in the U.S. on H-2B temporary visas for unskilled, non-agricultural workers. The questions include how many H-2B workers have complained of violations of their labor rights, how state and federal agencies investigate those complaints, how the workers can access free legal aid, and how the government ensures that they are not subjected to forced labor.
During the Bush Administration, the Labor Department ignored Mexico’s inquiry. “The Bush administration’s failure to respond to the Mexican government was not surprising, given their contempt for international obligations and worker rights,” said Laura Abel, Deputy Director at the Brennan Center for Justice, “But we fully expect Secretary Solis to respond promptly.”
For more information, or to arrange an interview with Laura Abel, please contact Jeanine Plant-Chirlin at 212–998–6289 or Jeanine.email@example.com.
Additional materials regarding the workers’ complaints, and the Mexican government’s response, are available at: http://www.brennancenter.org/content/resource/north_american_agreement_on_labor_cooperation_naalc_complaint/