Category: Press Statements

POWER Act Will Lift Floor for All Workers – 11/5/15

POWER Act Will Lift Floor for All Workers

Bill by Rep. Judy Chu provides crucial whistleblower protections for immigrant workers & U.S. workers alongside them

WASHINGTON, DC, November 5, 2015—On Thursday, Rep. Judy Chu (CA-32) introduced the POWER Act (Protect Our Workers from Exploitation and Retaliation) to the U.S. House of Representatives. Co-sponsors included Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Rep. Keith Ellison (MN-5) and Rep. Robert Scott (VA-3).

Below is a statement by Saket Soni, Executive Director of the National Guestworker Alliance and the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice:

“Every worker in the U.S. needs the POWER Act. More and more, U.S. workers face the same kind of vulnerability and instability that immigrant workers have long faced. The POWER Act ensures that when vulnerable immigrant workers stand up to blow the whistle on workplace abuse, employers can’t retaliate by threatening them with deportation. By helping immigrant workers expose abuse, the POWER Act also helps lift the floor for the tens of millions of U.S. workers alongside them.

“Without the POWER Act, an immigrant worker like Shellion Parris can be recognized by the federal government as a victim of involuntary servitude, and still face deportation. Workers like Shellion deserve immediate protection from deportation when they blow the whistle on employer abuse, and deserve the ability to work while they pursue their claims. The POWER Act would provide it.

“The POWER Act would help protect high-road employers too, by making sure that they are not at a disadvantage to exploitative employers. It would also lets law enforcement agencies do their job by ensuring that witnesses and victims of workplace crimes aren’t deported in the middle of an investigation.

“By lifting the floor for every worker in the U.S., the POWER Act provides a crucial first step toward combating income inequality and expanding opportunity for all.”

The bill was endorsed in a sign-on letter by 72 civil, labor, and human rights organizations, including the National Guestworker Alliance.

CONTACT: Stephen Boykewich, stephen@guestworkeralliance.org, 347-594-2347

Breakthrough ICE neutrality statement vindicates POWER campaign

One week into their campaign, Jamaican guestworkers fighting against labor abuse they exposed in Florida won a breakthrough pledge from federal immigration authorities not to collude with their employer in deporting them.

In an unprecedented written communication, the Miami field office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) invoked the authority of two key documents that are supposed to govern how ICE operates internally: the December 2011 Memorandum of Understanding between the Departments of Homeland Security and Labor, and the June 2011 Prosecutorial Discretion Memo that specifically limits enforcement against certain victims, witnesses, and plaintiffs.

This breakthrough comes after years of community pressure on ICE not to carry through on employer threats of retaliatory deportation. In 2008, workers from India exposed how ICE was colluding with their employer to prevent them from expose labor trafficking. Since then, workers have fought for this protection from Justice@Hershey’s in 2010, to Breaking Chains at Walmart in 2012, to Jamaican Workers for Change today.

With this protection in hand, the Jamaican workers’ civil and labor rights will be secure as they fight to be made whole by their employers, and to help win immigration reform with strong worker protections. The pledge they won from ICE in Miami is also a precedent for other groups of workers to win similar pledges all around the country during civil and labor rights disputes. As the 11 million fight for comprehensive immigration reform, they’re also fighting for strong worker protections, and this pledge is one way to win them.

This victory also vindicates our fight for the POWER Act, a bill that protects immigrant whistleblowers who come forward against abuse—while also protecting the U.S. workers alongside them. We’re won inclusion of the POWER Act in the Senate immigration bill. Now we need to ensure it passes the House as well.

We look forward to working with you as the Jamaican workers fight on to win justice for themselves, and dignity for all the 11 million.

Senate Bill Includes Key POWER Act Protections for Workers – 4/22/13

Whistleblower protections for immigrant workers also protect U.S. workers

WASHINGTON, DC, April 22, 2013—The Senate immigration bill’s inclusion of POWER Act worker protections is a huge victory for immigrant and U.S. workers alike.

Too often, employers use threats of retaliation and deportation to silence immigrant whistleblowers and get away with abuse. Immigrant workers become trapped in captive labor, and U.S. workers are trapped in a race to the bottom as employers use guestworkers to drive down wages and conditions for all.

The Senate bill addresses this by providing crucial protections for whistleblowers so immigrant workers can expose abuse without fear of deportation. The bill also allows immigrant workers to demand back pay and reinstatement when they face retaliatory termination.

  • These protections are crucial for workers like Josue Diaz, who performed dangerous, toxic cleanup work after Hurricane Ike so Texans could return to their homes—then spent 78 days in jail when he protested stolen wages and his employer retaliated by having him arrested.
  • They’re crucial for workers like Delmy Palencia, a mother and member of the Congress of Day Laborers who faces deportation after immigration authorities retaliated against her for standing up against racial profiling and abuse of power by local law enforcement.
  • They’re crucial for workers like Mary and Pat, National Alliance of Domestic Workers members who worked around the clock, facing isolation, low wages, threats, and even physical violence.
  • They’re crucial for workers like Jorge Rios, a J-1 guestworker who faced severe exploitation at McDonald’s and threats of deportation when he spoke up.
  • Such protections are overdue for workers at Corinthian Contractors employed on a pipeline project for DC Water who organized to demand their legal mandated wage, only to have ICE used in retaliation against them, leaving over half of the workers fired and key worker-leaders in deportation proceedings.

 

Only strong workers can build a strong economy. We look forward to preserving and strengthening POWER Act worker protections as immigration reform moves forward.

ABOUT: The POWER Campaign seeks to ensure the basic civil and labor rights of immigrant workers who organize to end exploitation, and to ensure that U.S. workers’ wages and conditions are not undermined by employers who pit them against a captive workforce of exploited immigrant workers. The POWER Campaign includes Jobs with Justice, the National Guestworker Alliance, the National Day Laborers Organizing Network, the United Workers Congress, and the National Immigration Law Center.

CONTACTS: Liz Cattaneo, lcattaneo@americanrightsatwork.org, 202-822-2127 x104

Stephen Boykewich, stephen@guestworkeralliance.org, 718-791-9162

Sen. Menendez, Reps. Miller and Chu re-introduce POWER Act

Sen. Menendez, Reps. Miller and Chu launch POWER Act

Bill anchors campaign to defend workers’ right to organize

Washington, D.C., June 14, 2011—Today, U.S. Senator Robert Menendez re-introduced to the Senate the Protect Our Workers from Exploitation and Retaliation (POWER) Act, while a House version was introduced by Reps. George Miller and Judy Chu. The POWER Act is designed to protect the right of immigrant workers to expose labor abuses without fear of retaliation—which will secure job opportunities, wages, and working conditions for U.S.-born workers as well. (Read full text here.)

Too often, when immigrant workers attempt to organize to combat exploitation, employers use immigration enforcement as a weapon to quash organizing efforts and trump labor law. The POWER Act ensures that immigrant workers who try to exercise their basic civil and labor rights are protected from retaliation. Simultaneously, the bill ensures that American workers’ wages and conditions are not undermined by employers who pit them against a captive workforce of exploited immigrant workers.

The POWER Act’s key provisions include:

  • Measures to ensure that worker protection laws are equally enforced in all workplaces.
  • U visa eligibility for workers suffering serious labor violations.
  • Temporary legal status with work authorization for victims of crime and labor retaliation.
  • Measures to ensure that workers in labor disputes have the chance to provide information to federal authorities before deportation proceedings.
  • Measures to hold employers responsible for labor law violations.

 

“Across the country, employers are using immigration enforcement as a weapon to stop workers from organizing for dignity. The result is a race to the bottom that all workers lose,” said Saket Soni, executive director of the National Guestworker Alliance.

“The POWER Act will let thousands of workers organize, without fear, to end the severe labor exploitation that marks our era,” said Sarita Gupta, executive director of Jobs with Justice.

For more information, go to http://www.thepoweract.com.

CONTACT:
Jacob Horwitz, Lead Organizer
National Guestworker Alliance
jacob@guestworkeralliance.org, (504) 452-9159

Empowering Workers to Make Our Country’s Workforce Stronger – 4/14/10

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, April 14 2010
CONTACT: Adela de la Torre 213.400.7822

WASHINGTON, DC — Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), flanked by the Rev. Jesse Jackson and other civil rights as well as union leaders, today introduced the Protect Our Workers from Exploitation and Retaliation (POWER) Act on Capitol Hill. Crafted in response to reports across the country of employers using immigration enforcement to retaliate against workers who step forward to claim their workplace rights, the bill is designed to thwart the use of immigration law to quash workers’ efforts to promote fair labor practices.

“The POWER Act will provide courageous workers with the necessary tools to ensure that their rights to organize and work in a safe and lawful work environment are protected,” said Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center. “Sadly, some exploitative employers today know that immigration enforcement often trumps our collective labor rights, so these employers threaten workers with deportation to keep them in substandard working conditions. This undercuts other employers and creates a ‘race to the bottom’ that America can ill-afford.”

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Workers on the Front Lines

josueAfter Hurricanes Gustav and Ike forced people living on the Gulf Coast to evacuate, I was recruited to work along with 11 other workers from a day-laborer corner in New Orleans. The employer promised us good work, fair wages, safe conditions and housing in Texas. We believed him. When we arrived in Beaumont, we were horrified...
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Campaign Updates

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