The POWER Campaign seeks to ensure the basic civil and labor rights of workers who organize to end exploitation.

Building POWER also ensures that American workers’ wages and conditions are not undermined by employers who pit them against a captive workforce of exploited immigrant workers. Learn more >>

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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.

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

“Immigrant workers in my district regularly face exploitation at the hands of their employers. They’re threatened with deportation when they stand up for their labor rights.”

Watch POWER Act co-sponsor Rep. Judy Chu lift up the need for strong worker protections in immigrant reform during the U.S. House Judiciary Committee hearings on immigration on Feb. 5, 2013.

The National Guestworker Alliance just announced a huge victory. The C.J.’s Seafood workers who exposed forced labor on the Wal-Mart supply chain in June were vindicated by the federal government, which granted them U-Visas—special visas for victims of serious crimes. This is an extraordinary victory for worker organizing and labor law enforcement in the U.S.

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