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Andy Puzder’s Withdrawal Is a Victory for All Workers On Wednesday, February 15, 2017, Trump Labor Secretary pick Andy Puzder withdrew his candidacy. Below is a statement by Saket Soni, Executive Director of the National Guestworker Alliance: “The withdrawal of Andy Puzder is a victory for every worker in the U.S.–starting with the restaurant workers who suffered wage theft, sexual harassment, and health and […]
Trump Executive Order on Trafficking Is a Major Step Backward – 2/10/17 On February 9, 2017, the Trump administration released an Executive Order addressing transnational human and drug trafficking. The below is a statement by Saket Soni, Executive Director of the National Guestworker Alliance (NGA): “The Trump administration’s Executive Order on transnational human and drug trafficking falls dramatically short of protecting vulnerable workers and preventing human trafficking. […]
Do we really want an anti-labor Labor Secretary? – PennLive – 1/30/17 Penn Live January 30, 2017 Do we really want an anti-labor Labor Secretary? By Kati Sipp What will life be like for working people if President Donald Trump’s labor secretary pick Andy Puzder gets confirmed? Pennsylvanians already know. In 2013, readers of this newspaper learned about brutal labor exploitation at fast food restaurants in Harrisburg, Lemoyne, and […]
Reports of forced labor in Hawaii too familiar The Associated Press released a six-month investigative report on human trafficking and severe labor abuse among seafood workers in Hawaii on the supply chains of Whole Foods, CostCo, and Sam’s Club. Below is a statement by National Guestworker Alliance Organizing Director Jacob Horwitz, released on Friday, Sep. 9, 2016: The Associated Press reports of human […]
American Seafood Has Its Own Forced Labor Problem – Mother Jones – 6/15/16 Mother Jones June 15, 2016 American Seafood Has Its Own Forced Labor Problem A new report sheds light on the abused immigrants shucking your shellfish by Alex Sammon It’s been an ugly year for the seafood industry. Investigative reports by both the AP and the New York Times exposed widespread reliance on forced and slave labor from international […]
After ILO, NGA Leaders Work to End Supply Chain Abuse JUNE 10, 2016, Geneva – At the International Labour Conference (ILC) today, the International Labor Organization (ILO) adopted the report of the Committee on Decent Work in Supply Chains. The report recognizes the poor treat of workers in global supply chains as well as the responsibility of multinational brands and retailers to address them. A […]

On Wednesday, February 15, 2017, Trump Labor Secretary pick Andy Puzder withdrew his candidacy. Below is a statement by Saket Soni, Executive Director of the National Guestworker Alliance:

“The withdrawal of Andy Puzder is a victory for every worker in the U.S.–starting with the restaurant workers who suffered wage theft, sexual harassment, and health and safety violations at Puzder’s CKE Restaurants. We were proud to join with our allies at the National Employment Law Project, Jobs with Justice, Restaurant Opportunities Center, and many other labor, civil, and human rights organizations in opposing Puzder’s candidacy.

“Whomever Donald Trump nominates next, we and our allies will continue to fight for a Secretary of Labor who fulfills the Department of Labor’s mandate to protect and further the rights of all workers in the United States–U.S.-born and migrant workers alike.

“Work is changing dramatically in the United States and across the globe. Workers need advocates in government who who will oppose employers’ effort to shred traditional labor protections, who will refuse to pit U.S. and immigrant workers against each other in a race to the bottom, and who will help workers meet their need for a new social contract. That’s the kind of Secretary of Labor all working families need.”

On February 9, 2017, the Trump administration released an Executive Order addressing transnational human and drug trafficking. The below is a statement by Saket Soni, Executive Director of the National Guestworker Alliance (NGA):

“The Trump administration’s Executive Order on transnational human and drug trafficking falls dramatically short of protecting vulnerable workers and preventing human trafficking. The order is a fundamental policy regression from gains the anti-trafficking movement has made in recent years. It takes the United States government back to a myopic approach focused only on prosecution. It also reflects a particularly distorted immigration enforcement-focused vision, with the racially motivated subtext that traffickers are only foreign nationals, and that all human trafficking is transnational. The policy outlined in the order completely ignores root causes and the conditions of vulnerability that allow trafficking to flourish. It makes no mention of the responsibility of corporations whose supply chains profit from forced labor, and it fails to address victim protections and victim services.

“The U.S. government’s policy approach to fighting trafficking has centered on a ‘four Ps’ paradigm of prevention, protection of victims, prosecution of perpetrators, and partnership with civil society and business. The first three of these are enshrined in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), the guiding and still operative legislation on this issue. The new order represents a radical departure from this holistic approach, and one that is likely to contribute to the vulnerability of immigrant and non-immigrant guestworkers, whose immigration status is often exploited by traffickers to keep them in modern-day slavery.

“Our experience on issues of labor trafficking shows why this executive order is exactly the wrong approach. For the last decade, the NGA has worked closely with trafficked workers on labor supply chains, helping them fight for their workplace rights and human dignity. In each case, a U.S. employer benefited from the trafficking, and the fear of immigration retaliation kept workers in forced labor. In 2008, we helped 200 H-2B workers from India escape a racially segregated labor camp at Mississippi at the oil services company Signal International. The workers were criminalized and hunted by immigration authorities when they spoke out against the company. Eventually the company’s collusion with immigration authorities was exposed in a lawsuit. The workers were vindicated by U.S. government agencies and the company was hit with a $14 million verdict in federal court.

“Our organization also exposed forced labor conditions among H-2B guestworkers on Walmart’s U.S. seafood supply chain in 2012. In that instance, a U.S. employer on Walmart’s supply chain threatened immigration retaliation. These cases and others show that an immigration-enforcement approach to human trafficking only adds to vulnerability by handing traffickers and employers the ability to retaliate against whistleblowers.

“The U.S. government should be implementing policies that protect workers’ freedom of association, and giving them the means to report discrimination and abuse without fear of retaliation. We need policies that let worker leave abusive employers without losing their immigration status. We need the U.S. government to robustly implement the nation’s labor laws, including protections around health and safety and wage theft that would combat the broader conditions that allow trafficking to take root.

“Yesterday’s short-sighted and misguided order stands in clear violation of our most cherished American values. At the end of the day, the order represents a victory for human traffickers, and yet another blow to the interests of workers in America. The opposite of trafficking and forced labor is freedom at work—and this executive order contributes to the coercive environment that too many workers already find themselves in.”

CONTACT: Stephen Boykewich, stephen@guestworkeralliance.org, (323) 673-1307

Penn Live

January 30, 2017

Do we really want an anti-labor Labor Secretary?

By Kati Sipp

What will life be like for working people if President Donald Trump’s labor secretary pick Andy Puzder gets confirmed? Pennsylvanians already know.

In 2013, readers of this newspaper learned about brutal labor exploitation at fast food restaurants in Harrisburg, Lemoyne, and Camp Hill–including sub-minimum wage pay, unpaid overtime, work shifts that lasted up to 25 hours straight, and for some workers, overpriced company housing where eight people were packed into a single basement room.

Some of those workers were student guestworkers who came to the U.S. on J-1 visas expecting a “cultural exchange program,” but instead faced abuse and wage theft at the central Pennsylvania McDonald’s restaurants.

When the student workers spoke up, their boss threatened to fire and deport them.

It wasn’t just student guestworkers facing abuse. Local Pennsylvians were being exploited and robbed of their already low wages right alongside them.

Learn more ...

Medium

December 22, 2016

A Voice for Independent Workers

By Kati Sipp

What do an adjunct professor, a day laborer, and an Uber driver have in common? More than you might think.

In recent decades, the U.S. economy has been shifting from one of stable, full-time jobs to a gig economy, where short-term, piecemeal, unstable work is the norm.

We’ve seen this among our members at the National Guestworker Alliance(NGA): contingent workers in industries including construction, service, hospitality, food processing, and logistics.

We’ve also seen it in the broader economy. Employers are replacing full-time workers with freelancers or subcontractors to avoid paying for benefits and to reduce responsibility for their workforce. Another face of the gig economy has been the rise of app-based employment platforms like Uber and TaskRabbit, which provide millions of workers with gig-to-gig income — but none of the protections of traditional jobs.

Online or off, gig economy workers face similar challenges. Freelance designers and ride-share drivers may have the kind of flexibility that full-time workers don’t, but that comes at the cost of the stability. The industrial middle class in the U.S. was built on long-term jobs — often unionized — that came with employer-paid health benefits, retirement programs, and a social safety net that let workers plan for the future. Today’s gig economy workers don’t have that.

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The Hill

December 15, 2016

“Trump’s opportunity to help millions of workers in our country”

By Saket Soni

While Donald Trump was taking his victory lap over the deal to stop Carrier Corporation from moving 800 Indiana jobs to Mexico, many pointed out that the deal offers little hope for the larger U.S. workforce. No presidential administration could cut individual deals with every U.S. company looking to outsource jobs.

There is something Trump can do, though, about the abuse of insourcing. Companies outsource jobs to take advantage of cheaper workers in Mexico, India and China. When they can’t move their facilities abroad, they often import foreign workers into the U.S. instead through federal guestworker programs. But abuse of these programs is rampant—and hurts both guestworkers and U.S. workers.

Trump surprised many when he named ending guestworker program abuse as a top priority for his first 100 days.

“On immigration,” Trump said in a message to the country, “I will direct the Department of Labor to investigate all abuses of visa programs that undercut the American worker.”

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Medium

December 12, 2016

We Can Find the Cash to Pay for a Basic Income for All. But Can We Find the Love?

By Saket Soni

Donald Trump’s deal with Carrier to stop 800 U.S. jobs from being outsourced to Mexico was meant to raise hopes for a new era of job stability. Critics on both sides of the aisle dismissed this as a fantasy. Ironically, it was the CEO of Carrier’s parent company, United Technologies, who offered one of the clearest reasons why: where companies can’t outsource to cut labor costs, they’ll automate instead. In fact, CEO Greg Hayes said, United Technologies plans to invest $16 million to automate jobs at the very plant where Trump cut his deal.

Not to mention that Trump’s pick for Secretary of Labor, Andy Puzder, has said he wants to replace human workers at his fast food chains with robots.

The U.S. economy has undergone a fundamental transformation. Workers can no longer count on the kinds of permanent full-time jobs that brought benefits and long-term stability to previous generations. Americans know this. The insurgencies in both major political parties this election season, as well as the election of Trump itself, were driven in part by pain and frustration over our country’s broken social contract.

Gig-to-gig work is on the rise. The U.S. Government Accountability Office says that more than 40% of U.S. workers are “contingent” in one form or another — meaning they’re agency temps, direct-hire temps, on-call workers, day laborers, part-time workers or independent contractors. Long-term unemployment is near historic highs. Ever-more-rapid technological change threatens to hollow out entire industries through automation.

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Medium

October 19, 2016

The Question 55 Million American Workers Have For The Next U.S. President

By Saket Soni

On Wednesday, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton will share the stage for their last debate before the presidential election. Donald Trump is sure to face questions about the allegations of sexual assault he faces from more than a dozen women. Hillary Clinton is certain to face continued questionsover her private email server during her time as Secretary of State. But there’s another question both candidates should both face — one that affects of tens of millions of Americans and makes national headlines nearly every day, but has yet to draw comment from either candidate.

The question is: how do you plan to guarantee economic security for workers in our nation as work changes and America’s workers become increasingly insecure?

The American economy is undergoing a fundamental transformation. As President Obama has himself acknowledged, the old deal between workers, employers, and government is breaking down. Workers can no longer count on the kinds of permanent full-time jobs that brought benefits and long-term stability to previous generations. American voters know this: the insurgencies in both major political parties during the primaries were in part an expression of public frustration with our country’s broken social contract.

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Open Democracy

October 6, 2006

Voices from the supply chain: an interview with the National Guestworker Alliance

Beyond Trafficking and Slavery speaks with JJ Rosenbaum of the National Guestworker Alliance on ways to protect workers in global supply chains, including a global minimum wage.

BTS: So, JJ, could you tell us why this year’s ILC was particularly important?

JJ: This year the ILC took up the issue of global supply chains for the first time. Global supply chains are increasingly the way that the world economy is organised. So it is fundamental for the ILO to speak about them and to bring a workers’ perspective to the issues that they raise.

BTS: What did you want to see result from this year’s ILC?

JJ: I thought it important that the dialogue this year be a first step towards a broader process of standard setting for working conditions in global supply chains. We know that supply chains involve significant exploitation of migrant workers, of women workers, and of others, and we know that there are problems with wage levels and with freedom of association. So national supply chain standards are no longer enough – what we need is something global.

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Medium

October 4, 2016

Bringing Stability to the United States of Anxiety

Michelle Miller, Sarita Gupta, and Saket Soni

The gig economy isn’t new. Day laborers, domestic workers, construction workers, and many other workers — frequently low-wage people of color — have been living in it for decades. But with the rise of app-based labor platforms like Uber, TaskRabbit, and Handy, and with traditional companies laying off formerly full-time workers en masse only to rehire them as freelancers, the gig economy is provoking national anxieties like never before.

That’s why it’s time to develop a new generation of employment benefits and protections that meet the challenges of the gig economy.

Workers on app-based platforms still make up a small part of the total U.S. workforce, but they’re part of a full 40% of the American workforce that is now in non-traditional work arrangements of one kind or another, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office. That includes agency temps, direct-hire temps, on-call workers, part-time workers, day laborers, and subcontracted workers.

What’s more, several of the technology companies that employ workers through apps have already transformed their industries. Uber and Lyft have dramatically disrupted the taxi business, while localities have struggled to regulate them. In the hotel industry, AirBnB’s current $10 billion valuation is bigger than that of global hotel chains like Hyatt. Apps like Task Rabbit have brought day labor corners online, and “crowdsourcing” platforms like Amazon’s Mechanical Turk plunge tens of thousands of workers into an entirely unregulated market for as little as a dollar an hour.

Learn more ...

TakePart.com

September 29, 2016

The Explosion on West Delta 32 E

The fallout from an accident two years after Deepwater Horizon reveals safety is still an issue for Gulf oil workers.

by Justin Nobel

At 7 a.m. on Nov. 16, 2012, as the morning’s first rays spilled across the Gulf of Mexico, nine Filipino men began their workday on an oil platform about 10 miles off the coast of Louisiana. To these skilled laborers, in the U.S. on temporary visas, it was perhaps just another day out on the cobalt-blue Gulf, working a foreign nation’s offshore oil patch so they could send money back to their families 8,000 miles away. But Ellroy Corporal, Jerome Malagapo, and Avelino Tajonera had a difficult task that morning: upgrading a pipe that helped pass oil pumped from beneath the seabed into Louisiana’s vast network of shore-bound pipelines. The job involved welding, which on an oil platform means spraying bits of fire onto a deck loaded with explosive fuel.

West Delta Block 32 Platform E looked like an extremely complicated swim dock, stacked with pipes and tanks. Using a pneumatic saw, one of the men cut away a two-foot section of pipe. Exposed edges were smoothed using an electric grinder. A pair of metal flanges would allow new piping to fit seamlessly into the old section. One worker held the first flange, another squared it, and the third was to weld the piece into place. Before the welding torch was lit, one of the men asked the others if they smelled a gas-like odor. Neither responded.

The offshore oil and gas industry calls welding hot work, which requires a special permit outlining safety precautions. But the appropriate permit for hot work that day on West Delta 32 E was never issued. Two portable gas detectors that should have been taken to the platform were broken. The Filipino men were working for an oil industry service provider called Grand Isle Shipyard. According to an investigation by the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, which oversees the U.S. offshore oil and gas industry, a GIS supervisor told the men not to worry and suggested they “hang the non-functioning gas detector up like a ‘decoration’ so everyone could at least see that they had one.” Another contractor had told the workers that the pipes had been purged and that West Delta 32 E was safe. In fact the pipes they were about to apply a welding torch to were laced with flammable hydrocarbon vapors. The platform was a ticking time bomb.

Black Elk Energy Offshore Operations, the platform’s operator, had hired Wood Group PSN, a large oil services firm registered in Scotland that operates in more than 50 countries, to manage operations. A senior Wood Group officer was supposed to attend a morning safety meeting in the galley. This individual could have told the men the pipes had not been purged of vapors or asked why a hot work permit had not been issued. Instead a lower-level Wood Group employee attended the galley safety meeting, but “merely out of coincidence,” according to the BSEE report. The man sat eating his breakfast and didn’t pay attention.

Some electromagnetic waves can circle the earth seven and a half times in one second. Your brain’s nerve signals can cover 22 miles in that time. A radio signal can travel to space and back. By comparison, fire travels slowly. And in the way time seems to halt when the brain is faced with danger, fire must seem especially slow when it’s spreading right in front of your face.

The welding torch was lit. Hydrocarbon vapors ignited. One one thousand. A string of fire ran through the piping and into a set of three oil tanks.

Learn more ...


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