2009 Congressional testimony by NGA members

On April 23, 2009, several NGA members, as well as NGA Executive Director Saket Soni, testified before U.S. Congress about the severe exploitation that exists within the H2B guestworker program. They also told about the brave organizing by workers to assert their dignity and expose abusive employers.

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NGA member Miguel Angel Jovel Lopez

I am honored to speak, along with the other guestworkers here today, about the severe labor exploitation that exists in the H-2B guestworker program. We urge the Department of Labor to work to make sure the laws of the United States are enforced to protect H-2B guestworkers, who are made especially vulnerable by the imbalance of power between workers and employers in the rules of the program. A year ago I came to this country full of hopes but after a year away from my daughter and my wife I haven’t satisfied a single dream. My family is now deeper in debt having borrowed additional money to cover expenses in the last ten months. Cumberland did just cheat me, they cheated my family If I had known then what I know now about the U.S. guestworker program, I would never have come.

NGA Executive Director Saket Soni

My remarks today will address extreme level of exploitation occurring within the current H-2B guestworker program in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast as well as the crisis of confidence facing the DOL-WHD as it attempts to begin responsibly enforcing federal protections for guestworkers. In my view, the DOL-WHD has failed to provide a reasonable level of resources to combat exploitation of H-2B guestworkers generally, and this has been exacerbated in the general under-resourcing of the DOL-WHD in this region, as has been well documented by this Committee and the General Accountability Office (GAO). Because of this failure, the DOL-WHD, through its New Orleans and Gulf Coast offices, has failed to intervene in employers’ increasing manipulation of the structural imbalances of power in the pro-gram to create an underground economy of labor not subject to federal worker protection laws. This harms both exploited guestworkers and U.S. workers who demand jobs at standards mandated by federal law.

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