Obama sets workers’ rights as immigration priority – 1/30/13

Worker protections in White House immigration reform principles

On Jan. 29, 2013, the White House released its blueprint for immigration reform. In a major victory for workers, President Obama placed workers’ rights among his top-line priorities.

For years, the National Guestworker Alliance and its allies have been exposing how the U.S. immigration system is used as a weapon by companies who want to retaliate against workers who organize for their labor and civil rights. Together we’ve exposed ICE’s collusion with a shipyard to retaliate against trafficked guestworkers. We’ve exposed forced labor at a Walmart supplier who threatened workers and their families with violence in retaliation for exposing conditions of forced labor. We’ve also supported the POWER Act and an end to deportation proceedings for workers engaged in civil and labor rights actions.

We’ve been pushing to make labor protections, the right to organize, and freedom from fear of retaliation key to any immigration reform. Our priorities are now the President’s priorities.

From the White House Immigration Reform Fact Sheet:

  • Protections for all workers. The President’s proposal protects workers against retaliation for exercising their labor rights. It increases the penalties for employers who hire undocumented workers to skirt the workplace standards that protect all workers. And it creates a “labor law enforcement fund” to help ensure that industries that employ significant numbers of immigrant workers comply with labor laws.

From President Obama’s Jan. 29 speech in Las Vegas, NV:

  • Often [immigrants work in] a shadow economy, a place where employers may offer them less than the minimum wage or make them work overtime without extra pay. And when that happens, it’s not just bad for them, it’s bad for the entire economy, because all the businesses that are trying to do the right thing that are hiring people legally, paying a decent wage, following the rules, they’re the ones who suffer. They have got to compete against companies that are breaking the rules. And the wages and working conditions of American workers are threatened too.


  •        New York Times editorial on retaliation by ICE in coordination with employer Signal International
  •        New York Times editorial on employer retaliation against workers who exposed forced labor at Walmart supplier CJ’s Seafood
  •        LA Times op-ed on the POWER Act and employer retaliation against hurricane cleanup workers
  •        New York Times editorial on how DHS’s current prosecutorial discretion policy fails to protect workers from retaliation

Contact: Stephen Boykewich, stephen@guestworkeralliance.org718-791-9162

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