***FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE***
Florida Guestworkers Expose Severe Labor Abuse
Jamaican guestworkers defy threats of deportation to expose abuse
in backyard of U.S. Reps who oppose immigration reform
WHO: Jamaican H-2B guestworker members of the National Guestworker Alliance; allies from labor, clergy, and civil rights communities
WHERE: Florida Press Center, 336 E. College Ave, Tallahassee, FL 32301
WHEN: 11 AM Monday, August 19, 2013
TALLAHASSEE, FL—On August 19, at 11 a.m., immigrant guestworkers on H-2B visas will defy threats of deportation to expose horrific conditions they endured while they were leased out as housecleaners to luxury condo managers on Florida’s Emerald Coast.
The workers will expose how under the current guestworker system, employers use immigration enforcement to block workers from exposing illegal practices. The workers will call on the U.S. Representatives in the districts where they worked—Reps. Jeff Miller (FL-1) and Steve Southerland (FL-2)—to support a thorough investigation into workplace violations and the threats and retaliation the workers faced. They will also call for a meeting with the Representatives to share their firsthand experience with the guestworker program and the reforms that are needed as part of immigration reform. The workers will then march with their supporters to the Department of Labor to submit an official complaint against their employer.
The workers’ employer, a contractor on Florida’s Emerald Coast, charged the workers thousands of dollars in recruitment fees that plunged their families into debt. He forced them into overcrowded company housing and sub-minimum-wage jobs, then leased them to luxury beach condo managers. When the workers stood up to demand their pay, the employer issued written threats that he would evict them and have them deported by immigration police.
The abuse and threats the workers faced is a clear demonstration of the need for immigration reform with strong worker protections. This exposé comes on the heels of a Friday-night announcement by the Republican National Committee rejecting comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship, and favoring further criminalization of immigrants instead.
The workers will call on Reps. Miller and Southerland to reject this stance and support immigration reform that will prevent future abuse of immigrant workers in their districts and across the United States.