Guestworker Whistleblowers Seek Protection in Miami
As abusive employer ups threats of retaliation, Jamaican guestworkers
seek aid from U.S. Reps, federal authorities, organized labor
WHO: Jamaican H-2B guestworker members of the National Guestworker Alliance; allies from Florida Immigrant Coalition (FLIC), UNITE HERE, SEIU 32BJ
WHERE: UNITE HERE, 1525 NW 167 St., Suite 450, Miami, FL 33169
WHEN: 5 PM Wednesday, August 21, 2013
MIAMI, FL, August 21—Facing fresh threats of retaliation from the Emerald Coast employer who subjected them to severe labor abuse, immigrant guestworkers will hit Miami on Wednesday, asking politicians, immigration authorities, and organized labor for protection.
As Tallahassee media reported (NPR, ABC TV), H-2B guestworkers from Jamaica came forward on Monday to expose the horrific conditions they endured while a labor contractor called Mister Clean leased them out to luxury condo managers on Florida’s Emerald Coast.
When the workers demanded their rights earlier this summer—complaining of brutal housing conditions and zero dollar checks—the employer responded with written threats he would evict them and have them deported by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
The workers filed an official complaint with the Department of Labor on Monday and met with Rep. Steve Southerland. They exposed how under the current broken immigration system, employers use threats of deportation to block all immigrant workers—even those on guestworker visas—from exposing illegal practices.
In response, the workers’ employer intensified threats on Tuesday to cancel the workers’ visas and blacklist them.
On Wednesday, workers will seek support from Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, as well as civil and labor rights leaders from the Florida Immigration Coalition, SEIU 32, and UNITE HERE. The will also ask the Miami field office of ICE to pledge not to collaborate with the employer in deporting them.
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.