Category: Press Coverage

Mother Jones

November 1, 2017

The GOP Wants To Bring in More Migrant Guest Workers—But For Much Lower Pay

by Kanyakrit Vongkiatkajorn

Immigrant workers provide a crucial supply of labor for the American farm industry, making up more than 70 percent of farmworkers—nearly half of whom are undocumented. Though employers have long lobbied for ways to bring in more workers, legislators have disagreed on the best way to reform the current guest worker program for farmworkers, H-2A.

The latest attempt is a bill by Virginia Rep. Robert Goodlatte, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and one of the biggest proponents of reforming the H-2A.  The bill, which narrowly cleared the committee last Wednesday, would overhaul the current guest worker program and replace it with a new H-2C visa for bringing in foreign agricultural workers to the US. In contrast to the current H2-A visa, the new program, called the Agricultural Guestworker Act, would cap the number of visas at 450,000 a year, and allow workers to be able to stay year-round, while eliminating the requirement that employers provide free housing and transportation.

The bill, though widely supported by industry groups, has been contentious for both Republicans and Democrats. Immigrant advocacy groups say it would gut protections for workers, substantially lower wages for migrants, and expose even more workers to exploitation. The issue has been especially divisive for Republicans, who disagree over whether more immigrants should be brought into the country for jobs. (When Goodlatte introduced a similar version of the bill in the 2013, it never made it out of Congress.)

If passed, the bill could drastically change how migrant farm labor works in the United States. Here’s what you need to know about it:

Learn more ...

The Los Angeles Times

October 12, 2017

Post hurricane rebuilding will be done by undocumented workers—and they need protection

by Saket Soni

In Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, mammoth hurricanes have left behind a colossal amount of work. The cleanup and reconstruction efforts are going to take years. That means a severe demand for salvage and demolition crews, roofers, carpenters, drywall installers, painters, plumbers and workers in all manner of other trades and skills.

And if recent history tells us anything, much of this demand will be met by immigrants — migrant laborers, many of them highly skilled, and many of them lacking legal status.

As a workers’ rights organizer in New Orleans, I remember what happened on the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina. Immigrant workers surged in to tackle the huge job of rebuilding, only to be exploited by unscrupulous employers in an unregulated, chaotic and dangerous labor bazaar. The workers had little access to decent housing and little ability to protest against unsafe conditions or wage theft.

Learn more ...

The New Food Economy

October 4, 2017

“Why today’s vote on H2-C visas is food’s biggest labor battle”

by Kate Cox

On Monday, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) introduced the Agricultural Guestworker Act of 2017, a bill designed (on paper) to do three things: replace the existing H-2A visa program, call it instead the “H-2C” visa program, and put it under the purview of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The H-2A program is currently overseen by the Department of Labor (DOL) and provides temporary work visas for foreign agricultural workers who have job offers from a United States employer to do seasonal work. That program is not to be confused with the H-2B visa program—also a temporary work visa—for non-agricultural workers in other parts of the food supply chain, from packing to processing; fishing to food prep; even cooks, bartenders, and waitstaff.

The committee is scheduled to vote on the AG Act on Wednesday. Politico’s Christine Haughney on Tuesday set the hurried scene for Morning Agriculture this way: “true to his word to push it on a ‘tight timetable’ …  Goodlatte, who attended an immigration-focused dinner with Trump and other Hill leaders on Monday night, gave committee members little more than a day to read the 49-page bill and decide whether to vote for it.”

This reporter didn’t have a whole lot more time to read the bill on the train commute home than Hill leaders did on their way to dinner. But at least I don’t have to vote on it today.

Learn more ...

Truth Out

September 12, 2017

Labor Movements and Universalizing Resistance

by John Trumpbour

Members of the Chicago Teachers Union participate in a strike on September 12, 2012, in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo: Peoplesworld)Members of the Chicago Teachers Union participate in a strike on September 12, 2012, in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo: Peoplesworld)

Charles Derber offers a guide to the new era of organizing in Welcome to the Revolution: Universalizing Resistance for Social Justice and Democracy in Perilous Times. With guest contributions from Medea Benjamin, Ralph Nader, Gar Alperovitz and more, this book makes a compelling argument about how movements must come together.

The following piece by John Trumpbour forms one of the guest “interludes” in Welcome to the Revolution.

Political scientist Joseph Luders in The Civil Rights Movement and the Logic of Social Change (2010) reflects in an obscure footnote that “Curiously, the labor movement is conventionally ignored by scholars of social movements.” This stark observation is the starting point of environmental and labor organizer Jane F. McAlevey’s new book on transforming the U.S. labor movement called No Shortcuts: Organizing for Power in the New Gilded Age (2016).

It is often forgotten that the U.S. labor movement, despite having many elements complicit with white supremacy and interventionist foreign policy, played a critical role in advancing the civil rights movement.  The original push for a March on Washington came from A. Philip Randolph, the president of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters.  The labor movement’s involvement in so many civil rights struggles, including Martin Luther King’s last fight in Memphis for the city’s sanitation workers, has been largely erased from public memory.

In a speech to the AFL-CIO on December 11, 1961, Martin Luther King saw the connection between the denial of labor rights and degrading conditions for African Americans and for all workers:

“In our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard against being fooled by false slogans, such as ‘right to work.’ It is a law to rob us of our civil rights and job rights.  Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining by which unions have improved wages and working conditions of everyone…Wherever these laws have been passed, wages are lower, job opportunities are fewer and there are no civil rights… We demand this fraud be stopped.”

Learn more ...

Fortune

April 18, 2017

What the Newest Labor Groups Mean For US Workers

by Rick Wartzman

Tensions are mounting this week as the Writers Guild of America attempts to hammer out a new labor agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, with scripts being stockpiled in case no contract is reached and the industry shuts down in early May.

Yet a bigger role already is being cast—and it’s for the guild model itself.

Across more and more of the economy, worker advocates are hoping to replicate the ways in which screenwriters, actors, and others in Hollywood have been organized since the 1920s and ’30s.

Driving this development are the exploding ranks of “gig workers,” who don’t have a traditional relationship with a single employer. Many, like those in entertainment, bounce from one project to the next. This includes folks who find assignments via digital platforms such as TaskRabbit and Upwork, as well as day laborers who get picked up on a street corner and are driven to a construction site. Others may work for a particular company (at least for a stretch) but are considered independent contractors, not employees. Uber has become the poster child for this system.

Learn more ...

The Guardian

March 10, 2017

‘A gift to human traffickers’: report warns of dangers of Trump immigration policy

By Kate Hodal

Donald Trump’s hardline approach to immigration has been branded a “gift to human traffickers” amid concerns that stricter deportation and border regulations will push undocumented migrant workers underground, putting them at greater risk of slavery and human rights abuses.

The new administration’s immigration policy – which hinges on the construction of a US-Mexico border wall and immediate repatriation of illegal immigrants – will force criminal networks to use more costly and potentially more dangerous trafficking routes by air and sea, say global risk analysts Verisk Maplecroft.

According to a report by the company, the controversial stance adopted by the White House towards migrant workers and immigration will be a major driver of human rights risks for business in 2017.

Developed countries are warned that human rights abuses are surfacing closer to home for western companies just as legislation strengthens and scrutiny of business practices increases.

Saket Soni, executive director of the membership organisation National Guestworkers Alliance, said the Trump administration’s new regulations will only exacerbate existing problems and proves that the US government is “part of the problem”.

Learn more ...

The Indian Express

March 2, 2017

After Kansas: Posing as a ‘model minority’ cannot keep Indian migrants safe in Trump’s America.

By Saket Soni

The scene at the Kansas bar was every immigrant’s nightmare. Two Indian H-1B guestworkers, Srinivas Kuchibhotla and Alok Madasani, were sharing an after-work whiskey in a bar in Olathe, Kansas. A white American, Adam Purington, hurled racist insults at them and was thrown out. But he returned with a shotgun, shouted “Get out of my country,” and opened fire. He killed Srinivas and wounded Alok, as well as an American man who tried to stop him. The shooting sent shockwaves through the United States and India. Unsurprisingly, the White House rejected any connection between President Donald Trump’s hate-filled rhetoric and the shooting.

But the shooting reveals what happens when the realities of globalism meet Trump’s economic nationalism. On one hand, US immigration policy imports Indian migrant workers. On the other hand, the new political rhetoric encourages Americans to see those workers as a threat. The shooting also showed the two impulses that have always coexisted in America: The racist and nativist impulses of the shooter, and the embracing impulse of another white man, Ian Grillot, who tried to stop the shooter and got shot himself.

Indians have always had faith in the American impulse to embrace and protect migrants. But the painful reality is that racism is the stronger impulse now — boosted by Trump’s rhetoric and economic nationalism. I understand the optimistic view of the US: America gave me a scholarship to come to college and I believed I had come to a welcoming place. Donald Trump’s America is different. Race-based violence against people of colour in the US isn’t new. The Black Lives Matter movement emerged to demand an end to police violence targeting African Americans. What is new is that the president ran on an openly xenophobic and anti-immigrant platform, and upon his election, embraced the view that brown people are a threat. This gives a new boldness to Americans who may be ready to turn their racial and economic resentment into violence. Hate crimes and threats are surging — against Jews, Muslims, Latin Americans, African Americans and Asians.

Learn more ...

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 ...

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.”

Learn more ...

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.

Learn more ...


Donate now!

Your donation will support workers' fight to end forced labor, wage theft, and exploitation -- for guestworkers and U.S. workers alike!

donate

Sign Up for Email Updates

Email Address:

Search