Posts Tagged ‘immigration reform’

Senate Bill Sets Stage for Dignified Immigration Reform

Workers Prepare to Bring Voices to DC as Guestworker Programs Expand

The following statement is by Saket Soni, Executive Director of the National Guestworker Alliance:

With the introduction of the long-awaited Senate bill on immigration, American politics are finally starting to catch up with the American people. The U.S. public overwhelmingly supports a fair path to citizenship, an end to deportations, and strong protections for workers’ rights. This bill recognizes that. This bill is a new starting point in the national conversation about inclusion in democracy and a fair economy.

The Senate bill includes important worker protections from the POWER Act for immigrant workers who blow the whistle on employer abuse. Without these protections, employers use threats of retaliation and deportation to silence whistleblowers and get away with abuse. The bill also allows immigrant workers to demand back pay and reinstatement when they face retaliatory termination.

Still, the bill’s worker protections don’t go far enough. Only strong workers can build a strong economy, and this bill continues to leave immigrant workers vulnerable to abuse.

It is now clear that any immigration reform will come with a vast expansion of guestworker programs. Without strong worker protections in all of these programs—not only the new W visa program, but all existing programs—this expansion is a recipe for disaster, both for immigrant workers and the U.S. workers who work alongside them.

Employers looking to cut costs unlawfully will not use the W visa program as long as they can source cheaper, more exploitable workers through an expanded H-2B program—which is exactly what this bill gives them. The bill exempts returning H-2B guestworkers from the visa cap, which will vastly expand the H-2B program. The bill also fails to provide critical protections for H-2B workers, including the ability to change jobs and enforce their rights.

This means guestworkers will continue to be trapped in captive labor by abusive employers, and U.S. workers will be trapped in a race to the bottom as employers use guestworkers to drive down wages and conditions for all.

Americans know that a 21st-century economy needs to be built on strong labor protections for all workers. In a new poll of 1,000 Americans, 90 percent agreed that “immigration reform should protect the rights of both U.S.-born and immigrant workers because all workers deserve dignity and freedom from exploitation.” Seventy-five percent agreed that “if employers are allowed to get away with mistreating immigrant workers, it ends up lowering wages and hurting conditions for American workers as well.”

Unsurprisingly, Rep. Steve King and Sen. Jeff Sessions are trying to exploit the Boston tragedy to derail immigration reform, just as previous opponents of reform exploited the tragedy of 9/11. We won’t let it happen again. We need civil rights and worker protections in this country now more than ever, and we intend to win them.

U.S. immigration policy has to catch up with what the overwhelming majority of Americans know. This bill is just the beginning of that process. We look forward to working with those in Congress who are champions of workers’ rights to improve this bill—to include all 11 million, to unify families, to protect workers’ rights, and to make sure that future immigration to the United States comes with dignity.

NGA Executive Director Saket Soni and NGA Legal Director J.J. Rosenbaum are available for analysis and comment on specific provisions of the bill.


McDonald’s Must Pay! Campaign Overview

McDonald’s Must Pay! Campaign Overview (en español)

Student guestworkers demand McDonald’s take responsibility for labor abuse

On March 6, 2013, J-1 student guestworkers from around the world went on strike to expose severe exploitation at McDonald’s restaurants in Central PA. They joined U.S. workers and labor leaders in demanding that the fast food giant take responsibility for labor abuse at its restaurants—and their fight reached the pages of The Nation, NBC News, and the Wall Street Journal.

The student guestworkers, from Argentina, Peru, Chile, Malaysia, and other countries, paid $3,000-4,000 apiece to participate in the U.S. State Department’s J-1 student guestworker program, expecting decent work and a cultural exchange. Instead, McDonald’s used them as a sub-minimum wage exploitable workforce. Students faced:

  • As few as four hours of work a week at $7.25 an hour, with exorbitant housing deductions that brought their net pay far below minimum wage
  • Shifts as long as 25 hours with no overtime pay
  • Being packed into employer-owned basement housing, up to eight students to a room, for $300 each per month
  • Threats to cut hours further and surprise home visits from the employer, McDonald’s franchisee Andy Cheung, and labor supplier GeoVisions to suppress complaints

When Andy Cheung and GeoVisions responded to students’ concerns with threats, the students started to organize, meeting in the middle of the night to decide how to expose the abuse. They contacted the National Guestworker Alliance, filed official complaints with the State Department and Department of Labor, and held a work stoppage on March 6, saying: “McDonald’s Must Pay!”

McDonald’s refused to meet with the students about ending labor abuse—even when they delivered 100,000 petitions to the CEO’s doorstep.

The students supersized their campaign with a global day of action held on June 6, 2013. They and their allies worldwide demanded that McDonald’s end labor abuse and support freedom of association for all its workers worldwide.

On February 18, 2014, the U.S. Department of Labor vindicated the students’ fight, citing the McDonald’s franchisee for minimum wage violations against a total of 291 workers — both guestworkers and the U.S. workers alongside them — awarding them $205,977 in back wages and liquidated damages.


McDonald’s must:

  1. Conduct an audit of its franchisees and reveal where else guestworkers are working so that NGA can ensure they are free from abuse;
  2. Publicly commit that when any McDonald’s franchisee commits wage theft or other labor law violations, McDonald’s corporate will take responsibility by making the workers whole and punishing the franchisee; and
  3. Meet the nationwide demand for a $15 an hour wage and the right to form a union without retaliation.


The fight of these student guestworkers shows McDonald’s abject failure to set even the most basic labor standards for any of its workers. McDonald’s sets standards for its franchise owners on trivial aspects of food presentation—while having no standards to protect the workers who generate $27.6 billion in annual revenue for the corporation. Instead, McDonald’s hides behind franchisees like Andy Cheung, saying it takes no responsibility for employment decisions at individual restaurants. That needs to change.

It also shows the ongoing failure of the U.S. State Department to adequately police the J-1 student guestworker program and enforce its own rules. The J-1 student guestworker program has been rife with severe labor abuse and sub-minimum wage pay by employers—as in the case of the hundreds of J-1 student workers who joined the NGA and exposed captive labor at a Hershey’s Chocolate plant in Pennsylvania in August 2011.

Guestworkers and Immigration Reform

This latest exposé of severe labor abuse against guestworkers comes as Congress is considering a massive expansion of guestworker programs as part of national immigration reform.

The exploitation of student guestworkers at McDonald’s—like labor trafficking of guestworkers at Grand Isle Shipyard and Signal International in the Gulf Coast, abuse of student guestworkers at Hershey’s, and captive labor of guestworkers at Wal-Mart supplier CJ’s Seafood—demonstrates how vulnerable guestworkers are to employer abuse.

When guestworkers try to blow the whistle on employer abuse, employers use threats of retaliation and deportation to silence them. When they do, all workers lose: guestworkers become trapped in exploitation, and the wages and conditions of U.S. workers suffer because of a race to the bottom with immigrant workers.

Any future guestworker program has to protect workers against retaliation for exercising their labor rights. That includes POWER Act protections for immigrant workers who are involved in civil or labor rights disputes: legal status and work authorization independent of their employer.


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¡McDonald’s Debe Pagar! Resumen de la Campaña  

Trabajadores temporales exigen que McDonald’s toma responsabilidad para los abuso laborales

El 6 de marzo estudiantes con visa temporal, J-1 conocido en los EEUU como “trabajadores huéspedes” lanzaron una huelga para exponer la explotación severa en los restaurantes de McDonald’s en Pensilvania Central donde ellos trabajaron. Se unieron con trabajadores locales y lideres de sindicatos para exigir que la compañía de comida rápida toma responsabilidad para los abusos labores en sus restaurantes. Su lucha llegó hasta las paginas de los medios de comunicación destacados en los EEUU de NBC News, The Nation y el Wall Street Journal.

Los trabajadores huéspedes fueron reclutado de Argentina, Perú, Chile, Malaysia y otros países. Pagaron $3,000-4,000 dólares estadounidenses cada uno esperando trabajos dignos y un intercambio cultural a través del programa de visa J-1 administrado por el Departamento de Estado de los EEUU. En lugar de un intercambio McDonald’s les utilizó como trabajadores explotables y les pago menos que el salario mínimo. Los trabajadores estudiantiles enfrentaron:

  • Amenazas de deportación por parte de los gerentes de la franquicia de McDonald’s
  • Descuentos excesivos de los cheques para su alojamiento lo cual le bajo su sueldo a mucho menos que el salario mínimo legal
  • Turnos de trabajo de hasta 25 horas enseguida sin pago de tiempo extra
  • Viviendas controlado por la compañía con hasta ocho personas compartiendo un sótano por $300 cada uno por mes
  • Represalias  por parte de la franquicia de McDonald’s y su proveedor de labor GeoVisions, incluyendo visitas a los estudiantes en sus viviendas y el recortes de horas laborales para intimidar los trabajadores


Cuando el dueño de la franquicia de McDonald’s, Andy Cheung y GeoVisions respondieron a los reclamos de los estudiantes con amenazas los trabajadores empezaron a organizarse. Se reunieron de noche para decidir como exponer los abusos. Unieron como miembros a la Alianza Nacional de Trabajadores Huéspedes (“NGA” por sus siglas en ingles), reportaron los abusos al ministerio de trabajo y el ministerio de estado en quejas oficiales y lanzaron una huelga el día 6 de marzo diciendo con una voz fuerte: ¡McDonald’s debe pagar!


Para el Día de Acción Global, los trabajadores huéspedes de McDonald’s y su aliados en mas que 20 países exigirán que McDonald’s concorde a:

  1. Poner un fin a la explotación y represalias de los trabajadores internacionales reclutados a trabajar en sus restaurantes estadounidenses; y
  2. Garantizar libre asociación y el derecho a organizarse sin miedo de represalias por todos los trabajadores en todos los restaurantes de McDonald’s en todo el mundo


La lucha de los trabajadores huéspedes estudiantiles muestra el fracaso total de McDonald’s en establecer aun los mas básicos estándares laborales para sus trabajadores globalmente. McDonald’s instituya estándares para los dueños de sus franquicias sobre aspectos triviales de la presentación de su comida—mientras no tiene ninguna reglamento para proteger sus empleados los cuales le genera un beneficio de $27.6 billón en ingresos anuales para la corporación. En vez de proteger los trabajadores McDonald’s esconda detrás de sus franquicias declarando que no toma responsabilidad de los restaurantes individuales. Eso tiene que cambiar!

Trabajadores Huéspedes en la reforma migratoria

Los trabajadores expusieron los abusos severas en el programa de trabajadores huéspedes justo en el momento en que el congreso de los EEUU esta considerando una masiva expansión de los programas de trabajadores temporales como parte de la reforma migratoria

La explotación de los trabajadores huéspedes estudiantiles en McDonald’s—como el trafico humano de trabajadores huéspedes en los astilleros americanos Grand Isle Shipyard y Signal International, los abusos de los trabajadores huéspedes estudiantiles en Hershey’s Chocolate y los trabadores huéspedes cautivas en la cadena de suministro de Wal-Mart—demuestra la vulnerabilidad de los trabajadores huéspedes al abuso por parte de las corporaciones.

Cuando trabajadores huéspedes intentan organizarse y reportar los abusos laborees, los patrones usan las amenazas, represalias y hasta deportaciones privados para callarlos. Bajo este sistema todos los trabajadores sufren. Los trabajadores temporales se convierte en trabajadores cautivos y explotados y los patrones se los utilizan para bajar los sueldos y las condiciones laborales para los demás trabajadores. Todos sufren en esta competencia manufacturado.

Cualquier programa de trabajadores temporales tiene que proteger los trabajadores de represalias y garantizarles el derecho a organizarse y negociar colectivamente. Eso incluya  las protecciones del Acta de PODER para los trabajadores inmigrantes que participan en disputas laborales.


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