Posts Tagged ‘new york times’

The NYT, the White House, and Worker Protections

On Feb. 21, the New York Times published an editorial entitled “Immigration Reform and Workers’ Rights.” Below is a response by National Guestworker Alliance Executive Director Saket Soni:

Today’s New York Times editorial is an important affirmation of what millions of immigrant workers know, and what the White House has recognized in its own immigration blueprint: strong labor and civil rights protections have to be the cornerstone of any immigration reform.

The New York Times, like the Obama administration, has stood up for the principles of the POWER Act, including protections for whistleblowers and the right of immigrant workers to organize against employer abuse. U.S. workers need these protections as much as immigrants workers do: without them, immigrant workers become a captive workforce, which drives down wages and conditions for all workers.

The National Guestworker Alliance has exposed employer abuse, retaliation, and blacklisting against thousands of immigrant workers in federal guestworker programs. This includes forced labor by guestworkers at Wal-Mart supplier CJ’s Seafood, captive labor by student guestworkers at a Hershey’s Chocolate plant, and ICE’s collusion with an oil services company to retaliate against trafficked guestworkers.

Without the worker protections in the POWER Act, immigration reform risks creating a permanent underclass of millions exploitable workers. Employers will continue to use immigration enforcement as a weapon against workers who organize for their labor and civil rights.

We look forward to ensuring that strong labor protections, the right to organize, and freedom from fear of retaliation are included in any immigration reform.


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

From U.S. Corporations, a Chain of Exploitation – People’s Daily – 8-23-12

The NGA published a commentary on corporate abuse of guestworker programs in the English-language and Chinese-language editions of China’s People’s Daily.

From U.S. Corporations, A Chain of Exploitation

By Jennifer J. Rosenbaum and Julie Mao

August 21, 2012

(Chinese-language version below)

Every year, thousands of students from China come to the United States to take part in the U.S. State Department’s J-1 Summer Work Travel Program, along with tens of thousands of other students from around the world. These student guestworkers are promised a cultural exchange: the chance to meet Americans, practice their English, and experience American culture. Instead, many of them have become low-wage laborers for U.S. corporations.

How has this been possible? Because U.S. corporations have grown so powerful—and so unaccountable—that they were able to turn a cultural exchange program into a source of cheap, exploitable labor. And when human rights abuses like these are exposed, the corporations shift blame down their supply chains, hiding behind layers of suppliers and subcontractors.

A case in point is the Hershey’s Chocolate Company. Last summer, 400 university students from China, Mongolia, Thailand, Ukraine, and other countries paid $3,000-6,000 to take part in the J-1 Summer Work Travel program in Hershey, Pennsylvania. When they arrived in the United States, the students found themselves packing chocolates for Hershey’s under brutal conditions. They performed backbreaking work in round-the-clock shifts for as little as $1 an hour after deductions. They were offered no cultural exchange of any kind. When they raised concerns, supervisors responded with threats of firing and deportation.

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House vote puts greed over worker dignity

On July 18, 2012, the U.S. House Appropriations Committee voted to block funds for the Department of Labor to implement its new rules for the H-2B guestworker program.

Below is a statement by Saket Soni, Executive Director of the National Guestworker Alliance:

“With today’s vote, Congress has once again put corporate greed ahead of struggling workers and small businesses that play by the rules. As the Senate did last month, the House has voted to block the Department of Labor’s new rules for the H-2B guestworker program—rules that would help end the exploitation of guestworkers and the unfair exclusion of U.S. workers. Businesses that rely on exploitation to turn a profit are fighting desperately to block the rules, and today the House took their side.

“This vote is particularly galling so soon after the revelation of forced labor among H-2B guestworkers on the supply chain of Walmart. As a New York Times editorial on the case explained, the relentless drive of Walmart and other corporations to push profits ever higher is forcing down wages and conditions at every point on the supply chain. While all workers suffer, guestworkers are often the most vulnerable, facing severe labor exploitation that can rise to the level of forced labor.

“The rules that the House voted to block are meant to prevent precisely this kind of abuse. Severe labor exploitation in federal guestworker programs is more the rule than the exception, as the National Guestworker Alliance report Leveling the Playing Field details. While guestworkers are locked in to situations of forced labor, U.S. workers are locked out by employers who unfairly exclude them, preferring to hire cheaper, more exploitable guestworkers instead.

“We continue to believe that the DOL’s common-sense rules will prevail in the end. U.S. workers need them as much as guestworkers do. In the meantime, this vote will hurt business owners who aren’t abusing the H-2B program to turn a profit—and will cheer corporations like Walmart that profit from forced labor.”

NYT Editorial: Forced Labor on American Shores – 6/9/12


Forced Labor on American Shores

July 9, 2012, Page A18

It is time to banish the idea that forced labor and sweatshop exploitation are problems of bygone eras or distant countries. These conditions exist within America’s borders. On June 29, Wal-Mart said it had suspended one of its seafood suppliers in Louisiana for violating its workplace standards. The action came as an advocacy group for foreign guest workers announced that it had uncovered appalling abuses at the company, C. J.’s Seafood, and at a dozen other Wal-Mart suppliers too.

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Walmart Suspends Supplier of Seafood – NYT – 6/29/12

New York Times – June 29, 2012

Wal-Mart Suspends Supplier of Seafood


Wal-Mart Stores has suspended one of its seafood suppliers in the South as an advocacy group for foreign workers pressed the retailer to improve working conditions there and at a dozen other suppliers cited for hundreds of federal labor violations.

The advocacy group, the National Guestworker Alliance, said on Friday that it had found terrible conditions at C. J.’s Seafood, a crawfish company in Breaux Bridge, La. Several immigrant workers said they had been forced to work 16 to 24 hours consecutively and had even been locked into the plant. Guest workers said they sometimes labored more than 80 hours a week, had been threatened with beatings to press them to work faster and had been warned that their families in Mexico would be hurt if they complained to government agencies.

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