For Immediate Release
Monday, February 13, 2023
Media Contact: Erik Villalobos, firstname.lastname@example.org
(Nationwide) Today, US Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh joined Doug Parker, assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to sign a memorandum granting OSHA the authority to Issue U-Visa & T-Visa certifications.
In response to the latest announcement from the US Department of Labor, Bliss Requa-Trautz of Arriba Las Vegas Worker Center and Maria del Rosario Palacios of Georgia Familias Unidas released the following joint statement:
“We applaud Labor Secretary Marty Walsh’s decision today granting the Occupational Safety and Health Administration the necessary authority to protect immigrants whose rights have been violated in exploitative and dangerous workplaces or by human trafficking.
Every worker has the right to earn a living in a safe workplace free of mental and physical abuse. But too many immigrants are denied that right by predatory employees who abuse them and intimidate them into silence with threats of retaliation and deportation.
For years immigrants’ and workers’ rights advocates have urged the Labor Department to include OSHA among the agencies that can certify immigrant workers for protection from deportation and permission to work through the U-Visa program (for victims of certain crimes) and the T-Visa program (for victims of human trafficking). OSHA is charged with protecting workers’ rights by enforcing the nation’s health and safety laws. It only makes sense to utilize the full authority of the Department of Labor to ensure abusive employers are brought to task, and to protect the immigrant workers who experience and report these abuses.
Any policy that empowers immigrant workers to speak out and defend themselves against criminal employers is a victory for all workers in the United States.
This decision is the result of much work by stakeholders in meetings with OSHA and the Labor Department to press their case for workers’ rights. We are inspired by the example of the current and former employees of the crooked Nevada painting company Unforgettable Coatings, who stood together and fought back against years of wage theft and retaliatory threats, finally winning a lawsuit and a nearly $3.7 million settlement. Numerous workers have been injured throughout the years, and in one OSHA investigation the employer instructed workers to lie to investigators.
Today’s announcement is a tangible form of relief for the workers of Foundation Food Groups, who have organized with the support of Georgia Familias Unidas in the aftermath of a deadly and preventable chemical explosion that claimed the lives of six poultry workers in Gainesville, GA. In the immediate aftermath of the explosion, workers at the Poultry plant reported threats related to immigration before their vital signs were even taken.
These cases are merely the tip of a vast iceberg of employer exploitation abuse. There is still much work to do to implement this decision. Along with the White House’s newly enacted whistleblower policy granting work authorization and deferred deportation to undocumented immigrants who step forward in labor investigations, today’s decision by Secretary Walsh is another excellent step forward.
We urge the Biden Administration — starting at the top, with the President himself — to proudly own and publicly proclaim the value of these policies in securing immigrants’ rights and workers’ rights. Very good decisions have been made — now all immigrant workers and the public at large need to know about them, so these policies can have the maximum good effect.”