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Worker Safety Group Calls for Comprehensive Immigration Reform to Protect Immigrant Workers

Wednesday, May 1, 2013
Press Contacts: 

 

Dorry Samuels, (508) 277-7997, dorry.samuels@gmail.com

Worker Safety Group Calls for Comprehensive Immigration Reform to Protect Immigrant Workers

National COSH Outlines Platform to Ensure That Immigrant Workers Can Safely Speak Up About Working Conditions

Today, on May Day, the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH) joins with workplace safety advocates across the country in calling for comprehensive immigration reform to improve health and safety for immigrant workers – and all workers alike.

As events are held nationwide to celebrate International Workers’ Day, National COSH emphasizes the importance of empowering immigrant workers – regardless of their legal status – to step out of the shadows and speak up about unsafe working conditions.

“The delays and inaction by our government in establishing a citizenship pathway for 11 million undocumented immigrants stand as a major obstacle in efforts to ensure safe and healthy workplaces for all,” said Tom O’Connor, executive director of National COSH. “Immigrant workers have played a vital role in the workforce, economy, culture and communities of the United States, and we must reform our immigration system to make it possible for them to fully integrate into the nation’s social and economic structures, with all the rights and responsibilities entailed in full integration.”

Added Jessica E. Martinez, assistant director of National COSH, “Federal inaction on immigration reform has resulted in a rampant mistreatment of hardworking immigrant workers to exercise their workplace health and safety rights.”

In 2010, there were 798 workplace deaths reported among immigrant workers, Martinez said. Since 1992, fatalities among immigrant workers have increased by 26 percent, from 635 deaths to 798 deaths in 2010.

“Immigrant workers exposed to dangerous working conditions are afraid to report hazardous work conditions out of fear of retaliation and losing the job that sustains the survival of their families,” Martinez said. “The COSH Network calls for immediate immigration reform that propels immigrant workers to come out of the shadows and exercise their human right to safe and healthy workplaces.”

Last week, National COSH released a report, “Preventable Deaths: The Tragedy of Workplace Fatalities,” which found an alarming rate of immigrant worker fatalities in comparison to native-born workers. More than two Latino workers were killed on the job every day in 2011, many of whom were immigrant workers, the report said.

National COSH points to several items that should be included in comprehensive immigration reform to ensure that immigrant workers are just as safe on the job as native-born workers. These include:

  • Creating a roadmap to first-class citizenship for the 11 million aspiring Americans;
  • Establishing full labor and workplace rights and protections for all workers regardless of immigration status;
  • Protecting workers from immigration-based employer retaliation; 
  • Maintaining due process and worker protections, and eliminating the use of E-Verify;
  • Reforming worksite immigration enforcement to protect workers’ rights; and
  • Halting the expansion of temporary and guest worker programs and ensuring existing programs do not undermine workers’ rights. 

“Immigrant workers toil away in some of the most dangerous jobs in the most dangerous industries in the U.S., and unfortunately, a disproportionate number of immigrant workers perish on the job,” said Chloe Osmer, an organizer for the AFL-CIO and a board member for the Southern California Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (SoCalCOSH). “Comprehensive immigration reform must include protections that empower immigrant workers to speak up for themselves and report unsafe working conditions without fear of retaliation or deportation.”

Read National COSH’s complete platform.

Read National COSH’s report, “Preventable Deaths: The Tragedy of Workplace Fatalities."

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The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health is a federation of local and statewide organizations; a private, non-profit coalition of labor unions, health and technical professionals, and others interested in promoting and advocating for worker health and safety.

To learn more about the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, visit: http://www.coshnetwork.org.