Safety Advocates Applaud New Protections for Immigrant Workers

13 Feb 2023

For immediate release, February 13, 2023
Contact:  Melissa Moriarty, [email protected], 603.505.7135

Safety Advocates Applaud New Protections for Immigrant Workers

OSHA Can Now Certify Visas to Victims of Labor Trafficking, Safety Violations and Other Workplace Abuses

A step forward for workers who are essential to our economy and our communities, says National COSH

Los Angeles:  Leaders of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH) said today that a new policy announced Tuesday, February 13th  by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will offer significant protections for immigrant workers, including those who are undocumented.

“This is a step forward for immigrant workers in the U.S., including millions who are undocumented,” said Jessica E. Martinez, co-executive director of National COSH. “These workers are essential to our economy and communities but are all too often victimized by unscrupulous employers. These same employers frequently threaten to use immigration status as a way to silence workers and prevent them from speaking up about abusive and illegal practices in their workplaces.”

“When workers have a voice, they can join together to stop illegal conduct and exploitation by their employers,” said Martinez.

U.S. OSHA announced today that going forward, the agency has authority to certify T-visas applications to workers who are victims of labor trafficking, and U-visas to those who have suffered mental or physical abuse as a result of illegal conduct by their employers, such as   violations of safety laws, and other mistreatment in the workplace. The visas will allow workers to remain in the U.S. so that their testimony can be used to investigate and prosecute illegal workplace practices.  

“Millions of immigrants – including undocumented workers – in the U.S. grow, prepare and serve our food, build our homes, care for our children and perform many other vital functions,” said Martinez. “It’s absurd to claim these workers don’t” belong” here. They are here, and they deserve the same dignity, respect and safety on the job as everyone else.”

“Protecting workers who are witnesses to illegal workplace abuses not only means workers can be treated fairly, it also creates a level playing field for employers,” said Marcy Goldstein-Gelb, also a co-executive director of National COSH. “Companies that provide a safe workplace, use above-board hiring and recruitment practices and pay workers what they are owed should not have to compete with those who break the law to gain an unfair advantage.”

National COSH links the efforts of local worker health and safety coalitions in communities across the United States, advocating for elimination of preventable hazards in the workplace. For more information, please visit nationalcosh.org. Follow us @NationalCOSH on Facebook, @NationalCOSH on Twitter and @NationalCOSH on Instagram.