Panels Point to Need for Better Labor Enforcement, Comprehensive Immigration Reform
Today, leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives will hold two important hearings to examine the Bush Administration’s failure to uphold labor standards, and the need for common sense immigration reform.
In May 2008, the federal government arrested nearly 400 immigrant workers at the Agriprocessors meatpacking plant in Postville, IA. Despite horrific stories of worker abuse, the government prioritized the deportation of immigrant workers over the prosecution of labor violations by their employer. This month, the Iowa attorney general charged Agriprocessors’ owners and senior managers with over 9,000 violations of child labor laws, but the federal government still has a job to do to investigate and enforce U.S. labor law.
Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections in the House Committee on Education and Labor, is holding a hearing on the status of child labor in the United States. Inspired in part by the Agriprocessors example, the hearing will examine the federal government’s role in protecting children from abusive conditions and work, and what more needs to be done.
Congresswoman Hilda Solis (D-CA) is also hosting a Congressional briefing to explore the impact of the Agriprocessors raid on the women and children of Postville, IA. The briefing will feature representatives from the Postville community who have been working with families separated by the immigration raid, along with experts in labor law and women in the workplace.
“There is a common thread between these two events,” said Lynn Tramonte, Policy Director of America’s Voice. “The federal government has failed to make worker protection a priority, and women and children are suffering as a result. Instead of throwing the book at unscrupulous employers who hire and exploit undocumented workers, the government is going after the workers themselves and turning a blind eye to sad stories of worker abuse.
“The solution to the problems outlined today is to combine stronger labor law enforcement with common sense immigration reform,” Tramonte continued. “We need to enforce the law against unscrupulous employers who exploit undocumented workers, and we need to bring these workers out of the shadows so that they can exercise their labor rights. The reach of the law should be long enough to protect all workers, and right now our nation’s immigration laws and enforcement priorities are failing us. I commend Congresswoman Woolsey and Congresswoman Solis for bringing attention to these important issues, and pressing the Administration to do right by all workers—immigrant and native-born.”
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