Strengthening Our Commitment to Protect Vulnerable Workers

Today, I signed joint declarations with ambassadors from the governments of Honduras, the Philippines, Peru and Ecuador. Under these agreements, the Labor Department will collaborate with these countries’ embassies and consulates to reach out to migrant workers and their employers and educate them about U.S. labor laws.

Just two years ago, we had signed only one such partnership with Mexico. The number grew to six in late 2010 with the addition of Guatemala, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica and El Salvador. And today’s agreements bring the total to ten.

Secretary Solis discusses the impact of new partnerships on workers’ rights during a signing ceremony with Ambassador Nathalie Cely of Ecuador; Ambassador Harold W. Forsyth of Peru; Ambassador José L. Cuisia, Jr. of the Philippines; and Ambassador Jorge Ramón Hernández Alcerro of Honduras.

Our motivation for signing this agreement is straightforward: If we allow some employers to jeopardize, exploit and underpay their workers, we encourage other companies to do the same to stay competitive. When that happens, all working people lose. Yet, when businesses are encouraged to provide lawful wages and safe work conditions, everyone wins. It’s smart government policy and it’s consistent with our values.

Our partnerships with embassies and consulates help us enforce laws that protect all workers, including U.S. citizens. They remove the incentive to hire and exploit workers who are unaware of rights or afraid to complain.

In addition, the partnerships help the Occupational Safety and Health Administration reach vulnerable workers in dangerous industries with information that can prevent accidents and save lives. Bureau of Labor Statistics data bear this out. Roughly half of the foreign born workforce is Hispanic and these workers are 47 percent more likely to die from workplace injuries than the general population.

Our partnerships also help ensure that workers who do hard jobs, for long hours and low pay, receive the wages they have earned. Enforcing minimum wage laws rewards companies that play by the rules. And, it has enabled our Wage and Hour inspectors to recover millions of dollars in back wages.

Each person we have helped has a story – like a Mexican man who obtained a work visa and came to this country to provide for his family back home. He worked long hours every day as a landscaper with the hope of saving enough money for Christmas presents for his seven children and a down payment on a small piece of land. But every payday, his employer confiscated a significant portion of his wages. As it turned out, this employer forced all of his Mexican employees to pay him kickbacks, or they would be fired and sent home. Our Wage and Hour team recovered those lost wages and stopped this illegal behavior. The astonished man told our investigator: “I never thought that justice would be served for us—foreign workers.”

I’m so proud we could help justice prevail. And I know today’s signing will lead to more success in our mission to protect all workers in the US.

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Comments (7)

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  1. CHARLES E. KELLY says:

    If the econonoy is put to work then the us. labor force is on the rise and the market can move with the smoothness of ease, as a matter of fact 1oo% will be a growing affect in the future of the market rise.

  2. Valerie Grassi says:

    I agree it was wrong what the employer was doing by taking kickbacks. However, what I do NOT agree with is the fact that U.S. money being sent to Mexico!! I live in San Antonio, Texas and I see it every day, a Mexican worker taking jobs from citizens & legal permanent residents (only because they will take less). The Mexican’s send all their U.S. earned money to Mexico feeding into Mexico’s poor broken Economy AND the DRUG CARTELS. That’s hurting our Workforce and Economy in the U.S. every day. My husband is from Italy, has a Master’s degree he is here legally and he paid to become a legal permanent resident but he can’t find a job in MY HOME (San Antonio, TX), so we may need to move to another city or another state just to find decent work. We keep our money in the U.S. he do NOT send it to his parents and 2 sisters in Italy (they could really use it with the high taxes there) because we believe in the “American Dream.” We look forward to buying a home in the U.S. someday but our U.S. Workforce doesn’t make it easy when the better jobs require him to be a U.S. citizen. Maybe we should require that Mexican’s use at least half their income in the U.S. (the people helping them) by helping the U.S. economy and set up a saving program for the Mexican’s to save their money to bring their family here legally!

  3. Zeaidson L. Mendiola says:

    I am Zeaidson L. Mendiola 28, Years old, Single, Male, Physically and Mentally Fit. I am a native born from the Philippine Islands. I am Presently and Specifically located in My hometown at Brgy:Hipusngo Sitio Ipil Ipil, Baybay City, Province of Leyte, Philippines 6521. I am Interested and Willing to be Joined and Work in your most high advance Technology and Industry because, I am looking a Job that may Qualify My Ability, Spiritually, and Mentally. I am need your Help, assessment, Guidance, Sponsor, and Support. Thank You in Advance and More Power.
    Sincerely, Zeaidson L. Mendiola

  4. Melanie says:

    I feel that this is a good thing that our government is doing by protecting those that have the legal right to come to the United States for employment. I have seen how the men from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and Salvador work. These gentlemen take pride in their work and do it with dignity, because they are very thankful to be able to support their families. Money goes a long way in the South and Central American countries.

  5. Nitesh Ahir says:

    i have seen in many countries private as well government companies have kind of people who take hardest decision to work on that place where we can see maximum risk.

    I do agree with @Melanie:
    even if in US there are many place where we can found maximum risk… & not covered fully..
    you should proud on your work… that your are supporting while happened this kind of accident happened.. even if you & your team & organization is supporting to their family..
    seriously great work by your team… nice steps… & should learn from other government.

  6. Marko says:

    I dont see the flag of the United States being flown on that dais. Why is this? All the other countries have there flag represented.

  7. Jin. A says:

    This is a highly appreciable step taken by Labor Sec; Hon. Hilda Solis.
    I am; as an embassy employee, would like to comment, that there are slavery and inhuman treatments for the employees of some embassies. No sick leave grants, on serious occassions. No overtime payments according to the US and their own country labor laws. I feel that, US still permit for slavory. I do hereby kindly request you to ascertain on this complaint and respond me by e-mail. I will prove this statement.

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