WASHINGTON – U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and ambassadors from the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica and El Salvador signed accords Monday to protect the labor rights of immigrant workers from those nations.
By means of the “We Can Help” (Podemos Ayudar) program, the Labor Department plans to aid immigrant workers who suffer abuse in the workplace or have their rights as workers violated.
“We understand that many migrant workers in America are afraid to report mistreatment because it can lead to more abuse, the loss of their job or deportation. With these partnerships, we seek to remove these fears,” Solis said at the signing ceremony.
The accords signed by Costa Rican Ambassador Muni Figueres, Dominican envoy Anibal Castro and El Salvador’s Claudia Beltran, are similar to existing pacts with Nicaragua, Guatemala and Mexico.
“Our goal is to help workers and employers understand that labor laws are enforced and enforceable, giving everyone the opportunity to comply with the U.S. laws that cover all workers,” Solis said.
Through the 50 Mexican consulates in the United States, and now the embassies of the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica and El Salvador, immigrants working in the U.S. can report any case of abuse on the job and get help.
“Immigrants are not a threat to the United States, just the opposite. It’s essential that they understand their rights as workers and that they stop being afraid of being fired or deported,” the Mexican ambassador, Arturo Sarukhan, said Monday at the signing ceremony.
The program improves the information that immigrant workers have about U.S. labor laws and allows U.S. officials to counsel both workers and employers on such topics as wages, job security and health-care laws, areas in which foreign employees can be vulnerable.
Jobs that typically have the greatest number of labor-law violations are in construction, cleaning, and the hotel and catering business, where a great many immigrant workers are employed.
Guatemala, which signed the accord several months ago, is very positive about the program, the ambassador of that country to Washington, Julio Armando Martini-Herrera, told Efe.
“We’ve had people from the Labor Department visiting our consulates to inform Guatemalan citizens about their employment situation and the word has spread incredibly. I wish people in our own country could be as well informed,” Martini-Herrera said. EFE