MONTGOMERY, Ala. – In commemoration of International Workers’ Day, or May Day, Southern Poverty Law Center President and CEO Margaret Huang released the following statement.
“As we celebrate the achievements of workers and their right to organize in the workplace, we are reminded of the tremendous challenges that workers in essential industries across the Deep South face today, and the additional challenges many have endured in the last year in particular. Many of these workers are immigrants who are doubly exploited: not only for their labor, but for their legal immigration status too.
“Millions of essential workers are immigrants on the frontlines who keep our country running. Whether it’s the tomato harvesters in Florida, the poultry workers in Georgia, or the meat packing workers in Tennessee, essential immigrant workers form the backbone of our economy.
“Immigrant workers are much less likely to complain about poor or illegal working conditions for fear of retaliation by their employers and immigration authorities. Employers use this dynamic to suppress wages, cover up abuses, and maintain an oppressive power imbalance in the workplace. And for too long, our government has failed to hold employers accountable.
“The government must safeguard all workers’ right to bring to light workplace abuses, regardless of immigration status and without fear of immigration enforcement. The Biden-Harris administration must also work with the Labor Department to crack down on employers, and they can start with the temporary work visa programs, which have long been plagued with abusive and exploitative practices.
“The government must also raise the standards of workplace conditions and protections. The Biden-Harris administration can start to address the dangerous working conditions many immigrant workers face by issuing a Emergency Temporary Standard to protect workers during the pandemic.”
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