Migrants urged to bring forth workplace violations during COVID-19 pandemic


Mexico kicks off Labor Rights Week at more than 50 consulates in the United States

Migrant farm laborers with Fresh Harvest working with an H-2A visa have their temperature checked and are asked questions about their health before boarding the bus to their shift, in the company living quarters on April 28, 2020 in King City, California. (Photo by Brent Stirton/Getty Images)

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — Migrants in essential industries like food services and construction haven’t stopped working through the COVID-19 pandemic, but not all may have received full wages or overtime, Mexican officials said.

That’s why this week more than 50 consulates across the country will be working with the U.S. Labor Department to disseminate labor rights information and encourage migrants who’ve been cheated out of wages by their employers to file complaints.

“You and your rights are essential. All workers have rights, regardless of immigration status,” said Mexican Ambassador to the U.S. Martha Barcena, as she kicked off Labor Rights Week, a yearly campaign to keep Mexican migrants up to date on workplace rights in the United States.

Mexican Ambassador to the United States Martha Barcena kicks off Labor Rights Week, a yearly effort by her country’s government to protect the rights of Mexican migrant workers.

In El Paso, the effort began with the signing of an extension to a memorandum of understanding between the Mexican consulate and the Occupational and Safety Hazard Administration (OSHA). The goal is to encourage migrant workers to have information on how to stay safe and not hesitate in reporting accidents or hazardous workplace conditions.

Mexican Consul General Mauricio Ibarra Ponce de Leon signs a memorandum of understanding with OSHA (courtesy photo)

Owed backpay and overtime wages have been long-standing issues among Mexican migrant workers, consular officials have said, particularly in construction and the food-service industry.

The City of El Paso in 2015 passed a wage theft ordinance providing that city contracts may not be awarded to business owners with a history of wage theft adjudication.

Labor Department data shows it investigated more than 5,000 low-wage complaints in the food services alone in Fiscal Year 2019 involving a total of 41,103 workers and $42.8 million in back wages. More than 3,000 cases involving 25,679 construction workers claiming $38.8 million owed were reviewed that year.

Graphic courtesy U.S. Labor Department

To report wage theft in Texas, you may call the Texas Workforce Commission Labor Law Section at 1 (800) 832-9243 or (512) 475-2670.

The consulate usually hosts in-person seminars, talks and one-on-ones between migrants and labor experts. This year a lot of the information will be passed on through online messages on its Facebook and YouTube Pages.

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