Retaliation against injured immigrant workers
Emboldened by Trump’s aggressive deportation tactics, some employers have tried to dodge their legal responsibility to provide workers’ comp benefits by reporting undocumented injured workers to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Florida lawmakers are reviewing a 2003 state law that has been used to deport hundreds of injured undocumented workers for filing workers’ comp claims. A ProPublic and NPR investigation found that the law, which makes it illegal to file for workers’ compensation using a false social security number, incentivizes insurance companies to report undocumented workers to law enforcement rather than paying them legally owed benefits.
Worker groups have been training their communities on what to do. The National Day Labor Organizing Network has factsheets in English and Spanish explaining immigrant workers’ rights, listing resources, and offering advice on what to do if ICE raids your home or workplace. The National Employment Law Project (NELP) has published a factsheet explaining immigrant workers' rights to workers' comp and advising workers' comp lawyers on how help if retaliation occurs.
Health and safety under the Trump administration
Over 800,000 workers will continue to face risks of debilitating respiratory and kidney diseases from unsafe silica exposure because the Trump administration plans to backtrack on desperately needed updates to permissible limits on silica exposure.
The silica rule rollback is part of a broader assault on occupational health and safety regulations, including a proposal to reject updated beryllium exposure limits for shipyard and construction workers, suspension of a rule implementing an electronic database of workplace injury and illness, and a delay on new requirements for mining safety inspections.
At the same time, OSHA and MSHA face major slashes in their enforcement budgets under the House Budget proposal, which would eliminate an important worker safety training program and further impair the already strained agencies' ability to protect workers.
Victory for Illinois temp workers
In a big win for worker organizers in Illinois, the state’s legislature passed a badly needed law targeting unjust practices and unsafe working conditions in the temp industry. The new law — which aims to end “perma-temping,” counter racial bias in hiring, and ensure proper safety equipment and training, among other things — was championed by the Chicago Workers’ Collaborative (CWC), Warehouse Workers for Justice (WWJ), the Illinois AFL-CIO, Raise the Floor Alliance, and NESRI.
Migrant dairy workers win big
Farmworker organizers from Migrant Justice celebrated a major victory when Ben & Jerry’s became the first company to sign a “Milk with Dignity” agreement, which will ensure dignified housing, fair wages, adequate time off, and safe working conditions on all Vermont farms supplying the company’s dairy. NESRI, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and the other members of the new Worker-Driven Social Responsibility Network played a key role in working with Migrant Justice to win the agreement.
“The Milk with Dignity agreement is a life changing victory for Vermont’s dairy workers,” explains Cathy Albisa, Executive Director of NESRI, “and it has broader import too. This is the first time that the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ innovative worker-led enforcement model has been transferred from the tomato industry to another sector.”
Several fatal accidents in the past year have called attention to the hazardous conditions facing dairy workers across the country. With very little OSHA oversight, exemption from many labor regulations, and geographically isolated immigrant workers who are highly vulnerable to threats and harassment, the dairy industry is very dangerous, and few of its workers get workers’ comp when they’re hurt on the job.
New York workers’ comp cuts
In New York, the Workers’ Compensation Board has proposed drastic cuts in compensation for injured workers with impaired limbs. The New York Workers’ Compensation Alliance is organizing against the changes. Find out more and take action here.