The New American Slavery:
Invited to the U.S., Foreign Workers Find a Nightmare
"Guest workers often toil in conditions that are unsafe, inhumane, or simply exhausting, wielding dangerous machinery beneath a scorching sun or standing for hours on end in sweltering factories. And at the end of their shift, many workers retire to grim, squalid quarters that might be little more than a grimy mattress on the floor of a crowded, vermin-infested trailer. For such housing, some employers charge workers extortionate rent.
Though it is against the law, employers often exert additional control over guest workers by confiscating their passports, without which many foreign workers, fearful of being deported, feel unsafe leaving the worksite. Some employers extend their influence over workers to extremes, screening their mail, preventing them from receiving visitors, banning radios and newspapers, or even coercing them to attend religious services they don’t believe in. Some foremen sexually harass female workers, who live in constant fear of losing their jobs and being deported.
The world has become accustomed in recent years to hearing of guest worker abuse in countries such as Qatar or Thailand. But this is happening in the United States. And the problem is not just a few unscrupulous employers. The very structure of the visa program enables widespread abuse and exploitation.
The way H-2 visas shackle workers to a single employer leaves them almost no leverage to demand better treatment. The rules also make it easy to banish a worker to her home country at the boss’s whim. And guest workers tend to be so poor — and, often, so indebted from the recruitment fees they paid to get the job in the first place — that they feel they have no choice but to endure even the worst abuses.
Court documents and interviews revealed numerous cases where workers who tried to speak out said they received threats to their lives. Many others claimed they were blacklisted by employers, losing the opportunity to get jobs that, however miserable, give them more money than they could earn in their own countries.
The government has been warned repeatedly over almost two decades that the guest worker program is deeply troubled, with more than a dozen official reports excoriating it for everything from widespread visa fraud to rampant worker abuse, and even calling for its elimination. Since 2005, Labor Department investigation records show, at least 800 employers have subjected more than 23,000 H-2 guest workers to violations of the federal laws designed to protect them from exploitation, including more than 16,000 instances of H-2 workers being paid less than the promised wage.
Those numbers almost certainly understate the problem, as the federal government doesn’t check up on the vast majority of companies that bring guest workers into this country. The Labor Department noted in its statement that it has limited resources, with only about 1,000 investigators to enforce protections for all 135 million workers in the U.S. Still, it said, it recovered more than $2.6 million in back wages owed to roughly 4,500 H-2 workers in the 2014 fiscal year. In that year, the agency said, it found violations in 82% of the H-2 visa cases it investigated.
Kalen Fraser, a former investigator for the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division who specialized in H-2 visa cases, said that while some companies stumble over complex rules, a substantial portion “maliciously” violate worker protection laws. “There’s a big power imbalance there, and the worst guys get away with everything.”
Thursday, September 17, 2015
The Left's New American Slavery: H2 Visas
Bernie Sanders supported H2 Visa expansion: thinly veiled American slavery of foreign workers.