Amnesty will help illegal construction workers fight for better working conditions

Amnesty will help illegal construction workers fight for better working conditions

[Ed. – We’ll keep calling New Republic The New Republic, or TNR, until instructed otherwise.  Meanwhile: the unions of old wouldn’t have taken this lying down.  But today’s unions prance around protesting a lot of unrelated nonsense, and do less and less for their own workers.  Some of them may be down with this.]

Illegal immigrants in the U.S. tend to avoid contact with authorities out of fear of being caught and deported. In the construction industry, this reluctance has left them with a disproportionate risk of injury or death. Fearful of reporting unsafe working conditions, they are vulnerable to negligent and abusive employers.

For these workers, President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration could be a game changer. By protecting more than four million undocumented immigrants from deportation and offering the prospect of work permits to some, it provides undocumented construction workers the leverage needed to fight for safer working conditions. The result could be far fewer deaths on job sites. …

Lou Coletti, head of the Building Trade Employers’ Association (BTEA)…estimates that half of all residential construction projects [in New York City]once the exclusive domain of organized labornow involve non-union workers. …

Undocumented workers…are often reluctant to report unsafe conditions or injuries out of fear of losing their jobs or getting deported, said Ligia Guallpa, head of the advocacy group Worker’s Justice Project. By removing the immediate threat of deportation from most undocumented immigrants, Obama’s immigration plan could help overcome that reluctance. …

But while immigration reform will likely help improve the bargaining power of undocumented construction workers, activists argue that more is needed to ensure they enjoy protections similar to their unionized peers.

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