Workers across all industries are often exposed to hazardous conditions in Pennsylvania and the rest of the United States. But the director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Transnational Law Center recently said in an interview that temporary and migrant workers are especially at risk of workplace accidents.
The director also said these workers are less likely to report hazardous workplace conditions, workplace accidents or workplace injuries compared to regular and permanent workers. She said multiple systemic problems heighten the dangers for temporary and migrant workers.
For example, migrant and temporary workers are sometimes denied basic workers’ rights, which puts these workers at a higher risk of workplace injuries. In a case that has furthered the problem, a company brought visa fraud charges against a worker who was part of an effort to unionize and report retaliation in the workplace.
The worker was convicted of visa fraud and thrown out of the country while the allegations against the company went unnoticed. The case was appealed to the Supreme Court, which confirmed the decision in favor of the employer. A report from Human Rights Watch indicated that the case prevents millions of undocumented workers from reporting unsafe workplaces or unfair treatment.
Sadly, not even the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) can help much after a fatal workplace accident involving temporary or migrant workers. The workplace safety agency often finds that its hands are tied as it does not have criminal prosecution powers, so companies largely get away with knowingly putting vulnerable workers in harm’s way.
Ultimately, the director of the Transnational Law Center said more needs to be done to protect the health and safety of migrant, low-wage and temporary workers. She said doing this will require raising awareness to the fact that workplace safety is a universal right that we are all entitled to.
Source: The Raw Story, “Temporary and migrant workers face ‘systemic’ problem of workplace dangers,” David Ferguson, March 28, 2013