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Exploited Labor: News & Updates

News Article

Friday, January 13. Without any notice towards the wider public, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released a proclamation of a new workers' rights policy carrying the unexciting headline “DHS Announces Process Enhancements for Supporting Labor Enforcement Investigations.” The policy specifically aims to support undocumented immigrant workers who are victims of abusive working conditions, wage theft or exploitation. It grants a new level of protection to whistle blowers, speaking out on behalf of exploited workers, and implements a system in which victims are able to report abuse and other mistreatment at a local, state or federal level. The new protection takes away workers fear of retaliation by making it easier to apply for temporary protection from detention and deportation at the DHS. Workers who are granted so-called “deferred action” will be allowed to stay and work legally while their employers are being investigated, and perhaps longer.   
Worker advocacy groups have been pushing the Biden Administration since day one, demanding a safe way of reporting abuse and exploitation. This is especially necessary considering the fact that undocumented immigrant workers make up the back bone of the US economy and have kept the country running during the Covid 19 pandemic. But the new policy is not only a victory for undocumented immigrant workers, allowing them to speak out without fear and putting pressure on employers to resolve grievances, as oppressive working conditions often affect citizen workers as well. Holding employers accountable for their actions is a necessary first step in any labor struggle.

Now it's on the Biden Administration to promote and defend this important new policy, for as long as the oppressed working people don't know about it, the new whistleblower system will be useless.

But even though this is a new milestone in workers' rights, one thing is clear. To end the system of abusive and oppressive labor established in the United States and abroad, all working people, regardless of race, legal status or field of work, have to unite in the struggle for workers rights!  

News Article

Solidarity with STIBYS & all Honduran Pepsi Workers!

 

The Honduran Bottlers Union – STIBYS – has informed the Honduras Solidarity Network that Pepsi's bottler and distributor in Latin America is engaged in union busting. The Central America Bottling Corporation (CBC) is a company that has two PepsiCo executives on its board, and has exclusive rights to sell Pepsi products in Honduras and all Latin America. CBC’s Honduran subsidiary, La Reyna, has refused to sign a union contract for five years in which workers have had no raise.  La Reyna has stalled, postponed, and obstructed, and STIBYS has finally concluded that La Reyna does not want an agreement. They want to strip STIBYS of members through attrition by undercutting permanent union jobs with nonunion contract workers who La Reyna allows to sell Pepsi to stores cheaper than the price STIBYS members are permitted to offer.

The situation has become so concerning that the Latin America regional branch of the International Union of Food Workers has organized a campaign in support of STIBYS targeting CBC and PepsiCo.

Your support can stop La Reyna’s outsourcing and get them to negotiate a fair and just union contract with STIBYS!

News Article

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers assisted the DOJ with the case, uncovering and reporting the operation to federal agents after two workers escaped from their employers’ control by hiding in the trunk of a car and called the CIW for help. Together with the sentencing of Bladimir Moreno to 10 years in prison, these court rulings mark the end of a lengthy legal process to bring justice to their many victims. This is the latest of more than a dozen forced labor prosecutions in which the CIW Anti-Slavery Program helped federal agencies uncover and bring the criminal operation to justice.

Of course, the continued prevalence of forced labor in the US agricultural industry is not a problem without a solution.  Quite simply, if all major buyers of produce were to join the Fair Food Program, the market for the produce of farms that operate without regard to US law and fundamental human rights would dry up overnight, and forced labor rings like that run by Bladimir Moreno and his associates would have nowhere to operate.  But as long as major corporations like Wendy’s, Kroger’s, and Publix continue to turn their backs on worker-driven social responsibility and refuse to join the Program, unethical farm employers like Moreno will continue to operate away from the scrutiny on the FFP’s best-in-class monitoring and enforcement mechanisms, and farm labor abuse affecting tens of thousands of farmworkers from Florida to California will continue unchecked.

News Article

The Azúcar Amarga AKA "Bitter Sugar" campaign is an effort that involves 5 civil society organizations, all seeking to visibilize and denounce the harmful impacts caused by sugarcane monoculture. These efforts led the Ministry of the Environment to create a Working Group with partners like Voices on the Border and spearheaded by representatives of Azúcar Amarga, with the intention of further analyzing the problem and defining a roadmap for implementing measures to prevent pollution and environmental deterioration caused by sugarcane crops

News Article

Amazon is the largest sales platform in existence. To hold this status, Amazon has few concerns about labor laws, the environment and fair competition. 

The following article gives 10 reasons not to shop at amazon. 

Amazon...

1. Exploits workers and fights unions.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Amazon has a long history of opposing unionization and most recently was  accused of violating labor laws during the Bessemer, Alabama, union election.

2. Has double the injury rates of industry average.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Injury rates at Amazon facilities are reportedly double that of the industry average.

3. Creates dangerous working conditions for delivery workers.                                                                                                                                                                                                                    49% of delivery workers reported pain or injuries that caused them to miss work.

You can find the full list with detailed descriptions in the article below.

News Article

The last week of October was a win for 40 farm workers who were victims of forced labor in Florida. 

The workers were lured in to gag contracts by the international labor contracting company Los Villatores Harvesting LLC (LVH) who promised the desperate Mexican workers the American Dream jobs on farms in the United States. The Mexican guest worker program is essential for U.S. farms and its economy and provides "guest worker visas" (H2 visa) to thousands of workers. This creates opportunities for exploitive labor and a position of power. LVH used this power. It provided workers the H2 visa against a fee of up to $2,000 promising a refund once their victims arrived in the U.S. The refund was never paid; instead the workers were stripped of their passports and forced to work under inhumane conditions while being threatened with arrest and deportation by their employers and held in debt by LVH. 

This horror finally ended when two workers escaped in the trunk of a car and called the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), a worker protection coalition, who contacted authorities and together with federal agencies and the CIW Anti-Slavery Program uncovered the criminal enterprise. 

Following this investigation, the human trafficking task force stopped this exploitation in its tracks and brought four members of LVH to court. So far the criminal trial led to three sentences.  

The bookkeeper, manager and supervisor Christina Gamez was sentenced to 37 month in prison.

The second supervisor and manager Efrain Cabrera Rodas, a Mexican citizen, was sentenced to 42 months in prison after he made false statements to federal investigators.

A third supervisor, Guadalupe Mendes Mendoza got off with 8 months in home detention.

LVH owner Bladimir Moreno's trial is still ongoing. He pled guilty and will be sentenced on December 28. 

Although this is good news. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers stated that many more foreign workers are still oppressed and exploited under the H2 program. The CIW calls for labor rights enforcement and retail and food companies to commit to human rights standards monitored by workers. Furthermore, the CIW provides the Fair Food Program, helping thousands of workers to fight for their rights. 

News Article

More than a 1000 Honduran construction workers building the new U.S. Embassy complex in Tegucigalpa, Honduras have been on strike for over 4 months now. They are demanding fair payment,  a safe workspace and for the contractor to respect their human rights.  The state and the construction company are reacting with all of their power, firing strike leaders and bringing in riot police, tanks and sharpshooters. Learn how you can support the striking workers in the article below. 

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