POWER Act Introduced
Today on Capitol Hill the Jobs with Justice joined the Excluded Workers’ Congress in convening a leadership summit to celebrate the re-introduction of the Protect Our Workers from Exploitation and Retaliation (POWER) Act by Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Congresswoman Judy Chu (D-CA).
This legislation would expand the right to organize and ensure protections to workers by removing the fear of employer retaliation. Speaking at the event, Senator Menendez said, “The act would give workers a voice when reporting abuses by curbing the fear of deportation”.
The event entitled, The Power To Work With Dignity: Expanding the Right To Organize For Inclusion In Our Fundamental Rights put in dialogue community leaders, congressionals, leaders in the labor, civil, and immigrant rights movements, and immigrant workers who have led courageous workplace organizing campaigns.
At the event, a guestworker, day laborer and a former domestic worker shared their stories to underscore the importance of providing worker protections for immigrant workers. Their accounts match those workers all across the country, many of whom experience unsafe working conditions, stolen wages, and violent threats. One of the workers, Josue—a day laborer who came to the U.S. after Hurricane Gustav, reported that on site in Beaumont, TX they were put to work cleaning up in toxic areas. “While the U.S. workers had safety equipment,” said Josue “we had nothing. When we asked for equipment, we were thrown in jail for nearly 3 months.”
The POWER Act is a tool to organize. It would grant temporary visas to workers who were trying to report employer abuse. “It would not end workplace violations and mistreatments,” said Saket Soni, the director of the New Orleans Worker Center for Racial Justice which houses the National Guestworker Alliance, “but it would remove the fear and expand the ability of workers to organize and to demand dignity.”
The legislation calls us to look ahead and to ask how we are going to act as workers, organizers, and community members without fear of our employers and of our government to ensure the right to organize. This is a push for every worker to be included into the laws of this country. Said Soni, “It will not solve all of our problems, but it is one giant step in that direction.”
If you want to learn more about this and the campaigns of workers that are a part of this story, register for Jobs with Justice's national conference--www.jwj.org/conference!