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Prof Gordon Argues for Legal Reform for Guest Workers

Submitted by on September 17 – 2013No Comment

Professor Jennifer Gordon recently wrote an op-ed for the New York Times about Jamaican guest workers who went on strike to protest very low wages and poor living conditions in Florida this summer. Unfortunately, the strike proved fruitless when their employer simply told the guest workers if they did not show up to work, immigration authorities and local law enforcement would escort them to the airport to fly home. Gordon explains that due to the legal mechanisms surrounding the guest worker program, it is difficult for guest workers to advocate for their own rights in any meaningful way.

Guest workers, however, offer something hiring a local worker does not: subservience. They are tied by law to the employer who sponsored their visas, which means that if they are found too “difficult” for any reason — including asking that their rights be respected — the employer can effectively deport them and blacklist them from receiving future work visas.

Gordon explains that subcontractors businesses use to recruit guest workers shield businesses from legal liability for the treatment of workers and organizing efforts like those of the Jamaican guest workers. She advocates for three steps to prevent abuses in this system, including immigration reform, changes in the subcontracting chain, and reform to labor laws.

This Labor Day, a group of courageous workers in Florida remind us that the right to fair working conditions is one that no company should be able to subcontract its way out of.

Read Gordon’s op-ed in the New York Times.

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