Last week we took workers to Houston, Texas for what could be a historical event, the National Action Summit for Latino Worker Health & Safety. The worker leaders who joined us on the trip have helped to build the Health Action Councils in Iowa and Missouri, which were created to address the most pressing issues Latino immigrants and other workers of color face in their workplace in regards to health and safety. Many of the workers attending the conference faced severe consequences. Since many of the workers do not receive fringe benefits or vacations pay, attending this event represented a massive sacrifice because many of them would not be paid for their 3 day absence. Some could risk losing their jobs but the ones who made the trip were lucky, compared to many workers who work in Americans heartland.
There are some who did not make to the summit and more still who didn’t even hear about it. These workers are living under harsh conditions that many of us could not even imagine. They are living under modern slavery, working for dollars a week. All too often we hear the same injustices that many immigrant, refugees and workers of color face in their workplace. Discrimination, wage theft, or outright abusive treatment from employers or supervisors is commonplace. Many employers do not seem to care about workers conditions, especially in areas such as construction, hotels, mines, oil refineries and meat processing plants. The list goes on and on.
Can you imagine you or your loved ones going to work in the morning and not returning home for dinner? According to the Department of Labor, 16 people die a week, in the workplace in the US. Many of these deaths could be prevented if employers follow safety regulations and train the workers properly. Employers need to train workers on how to use equipment, provide them with protective safety equipment and sometimes even proper working machines. It seems that too many times owners only care about production which allows them to make more money and go home to a nice meal with their family.
Throughout the conference, we met great people like Dolores Huerta and Michael Davis, the assistant Secretary of Labor. We also met other friends and colleagues who are fighting to reduce work related injuries and fatalities. The event was extremely rewarding to us and to the workers who attended. The workers from Iowa feel energized, and while they made scarifies, they feel like they gained more knowledge of how to better protect themselves. They will continue to stand for what is right and demand their basic human rights. They will also continue to help others join them in creating safe working conditions in their workplace. Please help us support these brave workers, who just want to come home safe to their families at the end of the day. What could be more American than that?