An agreement signed last week is giving migrant workers an avenue to report unsafe work conditions. The governments of Mexico and the U.S. are trying to do more to protect undocumented workers in Arizona.
Many of those workers can be extremely reluctant to complain about their workplace because of the fear they would be fired or, at worst, deported.
The agreement lets an undocumented worker file an anonymous complaint with the Mexican consulate in Phoenix, Yuma, Nogales or Tucson and then that complaint gets forwarded to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA.
"To let people know. It's OK. It's safe. We want you to be safe," said Phoenix OSHA director Zachary Barnett. "Let them know, hey, you do have rights. Under any circumstance. You still do have the right to a safe workplace."
Barnett says 12 Latino workers die on the job every week. He says it's challenging to let foreigners know they have protections in the U.S.
"By their nature they're hesitant to speak with people. Certainly of course people from the federal government and that's where our Mexican partners can help us," said Barnett.
Opponents feel as though the program adds legitimacy to people who are living and working in the country illegally.
"It's like another step forward in giving them legal standing in this country," said former Arizona Republican Party Chairman Randy Pullen.
Pullen believes if the federal government more vigorously enforced E-Verify with employers a program like the reporting system wouldn't be necessary.
"And if they did that we wouldn't have illegal immigrants working in the workforce," said Pullen.
Activist Lydia Guzman gets calls constantly from workers who don't know what to do in certain situations.
"That they're a victim of wage theft. That their bosses are abusing them," said Guzman. "Undocumented workers are more vulnerable to labor abuse."
Guzman and Barnett agree the hardest part of the initiative is getting the word out to these workers that they don't have to be afraid to report problems.
"Having a job and being safe. Working hard and going home the same way you came is the very least we can do for anyone in this country," said Barnett.
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