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Labor Rights Week

The Labor Department uses the upcoming Labor Day to increase worker rights awareness

Labor Rights Week is an annual initiative that revolves around Labor Day.

Richard Shaw with the local AFL-CIO says it is meant to increase awareness that all workers have labor rights, regardless of their immigration status.

“I might be fine as an Anglo worker and I’ve got everything going for me, but somebody gets cheated and eventually gonna come to me,” said Shaw. “And what’s significant here, this is the first collaboration of its kind in the entire nation.”

The event is held in cities where Mexico has a consulate, to reach out to the Mexican worker population. They may be facing labor issues related to their immigrant status.

Shaw says it’s a significant collaboration that exits for the Greater Houston region.

“This particular program started 13 years ago, and the idea was to have a central call-in point where immigrant workers could call in and get some help,” said Shaw. “And then, those issues are referred out to the different government agencies as they apply.”

Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia says it’s important that employers know that violating any workers’ rights can get them into serious trouble.

“It’s against the law if someone thinks that they’re going to have someone work for them, play by the rules, and yet get paid less than what they’re owed, or not get paid at all,” said Garcia. “And that is one of the issues that the immigrant community is drastically facing.”

Robin Mallett with the Department of Labor says unless workers know what their rights are, they will not come forward and lodge a complaint.

“If one employer is not paying in compliance with the law, then if they bid on contracts, then their labor costs may be lower, probably will be lower, and therefore it wouldn’t be a level playing field for those who are complying with the law,” said Mallett.

The Worker Protection agreements signed by the Labor Department and Mexican consulate renew efforts to locate and educate low wage, at-risk workers about their rights and protections. They also put employers on notice, to ensure safe workplaces and pay their workers legally required wages.

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