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Wage Standards and Workplace Freedom

Workplace Tragedies Point to Need for States to Take Lead in Workplace Safety

April has seen two major industrial accidents that have captured the national eye. Explosions at the Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia and the Deepwater Horizon oil rig off the coast of Louisiana claimed the lives of forty workers and injured thirty-eight. Much of the media attention on these tragedies has focused on the culpability of employers and enforcement capacity at federal agencies responsible for regulating mine and offshore drilling safety. However, there are proactive steps states can take to address occupational safety hazards and ensure people do not have to sacrifice their personal safety in exchange for a paycheck.

Progressive States Network applauds Labor Department's new priorities to protect all workers

NEW YORK — The Progressive States Network, a national network of state legislators and advocates, is in full support of Labor Secretary Hilda Solis’ new priorities for the department. In her remarks yesterday at a press conference with New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine, Solis reiterated her commitment to ensure basic protections for all workers, native and immigrant alike.

Solis has committed the Labor Department to investigating wage and hour law violations by employers and health and safety concerns. This much needed policy will help address the pervasive problems of the underground economy by preventing unscrupulous employers from threatening and exploiting undocumented workers, thus maintaining higher labor standards for all.

New Mexico Enacts Wage Law Enforcement, Joins National Trend

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson recently signed a wage enforcement bill (H 489) to allow underpaid workers to collect their back wages plus twice that amount in damages. The bill was backed by community groups and labor unions as well as the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions.  New Mexico now becomes the eighth state that allows workers to collect treble damages against employers violating the minimum wage — a key deterrent to employers to ensure compliance with the minimum wage. 

RELEASE: Policy recommendations from Corzine panel would put NJ at forefront of immigration reform

JERSEY CITY, NJ — At a press conference this morning, Gov. Jon Corzine unveiled the results of his Blue Ribbon Panel on Immigration Policy, which included recommendations for the establishment of an Office on New Americans to help integrate immigrant families into the state’s culture and work force.  Policy experts at the Progressive States Network (PSN) were quick to praise the panel’s recommendations, which they placed within an emerging trend among state lawmakers to include working immigrant families into plans for shared economic growth.

According to PSN Interim Executive Director Nathan Newman, who authored a comprehensive 50-state analysis of state immigration policy last September, “The story that states are rushing out to punish undocumented immigrants is really a smoke screen. When you look at the facts, you see that more and more states are finding ways to integrate immigrants into a growing workforce and thriving small business community.  States like New Jersey realize that there is a far better economic future in working together than there is in dividing the population against itself.”

Obama's labor secretary pick backs enforcement

President Obama's pick for secretary of labor, Rep. Hilda Solis, could help shape a new approach to immigration control that emphasizes the robust enforcement of labor laws.

Where the Bush administration stepped up workplace immigration enforcement, sweeping up migrant workers and not always going after the employers who illegally hire them, the Obama administration is expected to take a different tack.

Immigrant advocates hope that strengthening compliance with workplace health and safety laws and wage and hour standards - which Solis promised in her hearing before the labor committee in January - will protect workers in general and could reduce the likelihood that some employers will seek to profit by hiring undocumented workers.

Iowa: What Happens When a Town Implodes

Iowa: What Happens When a Town Implodes

TIME Magazine

Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2009

By Betsy Rubiner / Postville