Friday, August 31 marks the final day of Labor Rights Week, a series of annual events organized by the U.S. Department of Labor to educate workers about their basic workplace rights and to raise awareness of workplace safety and fair compensation.
The theme for the week’s events, “Promoting Labor Rights is Everyone’s Responsibility,” underscores the importance of partnerships between the Labor Department and other countries to educate migrant workers and their employers about U.S. labor laws.
“Making America’s workplaces safe and fair for everyone is the hallmark of Labor Rights Week,” said Labor Secretary Hilda Solis.” We’re committed to ensuring that workers are safe on the job and paid what they’re owed by law. This means no one can be paid less than $7.25 an hour. It means overtime must be paid for each hour above 40 a week. And it means that employers must provide a safe workplace.”
The Labor Department’s efforts are spearheaded by two Department agencies. The Wage and Hour Division, which enforces federal laws governing minimum wage, overtime pay, child labor, and migrant worker rights, has been educating workers about their rights to fair compensation and other important workplace issues. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which mainly focuses on protecting workers from unsafe working conditions, has been leading programs about worker safety for the week’s events.
In Salt Lake City, one of the 11 U.S. cities where the Labor Department held presentations, Mexican Consul Socorro Rovirosa told workers that it is important for workers to report labor law violations, including unpaid wages for completed work and dangerous working conditions.
“An informed community is a safe community,” Ms. Rovirosa told the audience.
Undocumented workers are especially prone to wage theft and workplace injury because they are fear being deported for reporting unsafe or unscrupulous working conditions. Labor officials working alongside state and international partners tried to allay those fears by addressing common misunderstandings.
“There is a lot of fear in the community, mostly fear that they’ll be deported if they complain,” a regional director Labor Department’s Labor, Wage and Hour Division James said at the Salt Lake City event. “But we know there is a lot of wage theft going on, and we just want to help people get paid for the work that they are doing,” he added, emphasizing that information reported by workers to the Labor Department wouldn’t be shared with immigration and customs officials.