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  1. #1
    Senior Member Brian503a's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2005
    California or ground zero of the invasion

    Latino labor risks rise

    Latino labor risks rise
    Illinois study finds deaths, serious injuries increase even as overall workplace fatalities decline

    By Stephen Franklin
    Tribune staff reporter
    Published November 6, 2005

    As a day laborer, Constantino Guiterrez's right hand used to be half of his earning power.

    Not anymore.

    Though a surgeon restored two fingers that were snapped off in an industrial accident last year, he cannot make a fist with his right hand. Nor can he lift things the way he used to.

    The result is that the middle-age Mexican-born worker more than ever fears being doomed to low-wage factory jobs, like the one he worked last week for $6.50 an hour. "It's very difficult, very difficult to find work," he says at his apartment on Chicago's West Side.

    On Monday, a panel that has been examining Latino workplace safety issues will release a report that says Latinos "are getting more seriously injured and we are dying at a higher rate," says Esther Lopez, deputy chief of staff for labor and professional regulation in the Illinois governor's office.

    The report points to Illinois Trauma Registry figures, which show that the rate of serious workplace injuries suffered by Latinos is twice that of other workers in the state.

    The report also points out that more Latinos across the U.S. have been dying on the job annually for the last few years while workplace fatalities overall have been dropping. The panel was composed of representatives from business, labor, public health and community groups. It is the first state-sponsored study in the country to focus on Latinos' workplace problems, Lopez says.

    She and other experts say the findings could also apply to other immigrants.

    And as troubling as the figures are, they are probably "way off," says Dr. Linda Forst, a panel member and public health expert at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

    That is because many Latinos' problems go unreported and uncounted, she says. There are undocumented workers, or workers who get paid in cash and who do not want attention drawn to them, she explains. There are also people who fear missing a day to see a doctor or who assume that danger is part of the job.

    From the stream of injured workers seeking help at Stroger Hospital, Dr. Rachel Rubin, head of occupational medicine there, has seen a pattern to their problems. They usually lack training or information about the equipment they use, she says.

    Guiterrez, for example, says no one gave him instructions on the punch press he was using that day to crank out small metal parts.

    Injured workers typically work for small businesses or contractors whose greatest flaw is that they appear to "be trying to get away with the minimum," Rubin says.

    Workers usually ask hospital personnel not to report their businesses to authorities even if there are workplace problems. "They are afraid they'll lose their jobs if they complain," she says.

    Some workers do not even go to the hospital.

    Jose Oliva, director of the Workers Rights Center on Chicago's North Side, recalls a recent meeting where a young man talked about a serious injury he had suffered on the job. Oliva thought the problem was from the past.

    "He picked up his shirt and he had third-degree burns. I was amazed. He said he thought that because he was undocumented he could not go to a doctor," Oliva says.

    Convincing immigrant workers, especially those illegally in the U.S., that they can get medical care and complain about dangerous jobs is an endless task for Oliva, who was a panel member.

    It became more difficult, he adds, after U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, posing as state safety officials, seized a number of undocumented workers at a meeting in July in North Carolina.

    "We certainly don't think that was the right thing to do. That was not appropriate and it will not happen again," says Gary Anderson, head of one of two Chicago area offices for the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

    Recognizing the toll of injuries among Latino workers, Anderson says his office has stepped up its contacts with local Latino groups. "We let them know that if workers complain, it won't result in them getting fired or deported."

    But the workers who bring complaints to the Mexican consulate in Chicago have no problem realizing that they have rights, says Julio Huerte, consul for labor affairs. Rather, he says they feel lost and fear being taken advantage of.

    "They ask me not to leave them alone in the [legal] process," says Huerte, who has received reports from 90 Mexicans involved in workplace accidents so far this year. Last year, the consulate took in 100 complaints, he says.

    Guadeloupe Martinez, 34, did not have to take the kind of marginal, low-wage job often filled by undocumented workers when she came to Chicago 10 years ago from Mexico. She had the correct legal papers when she arrived, she says.

    But she took such a job because she was newly arrived, naive and eager to send money home to Mexico. She went to work as a courier delivering bank checks, driving 17 hours a day, six days a week. In Mexico, she had been a nurse.

    "The stress made me really sick," says Martinez, who thinks an internal bleeding problem was prolonged by her long hours on the job. She recently took a similar job but with fewer hours.

    But Rosa, 36, who asked that her name not be used, falls in the netherworld of workers without papers. It is the world of workers who speak little English, have few skills and feel they have no voice about what happens to them. It's the world she has inhabited for the last 15 years.

    Rosa was operating a machine at a factory where she had worked for two years and it jammed. She tried to pry loose a piece of plastic from the machine and lost half of her finger. She does not recall any signs about how to run the machine, or ever being given information on how to operate it.

    She says she received a $7,000 worker's compensation settlement for her injury.

    Before the accident, she had been feeling depressed because of the way her bosses treated her and others in the factory. Since then her gloom has only grown, she says.

    She wants to find a cleaner, less tense workplace, and a job that pays better than $8.50 an hour. But she wonders whether anyone would hire her now.

    "I'm afraid," she says. "I worry that when they see my hand, they won't hire me."

    - - -

    Safety proposals

    A panel looking into Latino worker safety issues on Monday will recommend:

    - Improving the way state agencies collect safety and health data. The panel found that a number of state agencies do not pool statistics, and, in some cases, do not track Latino health and safety.

    - Providing support for community agencies to deal with Latino workers in Illinois. Agencies would likely target industries where most health and safety problems occur: farming, day labor, construction and light manufacturing.

    - Reforming the Illinois Worker's Compensation Act to allow injured agricultural workers to receive benefits.
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  2. #2

    Join Date
    Jan 1970
    I sent the following response to Mr Franklin who then confirmed my email stating he would forward my email to the LETTER TO THE EDITOR...

    Let me understand the “deal�.... they come here to live in the shadows of the law with the specific understanding that they will work for little pay and zero benefits. Now they complain about the “deal� they made? And our PC crowd has been made to feel guilty about the contract that the illegals agreed to?

    Why do you neglect the rest of the relevant statistics:

    Latino population about 12.4% nationally

    Latino population in prison: 29%

    And these are the folks who will be in the majority in another generation or two? Telling YOUR kids to speak Spanish if they expect any service at all?

    Mr Franklin: you are part of the propaganda machine known as the Latino Charm Offensive.....

    conservative is but a liberal after a dose of reality...

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