Demand Workplace Safety for Low-Wage Workers

Immigrant workers organize for their own protection.

Target: David Michaels, PhD, MPH, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

Goal: Ensure safe working conditions for all workers, including low-wage immigrant labor.

The scandal of abuse in New York’s nail salon industry exposed how easy it is for low-wage labor to be abused. Nannies, dishwashers, farm laborers, janitors, busboys and the like labor at the bottom of our economy. These are people who can be forced to work long hours for little pay under terrible conditions and no one will notice the abuse they suffer. These jobs also tend to have a very high percentage of immigrant labor. While New York’s Governor Cuomo is to be commended for ordering a task force to investigate wage and other abuses in the nail salon industry, the real problem is far larger and goes beyond any one industry or any single state.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) must do more to protect vulnerable workers, many of whom are immigrants and all of whom are easy to exploit without anyone noticing or caring. We need both stronger work site standards and better enforcement if workers are going to be protected against toxic chemicals and other dangerous working conditions.

We also need real protection for whistleblowers that will encourage them to come forward with information about unsafe working conditions. If we don’t do this, we can’t know for sure whether things are improving or getting worse. Government agencies must work closer with grassroots labor and immigrant groups. They need to be in better touch with people working low-wage jobs.

The United States is a nation built on the courage of immigrant groups who left everything in their lives behind to build a new life in America. When we protect our newest immigrants we protect the strength that feeds our nation.


Dear Administrator Michaels,

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is failing the most vulnerable workers in the country, most of whom are immigrants. The recently revealed, scandalous abuse in the nail salon industry where desperate women were forced to pay for their jobs is just the tip of the iceberg and it must not be ignored. We also need real protections for whistleblowers that encourage people who are suffering to speak out about abuse.

Nannies, dishwashers, farm laborers, janitors, busboys and the like labor at the bottom of the economy and get very little attention. They work long hours for small pay and often under dangerous conditions that threaten their health. OSHA must insist on better working conditions and stronger enforcement for low-wage workers. These people tend to be new immigrants with no money and even less political clout. These are the type of people who built our country and, if we care about our future, we must protect their interests at this early vulnerable state.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Emily Mills

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