Given the justifiable concern by voters surrounding illegal
sweatshops, a number of state leaders are looking beyond punishing
immigrant workers, to concentrating on raising wages for all workers, and
increasing penalties for wage law violators across the board.
While many advocates of "fighting illegal immigration" claim to be
doing so in the name of helping low-income workers, it is remarkable that
almost none of them are addressing the pervasive theft of low-income worker
wages by employers violating wage laws. Instead of promoting a narrow
tactic like sanctions against employers of undocumented workers, which only
drives the problem of low-wage employment underground, cracking down on sweatshops
and wage violators would be one of the most effective deterrents to employers
recruiting undocumented immigrants. If
all employers have to pay a decent wage, the attraction of hiring undocumented
immigrants would diminish tremendously. Since going after employers who violate
wage laws will politically unite all workers, immigrant and native alike,
cracking down on those abusive employers will actually strengthen the
progressive political base.
anti-immigrant politicians proposed workplace sanctions against immigrants in
2008, a number of progressive leaders in states proposed bills or
amendments that highlighted the broader illegality of broken wage and safety
laws that undermine workplace standards for all Americans.
Instead of allowing the right-wing to scapegoat undocumented immigrant
workers, Progressive States Network will be working with progressive
leaders across the country to introduce wage enforcement laws that
emphasize that native and immigrant workers both suffer under illegal
working conditions. See State Immigration Project: Policy Options for 2009 for the full range of immigration policies Progressive States Network is supporting in upcoming legislative sessions.
The Iowa Senate on Tuesday approved SF 2416,
a bill to sharply increase fines on employers violating Iowa state wage
laws, crack down on the practice of misclassifying employees as
"independent contractors" to evade those laws, and protect workers
reporting violations from retaliation.