A weblog about the business of immigrant work: employment, compensation, legal protections, education, mobility, and public policy.

March 22, 2014

Health coverage and health literary among adult Hispanics

The news is not good about health insurance coverage and health literacy among adult Hispanics. I have excerpted below from survey results and an overview article in Health Affairs. These findings cast a shadow over the Affordable Care Act and workers’ compensation (in which about a substantial share of injured workers have non-occupational health conditions that need attention to achieve a resolution of the injury).

Low enrollments in health insurance

Thirty-six percent of Hispanic adults reported being uninsured in late 2013, confirming that they are much more likely to lack coverage than other racial or ethnic groups. This rate is triple the rate of uninsurance among whites (12%) and a third higher than blacks and non-white Hispanics (27%) (these figures from the Urban Institute’s report noted below).

Despite the ACA’s coverage expansions, over half of the uninsured Hispanic population (55 percent) reported that they expect to remain uninsured in 2014. (These expectations are not likely due to the immigration status of Hispanics and its effect on eligibility, because uninsured white non-Hispanic and non-white non-Hispanic adults have similar expectations about coverage.)

Health illiteracy

Overall, the gap in understanding health insurance concepts between nonwhite and Hispanic adults and those who are non-Hispanic white is almost 20 percentage points, with just 27.8 percent of nonwhite or Hispanic respondents saying they feel confident that they understand all nine terms. For each of the nine terms asked about, no more than 60.2 percent of nonwhite or Hispanic adults were either very or somewhat confident in their understanding of it.


Health Affairs, Why Are Hispanics Slow To Enroll In ACA Coverage? March 18 2014 (subscription required.

The Urban Institute’s Health Reform Monitoring Survey January 21, 2014, What Health Insurance Coverage Changes Are the Uninsured Anticipating for 2014?

The Urban Institute, Public Understanding of Basic Health Insurance Concepts on the Eve of Health Reform (late 2013)

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February 18, 2014

Home Economics: the lives of domestic workers

The National Domestic Workers Alliance issued a report titled Home Economics which reveals much about the working conditions of domestic workers. A large share of domestic workers are immigrants.

Key findings in the report:

Domestic workers earn substandard pay, and enjoy little economic mobility or financial security.

Formal employment contracts are rare in the domestic work industry, and where work agreements do exist, employers frequently violate them.

Employers think of their homes as safe, yet domestic work can be hazardous.

Domestic workers who encounter problems frequently feel too vulnerable to stand up for themselves, especially live-in workers and undocumented immigrants.

The survey revealed that substandard working conditions are pervasive in the domestic work industry. Wage rates are low, the work is often hazardous, and workers rarely have effective recourse to improve substandard conditions.

A few of the facts in the report:

About a third of domestic workers nationwide are foreign born. About two thirds of domestic workers in major metropolitan areas are foreign born.
23 percent of workers surveyed are paid below the state minimum wage.
The median hourly wage of live-in workers is $6.15.
Less than 9 percent work for employers who pay into Social Security.
60 percent spend more than half of their income on rent or mortgage payments.
85 percent of undocumented immigrants who encountered problems with their working conditions in the prior 12 months did not complain because they feared their immigration status would be used against them.

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February 15, 2014

Trends in state immigration laws, from punitive to constructive

There has been a major change in state immigration legislation patterns State legislative activity rose in the late 2000s, taking on a punitive color, and rising to passage of the comprehensive Arizona law in 2010. That passage lead to other state laws aimed to driving out undocumented residents. All of these acts were challenged in court and some revisions results.

More recently, the focus of state legislatures is more constructive. There is a salutary recognition that states, their economies depending on undocumented workers, needed to provide these workers legal protections to drive. Also, state legislatures increasingly petition Congress to pass immigration reform at the federal level. For a detailed review of legislation, go here and here. The content below comes from these pages.

Latino Decisions notes that As of June 30, 2013, 43 states had enacted 146 laws and 231 resolutions focused on immigration. This is reflective of a larger pattern where state activity on immigration issues spiked from just 300 proposed bills and 39 enacted laws in 2005 to over 1,500 proposed bills and over 200 enacted state laws in 2009.

Omnibus laws.

The first omnibus act was Arizona’s 2010 legislation, SB 1070.

Omnibus legislation related to immigration enforcement has largely disappeared. In 2011, 30 states introduced more than 50 bills, with Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Utah enacting laws similar to Arizona’s SB 1070. Each was challenged in court. In 2012, five states considered similar bills: Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Rhode Island and West Virginia. None of these bills were enacted. Alabama amended its 2011 law, HB 56, enacting HB 658 in 2012. In 2013, only Georgia acted, by amending E-Verify requirements, public benefit definitions, and driver’s license requirements, and required agencies or political subdivisions to comply with federal law on public benefits for postsecondary education (S 160).

Driving protections

Driver’s licenses and IDs continued to be a top issue for states, with 35 laws enacted in 21 states, comprising 19 percent of all enacted laws on immigration.

Eight states—California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, Oregon and Vermont—joined New Mexico, Utah and Washington in extending driver’s license eligibility to unauthorized residents. Georgia and Maine enacted more limited laws in 2013. Georgia allows for a temporary driving permit for those with pending visa extensions. Maine exempts certain older or long-term driver’s license holders from the legal presence requirement. (A law passed in the District of Columbia is pending review by Congress.)

Formal resolutions in support of immigration reform

Resolutions spiked in 2013, with 31 states adopting 253 resolutions, up from 111 in 2012. The largest contributor was Texas, adopting 96 resolutions commending the contributions of immigrants and seeking federal action. Resolutions encouraged action by the president, Congress or federal agencies, including at least 11 resolutions related to passing comprehensive immigration reform (California, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, and Pennsylvania).

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February 10, 2014

No immigration reform? Big cutbacks in farm production, higher food prices

The American Farm Bureau today issued a report that forecasts declining production and higher imported food prices if immigration reform is not enacted.

The report, Gauging the Farm Sector’s Sensitivity to Immigration Reform via Changes in Labor Costs and Availability, looks at three policy options: (1) enforcement only, as today, (2) general legalization, and (3) guest worker program for agriculture.

The report says that “the hardest-hit domestic food sectors under an enforcement-only scenario are fruit production, which would plummet by 30-61 percent, and vegetable production, which would decline by 15-31 percent. The study also pointed out that while many consider fruit and vegetable production the most labor-reliant sector, livestock production in the U.S. would fall by 13-27 percent.”

“Over five years, an enforcement-only approach would lead to losses in farm income large enough to trigger large scale restructuring of the sector, higher food prices, and greater dependence on imported products.” Stallman said.

The report says that “For a number of reasons, agriculture serves as the bottom rung on the undocumented labor ladder. Many undocumented workers start working in agriculture but move on from agriculture as quickly as possible—particularly if/when changes in their legal status gives them entry into the labor market outside agriculture.”

The press release for the report is here.

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January 26, 2014

Importance of work safety training in native language

UL Workplace Safety and Health, a company that provides safety training and other human resource tools to employers, posted in late 2013 about the importance of safety training in the native language of the worker.

Teri Hale, who is Operations Manager of Professional Learning Services, wrote the following (this is an excerpt):

Misinterpretation can lead to lower productivity, lost revenue and more seriously, injury and loss of life. This is especially true in high-risk sectors such as manufacturing, oil and gas exploration, and construction. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) estimates that language barriers are a contributing factor in 25 percent of job-related accidents. Moreover, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that fatal injury rates were 69 percent higher for foreign-born Hispanic workers than for native-born Hispanic workers (who tend to have a better grasp of English).

In 2010, OSHA announced an initiative in which it directed compliance officers to observe whether employers provide employees safety training in a language they understand. Employers who fail to properly train their employees are subject to citations and penalties.

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January 2, 2014

More on Pro Publica’s temp worker report: higher injury risk

Pro Publica also reported on the higher injury risk of temporary workers, as follows:

A ProPublica analysis of millions of workers’ compensation claims shows that in five states, representing more than a fifth of the U.S. population, temps face a significantly greater risk of getting injured on the job than permanent employees.

In California and Florida, two of the largest states, temps had about 50 percent greater risk of being injured on the job than non-temps. That risk was 36 percent higher in Massachusetts, 66 percent in Oregon and 72 percent in Minnesota.

These statistics understate the dangers faced by blue-collar temps like Davis. Nationwide, temps are far more likely to find jobs in dangerous occupations like manufacturing and warehousing. And their likelihood of injury grows dramatically.

In Florida, for example, temps in blue-collar workplaces were about six times as likely to be injured than permanent employees doing similar jobs.

The findings were particularly stark for severe injuries. In Florida, the data shows, temps were about twice as likely as regular employees to suffer crushing injuries, dislocations, lacerations, fractures and punctures. They were about three times as likely to suffer an amputation on the job in Florida and the three other states for which such records are available.

ProPublica interviewed more than 100 temp workers across the nation and reviewed more than 50 Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigations involving temp worker accidents.

The interviews and OSHA files revealed situations that occur over and over again: untrained laborers asphyxiated while cleaning the inside of chemical tanks, caught in heavy machinery such as food grinders and tire shredders, and afflicted by heat stroke after a long day on a garbage truck or roof.

The lightly regulated blue-collar temp world is one where workers are often sent to do dangerous jobs with little or no training. Where the company overseeing the work isn’t required to pay the medical bills if temps get hurt. And where, when temp workers do get injured on the job, the temp firm and the company fight with each other over who is responsible, sometimes even delaying emergency medical care while they sort it out.

Posted by pfr at 8:31 PM Link to, Comment (0), or E-mail this post

Pro Publica’s investigation of temporary labor: Raiteros

Pro Publica took aim during 2013 at the low wage temp industry. It reported that “Across America, temporary work has become a mainstay of the economy, leading to the proliferation of what researchers have begun to call “temp towns.” They are often dense Latino neighborhoods teeming with temp agencies. Or they are cities where it has become nearly impossible even for whites and African-Americans with vocational training to find factory and warehouse work without first being directed to a temp firm.

“In June, the Labor Department reported that the nation had more temp workers than ever before: 2.7 million. Overall, almost one-fifth of the total job growth since the recession ended in mid-2009 has been in the temp sector, federal data shows.”

It investigated labor brokers (raiteros) in Chicago:

Immigrant labor brokers known as raiteros have helped create a system where temp agencies and their corporate clients benefit from cheap, just-in-time labor. Raiteros don’t just drive workers to their jobs. They also recruit the workers, decide who works and doesn't and distribute paychecks, making them unofficial agents of the temp firms.

But the temp agencies don’t pay the raiteros. [A state law forbad that practice years ago.] Instead, it’s the low-wage workers who pay them, ostensibly for transportation. Those fees, together with unpaid waiting times, depress workers' pay well below the minimum wage.

Continue reading "Pro Publica’s investigation of temporary labor: Raiteros" »

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December 17, 2013

Most of construction fall fatalities in New York are foreign-born workers

The Center for Popular Democracy reports that:

Our review of 2003-2011 OSHA investigations of construction site accidents involving a fatal fall from an elevation revealed that Latinos and immigrants are disproportionately killed in fall accidents.

In 60% of the OSHA-investigated fall from an elevation fatalities in New York State, the worker was Latino and/or immigrant, disproportionately high for their participation in construction work.

In New York City, 74% of fatal falls were Latino and/or immigrant.

Narrowing further, 88% of fatal falls in Queens and 87% in Brooklyn involved Latinos and/or immigrants.

86% of Latino and/or immigrant fatalities from a fall from an elevation in New York were working for a non-union employer.

In 2011 focus groups, Latino construction workers reported fearing retaliation as a key deterrent to raising concerns about safety.

Its report, Fatal Inequality: Workplace Safety Eludes Construction Workers of Color, is available on its website.

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December 5, 2013

A free guide to immigrant worker safety and health

With generous support from Concentra and Broadspire, I authored Work Safe: An Employer’s Guide to Safety and Health in a Diversified Workforce. This first of its kind guide is a very accessible source of practical advice on special techniques in worker safety training, medical treatment issues, hiring and using interpreters and other topics. It includes an extensive guide to free online resources on occupational safety organized by key occupations of foreign-born workers.

The Guide includes simple, brief introductions to workers compensation and to work safety regulation in the U.S., in English and Spanish. They can be translated into other languages.

The Guide grants the reader wide discretion on copying and using portions of the guide.

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December 4, 2013

Lazarus - like resurrection of immigration reform?

Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post noted yesterday that House Speaker Boehner has hired Rebecca Tallent, a seasoned advisor to Republicans on immigration reform. The hire signals a possible decision by Congressional Republicans to push immigration reform – defying report that reform was dead going into 2014.

Tallent came from The Bipartisan Policy Center, where she was director of immigration policy and coordinated the publication of several pro-reform reports, such as this one on the economic benefits of immigration reform.

Rubin writes:

Although it is an election year, 2014 may afford a better opportunity than previously imagined for accomplishing something on the immigration front. The Dems and White House are more desperate than ever for some achievement, and their fear the Senate may flip in Nov. 2014 should encourage some flexibility. Meanwhile, the House right wing is not the force it was before the shutdown, while the speaker’s popularity has grown among his troops.

A final factor may play a role in pushing immigration reform to the fore. Center-right business leaders and groups, who mostly favor comprehensive immigration reform as an economic boost, are plainly alarmed about the 2014 election and have entered the fray both to unseat hard-line gadflies like Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) and bolster mainstream Republicans like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). That gives reform-minded lawmakers some confidence they will get cover in 2014 if they take some political heat for backing immigration reform. It also may persuade GOP skeptics to take another look at the polls, which generally show immigration reform including an earned path to citizenship to be popular, even among Republicans.

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