Health insurance among Californians with Mexican backgrounds

Self-identified Mexican adult immigrants in California have health insurance at 10% below the rate for the entire adult national population. Over 20% remain uninsured. This is after the Affordable Care Act gave many of them coverage and California worked diligently to expand coverage

California was an early adopter of the ACA’s Medicaid expansion, being one of the few states that received a waiver to begin the expansion in 2011. One of the main challenges that the state encountered with the ACA implementation was the health insurance eligibility among its foreign-born population, especially undocumented immigrants. California has the largest undocumented population in the country: Approximately one-quarter of all undocumented immigrants in the US live in the state.29 Our study showed that lack of legal status remains an important barrier to health insurance coverage and access to and use of health care in California.

Before the Affordable Care Act, 68% of self-identified Mexican adult immigrants in California (including U.S. born) had health insurance. After ACA’s implementation, 78% had insurance. (Mexican born persons account for about 80% of all Latin American adults.) Compare that with Puerto Ricans in California – 87% had insurance before, and 94% had insurance after.

In 2016, throughout the U.S. 88% of persons between 19 and 64 were insured. (Go here).

Nationwide, non-Latino whites in 2016 were 94% covered; blacks, 90%; Asians 92%; Latinos, 84%.

Two factors are associated with the lower rate for Mexicans: undocumented status and poor English. Third, lower income persons were less covered by insurance compared to higher income Mexicans.

From Health Affairs, September 2018

Bean Station TN raid of April 5 and aftermath

On April 5, 97 people were arrested and detained in a family-run meatpacking plant in Bean Station, TN. The company is called Southeastern Provision. It was the country’s largest immigration workplace raid since the Postville IA raid in 2008. Ninety-seven persons were arrested and are now facing deportation, and as of April 12, 54 of them were currently detained. Thirty-two were released from custody but remain in removal proceedings. Eleven are being held on state and federal charges. (From the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition)

As of April 12, it was known that 500 to 600 children were absent from school in Morristown, a 30,000 population city, on the Friday that followed the raid. 160 children had parents who were arrested and now possibly face deportation. 108 TN children had parents who are now detained in Louisiana

According to a Washington Post story on April 6, in a federal affidavit, IRS Special Agent Nicholas R. Worsham said the family-run plant is under criminal investigation for allegedly evading taxes, filing false tax returns and hiring immigrants in the country illegally.

He alleged the facility failed to report $8.4 million in wages and to pay at least $2.5 million in payroll taxes for dozens of undocumented workers.

Federal agents began investigating the company months ago after Citizens Bank employees noticed that Southeastern Provision was withdrawing large sums of cash every week — more than $25 million since 2008. Worsham said the plant hired undocumented workers who were paid in cash and subject to harsh conditions, including long hours without overtime and exposure to bleach and other chemicals without protective eyewear.

Also see New Yorker article: “In Morristown, a larger town of thirty thousand people, the raid was catastrophic news. Families’ worst fear had come true: husbands, fathers, wives, mothers—gone. The following day, more than five hundred students were reported absent from area schools, kept home out of a combination of fear, anxiety, and confusion. The raid also set off a whirl of activity, as relatives of those arrested gathered each day at a church in the center of town to meet with advocacy groups and discuss their legal options.”

Southeastern Provision was the third largest employer in Grainger County.

Past large raid in 2018: On January 9, ICE did a sweep of 7-11 stores. ICE said its agents showed up at 98 stores and made 21 arrests, describing the operation as a warning to other companies that may have unauthorized workers on their payroll.

Largest raid since 2000: On May 12, 2008 ICE raided the Agriproccessors plant in Postville, IA, said to be with its 1,000 odd employees the largest kosher meat processing facility in the world. ICE arrested 389 workers for illegal status. This was heralded as the largest ICE raid ever.

Ben and Jerry’s agrees to compact with dairy workers

After three years of lobbying and negotiation Ben and Jerry’s agreed with Vermont-based Migrant Justice over a Milk with Dignity pact. In 2014, Migrant Justice began the Milk with Dignity campaign with large corporations, such as Ben & Jerry’s, to promote justice for dairy workers. It is modeled after the Fair Food Program in Florida a program. The agreement includes:

Farmworker-Authored Code of Conduct: Farms in Ben & Jerry’s supply chain must meet the standards defined by farmworkers in wages, scheduling, housing, health and safety, and the right to work free from retaliation;

Farmworker Education: From day one, workers in the program will be educated on their rights under the code of conduct and how to enforce them. Workers will become frontline defenders of their own human rights.

Third Party Monitoring Body: The newly-created Milk with Dignity Standards Council (MDSC) will enforce the agreement by auditing farms’ compliance with the code of conduct, receiving, investigating and resolving worker grievances, and creating improvement plans to address violations. The MDSC will work with farmers and farmworkers in order to problem-solve issues as they arise seeking to improve communication and participation in the workplace. It may suspend a farm from the program if the farm is unwilling to meet the standards in the code of conduct, creating strong market incentives to improve conditions and make workers’ human rights a reality.

Economic relief: Ben & Jerry’s will pay a premium to all participating farms in their supply chain. The premium provides workers with a bonus in each paycheck and serves to offset farms’ costs of compliance with the code of conduct.

Legally-binding Agreement: Ben & Jerry’s has signed a legally-binding agreement that defines the program as a long-term contract enforceable under law.

The agreement with Ben and Jerry’s is modeled after what the Coalition of Immokalee Workers struck with tomato growers in Florida. In 2011, CIW launched the Fair Food Program (FFP), a groundbreaking model for Worker-driven Social Responsibility (WSR) based on a unique partnership among farmworkers, Florida tomato growers, and participating retail buyers, including Subway, Whole Foods, and Walmart. In 2015, the Program expanded into tomatoes in Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Maryland, Virginia and New Jersey, as well as Florida strawberries and peppers.

Under the FFP:

CIW conducts worker-to-worker education sessions, held on-the-farm and on-the-clock, on the new labor standards set forth in the program’s Fair Food Code of Conduct;

The Fair Food Standards Council, a third-party monitor created to ensure compliance with the FFP, conducts regular audits and carries out ongoing complaint investigation and resolution; and

Participating buyers pay a small Fair Food premium which tomato growers pass on to workers as a line-item bonus on their regular paychecks (Between January 2011 and October 2015, $20 million in Fair Food premiums were paid into the Program).

Do immigrants incur relatively more work injuries?


Rousmaniere 2017

About half of hired farm workers and half of hotel maids are foreign born, and half of them are unauthorized. Immigrants account for 13 percent of our entire population, but a third of all workers hold low-paid, often injury-prone jobs hidden from the public like food prep and material packaging. But only 15 percent of low-paid jobs are those that engage with the public, such as retail sales.

I estimate that a typical immigrant with little formal education has a career path that is fraught with twice the risk of work injury as the career path of a poorly educated native-born American.

Orrenius and Zavodny, 2009

Our results indicate that differences in observable characteristics, such as English ability and education, play important roles in the tendency of immigrants to work in riskier jobs. Workers’ ability to speak English is inversely related to their industry injury and fatality rates, indicating that immigrants who speak English fluently work in safer jobs. The CDC (2008) attributed the high number of work-related deaths among foreign-born Hispanics in part to inadequate knowledge of safety hazards and inadequate training and supervision of workers, which are often exacerbated by language and literacy problems.

Byler 2013

In 2013, Hispanic workers represented about 15% of FTEs in all industries and just over half were foreign born. However, in the construction industry, they represented 25% of all FTEs and almost three-fourths were foreign born. In our study, we found high fatal TBI [traumatic brain injury] rates among Hispanic and foreign-born workers, separately. When fatal TBI rates among Hispanics were analyzed by nativity, the foreign-born rate was significantly higher than the native-born rate.


What Hispanic poultry workers in North Carolina say about their work

From: “Good Job, Bad Job: Occupational Perceptions Among Latino Poultry Workers” —

Immigrant workers frequently take jobs that are physically demanding, provide low wages, and result in injuries (e.g., poultry production and processing). Through a qualitative approach, this paper elicits poultry workers’ evaluations of their jobs and set them in the larger context of their lives.

These poultry production and processing workers were realistic about the good and bad characteristics of their jobs. Across all employers, the characteristics deemed good were benefits, and stability. Stability was the most valued characteristics for poultry production and processing work. The literature consistently indicates that those who perceived their jobs to be secure report higher levels of job satisfaction, and lower levels of psychological stress.

This study further validates these findings by showing that poultry production and processing workers are satisfied with their jobs because they offer them stability, particularly compared to other options largely held by Latino immigrant workers (e.g., construction, farm work). Fringe benefits are positive and significant determinants of job satisfaction. Workers who would otherwise have limited access to health insurance describe this characteristic of the job as a valuable one. Good pay was also valued as a job characteristic, but only the employees of one poultry processing company consistently reported receiving good pay.

To these workers, poultry processing has relatively good wages compared to other jobs. Lastly many of the workers see this secure job as an opportunity to provide their children and their family with the “American Dream,” including access to valued outcomes such as education, a house, and financial security.

In opposition to these good job characteristics, these poultry production and processing workers understood that the physical and social environments of their work were bad and could result in poor physical and mental health. They understood that the negative health consequences of these jobs were chronic as well as immediate…These poultry production and processing workers know the causes of ill health (repetitive motions, speed of the line, use of tools such as knifes and scissors, pain in the back from bending down, and concern for the strong odors and dust), and that changing jobs would relieve their pain and other symptoms, but keep to their jobs because the positive characteristics apparently outweigh the negative.

The 65 participants interviewed in western North Carolina were between the ages of 18 and 68 years, with a mean age of 37 years. A little over half (54%) of the participants were men. The majority of the workers were from Mexico (51%) and Guatemala (42%),with the remainder from other Central American countries. Time worked in poultry ranged from 2 months to 20 years, with an average of 6 years.

Good Job, Bad Job: Occupational Perceptions Among Latino Poultry Workers. Dana C. Mora, MPH,Thomas A. Arcury, PhD, and Sara A. Quandt, PhD


Construction fatalities fall on immigrant workers

The New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH) issued a report on Monday, ” The Price of Life: 2015 Report on Construction Fatalities in NYC.” A passage in the report addressed the burden on Hispanic and immigrant workers:

Latino and immigrant workers deal with disproportionate deadly risks in construction.

Latinos make up 25 percent of NYS construction workers, but represented 38 percent of construction fatalities in New York in 2012. Nationally, Latino construction fatalities increased from 182 in 2010 to 233 in 2013.

A study of the medical records of 7,000 U.S. Latino construction workers found that they were 30 percent more likely than white non-Latino workers to be injured on the job. Several studies have shown that lack of training is one reason for the higher injury rates of Latino construction workers.

In addition, many New York construction workers are non-citizens, according to the U.S. Census’s American Community Survey, including 40 percent of New York’s 124,240 construction laborers, 36 percent of the 7,710 drywall installers, 28 percent of the 10,405 roofers and 25 percent of the 88,475 carpenters. They, too, are less likely to receive safety training.

People of color and immigrant construction workers are more likely to work off the books, to be misclassified as independent contractors, to work as day laborers, or to have limited English proficiency that does not often include technical terms, and therefore are less likely to receive safety training.

Eighty percent of immigrant workers in construction are Latino. A Center for Popular Democracy report finding showed that 60% of New York construction fall fatalities OSHA investigated from 2003 to 2011 were Latino and or immigrant. In addition, non-unionized contractors are less likely to provide safe work conditions, OSHA training and safety equipment.

Undocumented workers are less likely to refuse to work in hazardous conditions or speak up for better health and safety conditions for fear they will be fired or deported. In-depth information on all cases is difficult to come by, as many fatalities are announced prior to names being released, and there are no follow-up media reports.




Food manufacturing workers in NYC

Feeding New York” is a report issued on June 24 by Brandworkers, a membership organization of workers in the local food production industry in New York City. The report focuses on the New York City food manufacturing industry. Researchers surveyed and interviewed workers and drew upon other government survey data.
With some $5 billion in gross annual sales, New York City’s food manufacturing industry employs 14,000 workers. With 900 employers, the average workforce is 16. According to a 2007 study by the Fiscal Policy Institute, 70% of workers in the sector are immigrants, 72% are people of color, and 64% have less than a high school diploma.
Latinos make up 32%; Asians 20%, African Americans 17% and whites 27% of all food manufacturing workers.13 Among frontline workers, Latinos account for 53% of workers, Asians 16%, African Americans 16% and whites 12%.14 Women comprise 38% of the industry’s workers and are a growing segment of the industry.15 According to Census data, frontline workers make on average $12.06 per hour and work an average of 37.4 hours per week.
What the study’s survey found:
Work Safety lapses: 42% have suffered an injury at work. This includes: 15.1% have slipped/fallen; 14.2% have been cut; 11.3% have headaches; 10.4% have a back injury; 7.5% have been hit by equipment; 43.5% reported injury but did not get free
medical care from employer; 9.7% have come into contact with toxic chemicals; 4.9% aren’t sure; More than 1 in 10 report that their employer required them to do something that put their safety at risk
Little training: 44.1% did not receive any [job] training; 72.1% did not receive any training from employer; 56.7% never received training on workplace health and safety.
Limited health insurance: 52.9% don’t have health insurance; 4.7% get their health insurance through their employer; 54.9% have gone to work sick in the past year;
30.7% don’t get any paid sick days; 25.7% aren’t sure if they do or not.
Wages: Survey respondents on average earned $10.48 an hour. On average, undocumented workers made $2 less per hour than workers with legal status.

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.

immigrant carwashers in Los Angeles

Justice for Los Angeles carwash workers – this campaign has its own website here.
The campaign, part of CLEAN, confronts these labor problems of carewashers:
Carwashes routinely violate basic employment laws like those requiring workers be permitted to take rest breaks or have access to shade and clean drinking water.
* Workers frequently work 10 hours a day, 6 days a week, often with no overtime pay.
* Workers are often paid less than the legal minimum wage, sometimes earning as little as $30-$40 per day ($3-$4/ hour) or working for tips alone.
* Carwash workers are subject to health and safety hazards such as constant exposure to water and to dangerous chemicals without protective gear.
* Workers in the industry have reported kidney damage, respiratory problems and nerve damage due to their exposure to these hazards.