Inconsistent quality of healthcare for work injured immigrant workers

Many low income immigrant workers go to hospital emergency departments and to free care community health clinics with their work injuries. Emergency departments and community health clinics typically do not understand how to determine the occupational cause of injury, and do not try to contact the employer and to make sure that an injured worker accesses the workers comp system.
The clinics in particular often appear to be tone deaf to the special needs of injured workers. Example: I contacted the Joseph Smith Community Health Center in Boston, which actively serves low income immigrants, a dozen times to ask them about how they handle work injuries. To get a response i finally conducted a sit-in in the reception area, refusing to leave until I spoke with some one. Eventually the director of the clinic came downstairs. While pleasant, she showed zero interest in the special needs of injured workers, and in investigating them further.
My several contacts with the Health Resources and Services Administration, the federal agency responsible for providing financial and technical assistance to community health clinics, revealed that this agency has little interest in addressing the special needs of injured workers.

Time Magazine poll on views about illegal immigration

Time Magazine February 6 2006 issue’s cover story is “Inside America’s Secret Workforce.”
Here are some Time Magazine polling results:
How serious a problem is illegal immigration into the U.S.? – Extremely 30% Very 33% Somewhat 26% Not very 8%
Concerned that providing social services for illegal immigrants costs taxpayers too much – 83%
Concerned that illegal immigrants increase crime – 71%
Illegal immigrants are taking jobs that citizens don’t want – 56%
Do you pay less for some items or services because of low-wage illegal immigrant labor? Yes 17% No 71%
Had hired a contractor or company that may have used illegal immigrants – 14%
Is the government doing enough to keep illegal immigrants from entering the U.S.? — Yes 21% No 74%
All illegal immigrants should be deported – 50%, but —-
Illegal immigrants should be able to earn citizenship – 76%
Favor guest-worker registration for those already here – 73%
Favor issuing temporary work visas for seasonal work – 64%

H-1B visas and the engineering workforce shortage, per Chair of Intel

Craig Barrett, Chair of Intel, recently wrote a commentary for the Financial Times (payment required) and afterwards responded to reader questions.
Begun in 1998, the H-1B program has annual caps which in 2003 was 195,000. In 2004 the cap was cut to 65,000. As of 2004, close to 1,000,000 H-1B visa holders were believed to be working in the United States, up from about 360,000 in 1998. This means an annual addition of about 150,000 workers a year into the American workforce.
Compare this stream to the supply of engineers coming from American higher education (many of whom are foreigners)? In 2004, there were about 70,000 bachelor, 40,000 master, and 6,000 doctoral degrees were awarded by American colleges and universities. This is from the American Society of Engineering Education
H1B Visa (Professional in a Specialty Occupation) allows a U.S. employer to fill a position requiring the minimum of a baccalaureate in the particular field with a qualified worker from abroad. The foreign worker must possess that U.S. degree or an acceptable foreign alternative. In some cases, a combination of studies and relevant experience may substitute for the degree if it is determined by a credentials expert to qualify the foreign professional. The large majority of H1B visa holders are believed to be engineers.
Per Barrett:

Continue reading H-1B visas and the engineering workforce shortage, per Chair of Intel

Access to medical care denied by ID requirements

Something that American citizens take for granted — picking up your medical prescription at the pharmacy. Not so if your personal ID is iffy and the state is trying to crack down on medication abuses. This case is from Mississippi.
The state began to insist on personal identification to crack down on drug abuse and by failing to educate pharmacies made life more complicated for innocent undocumented workers. Mississippi recognizes the right of work-injured undocumented workers to protections of the workers compensation system. It introduced drug procedures to help in fraud and abuse control.

Continue reading Access to medical care denied by ID requirements

High future demand for immigrant construction workers

Demand for immigrants in the construction field has been strong since the mid 1990s and will continue to be for several reasons. (1) New and replacement construction will continue to grow, though experts say at a lower rate. (2) Among many construction jobs there is a high turnover rate, and employers have constantly to search for new hires. (3) Demographics will continue to bring construction to areas of the country where there is a high level already of immigrant workers in construction.
In a keynote address at a construction risk management conference on trends and emerging issues, Huge Rice of FMI forecasted high construction activityin the United States, in part due to demographic shifts in age and residential location. Between 2002 and 2012, he forecasted 1.1 million new construction projects involving 1.4 “retirements/defections” and 2.5 million replacements/new entrants. Rice specifically addressed the Hispanic construction workforce. He noted the demographics of the country and the southwest, where Hispanics now make up about a third to a half of all construction labor:
New Mexico 48%
Texas 45%
California 34%
Florida 21%
Total nationwide Hispanic employment in construction rose between 1980 and 2000:
1980 342,000
1990 650,000
1995 782,000
2000 1,408,000
Three quarters of these Hispanic workers are of Mexican descent.
The Federal government addressed construction labor growth in a number of accessible studies, including one in 2002 and a set in the November, 2005 issue of the Monthly Labor Review.
According to the Department of Labor, construction jobs grew at an annual rate of 3.1% between and 2004. DOL expects much slower growth between 2004 and 2014, about 1.1% annually. However, in terms of total jobs added in that period, 792,000, construction will be the fourth largest contributor to job growth (after retail, employment services, food services, and medical offices). Residential construction, where immigrant labor tends to congregate, is expected to grow in dollars by 1.8% . annually. Construction workers make up slightly under 5% of the domestic civilian workforce.

Immigration officials to continue to impersonate OSHA safety trainers

In July 2005 federal immigration officials impersonated OSHA safety trainers in a sting to lure and arrest illegal aliens working for subcontractors at an airforce base in North Carolina. See below for the first paragraphs of a New York Times article on that event.
The blog Confined Space now reports that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials reportedly plan to continue this tactic, according to Inside OSHA (paid subscription):

Immigration officials told immigration and labor groups during a closed-door meeting Jan. 30 that the department will continue to have its agents pose as officials from other agencies, including OSHA, to nab illegal immigrants at work sites, despite earlier signals the policy would be dropped. The meeting was set up to discuss last year’s controversial sting operation where ICE officials posed as OSHA employees, which had prompted an outcry from labor groups and concerns from OSHA.

OSHA was not present at the meeting.

ICE officials told attendees of the meeting that the department’s first priority is national security and public safety and they would not change their controversial sting policy, according to sources involved in the discussions. In a letter sent to [the National Immigrant Law Center] NILC last year, ICE officials said they would no longer continue the practice, however, they now say they view everything from a threat-based level and would continue to increase their work site enforcement of food production companies and industries related to national security, the sources say.

Continue reading Immigration officials to continue to impersonate OSHA safety trainers

Avian flu and immigrant workers in poultry plants

A noted occupational health expect warns of avian flu coming into the United States via poultry plants and the largely immigrant work population. He warns that these workers should not be treated as canaries in the mine shaft.
Gary Greenberg MD manages a new non-profit aimed at speeding up transmission of time sensitive information on occupational risks: OHDEN, or the Occupational Health Disaster Expert Network.
Greenberg says the following scenarios could occur. Twoinvolve the arrival in the United States of a migratory bird with the avian flu:
1. a person could pick up a dead bird by the roadside
2. a local — not corporate –chicken farm serves as a way station for a migratory bird. The corporate chicken farms appear to have invested in bio-safety measures.
3. an individual arrives by plane from another, with the flu still in gestation.
Greenberg says that the avian flu does not transmit easily amomng people — it is not like the flu of 1918 – 1919, which swept through army camps, among ship crews, and onto city streets, and took years to eventually dissappear.

National Employment Law Project on wage abuses

The National Employment Law Project (NELP) describes itself as a non profit law and policy organization advocating on behalf of low-wage, unemployed and immigrant workers. It has recently published two papers on civil and criminal penalties for non-payment of wages. Non-payment, delays in payment, and failure to pay overtime are common complaints among immigrant workers.
The two papers are Fifty state chart of penalties for unpaid wages and Criminal penalties for failure to pay wages

serious worker injuries by ethnic group, job and diagnosis

A commentor wrote to ask if I have for work fatalities of immigrants a breakdown by types of jobs, particular immigrant group most effected, etc. I have an indirect positive answer to this question, in the form of an ethnic analysis of work related hospitalizations. Researchers published in October 2005 a study of work related hospitalizations by ethnic groups in Massachusetts.
According to the authors,

This article reports on the use of statewide hospital discharge data to describe patterns of serious occupational injuries (that is, injuries requiring hospitalization) among racial and ethnic groups in Massachusetts.

The authors present a breakdown of hospitalizations by medical diagnosis, job and ethnic breakdown: white, black, Asian, American Indian, Hispanic, and other or unknown. They were able to show a relationship between the type of job and the type of injury (for instance: burns = restaurant work).
In a later posting I will summerize their findings.

Occupational fatalities of immigrants

The June, 2004 issue of the Monthly Labor Review published Foreign-born workers: trends in fatal occupational injuries, 1996–2001 by Katherine Loh and Scott Richardson. From the text:

New immigrants who arrived in the United States during the 1990-2001 period accounted for 50.3 percent of the growth in the Nation’s civilian labor force. That is, one out of every two net new labor force participants during this period was a new foreign immigrant. Historically, Current Population Survey (CPS) figures show that foreign-born workers, who accounted for 1 in every 17 workers in 1960, increased their share of the labor force to one in eight by 2000.

As the share of foreign-born employment has increased, so has the share of fatal occupational injuries to foreign-born workers. Yet, while the share of foreign-born employment increased by 22 percent from 1996 to 2000 the share of fatal occupational injuries for this population increased by 43 percent. This increase in fatal work injuries among foreign-born workers occurred at a time when the overall number of fatal occupational injuries to U.S. workers declined by 5 percent. As a result, the fatality rate for foreign-born workers has not mirrored the improvement seen in the overall fatality rate over this period. In 2001, the fatality rate for all U.S. workers decreased to a series low of 4.3 per 100,000 workers, but the fatality rate for foreign-born workers recorded a series high of 5.7 per 100,000 workers.