05.23.06

KENNEDY FIGHTS TO PROTECT WORKERS WITH VIGILANT ENFORCEMENT OF LABOR LAWS OFFERS LABOR PROTECTIONS AMENDMENT TO IMMIGRATION BILL

Washington, DC: Today Senator Kennedy offered an amendment to the immigration reform bill that would ensure vigilant enforcement of critical labor protections to preserve the health, safety, and well- being of all American workers. While there are good labor protections in the bill designed to protect immigrant workers and ensure that the guest worker program does not hurt American workers, Senator Kennedy believes the best way for us to protect American workers and immigrants alike is to more vigilantly enforce our existing labor laws, including the National Labor Relations Act (right to organize), the Fair Labor Standards Act (minimum wage, overtime, and child labor), and the Occupational Safety and Health Act (worker safety). “We need to provide real penalties, not slaps on the wrist, for employers that violate the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, and the National Labor Relations Act,” Senator Kennedy said. “Congress passed these laws in order to establish the minimum labor standards necessary to preserve basic human rights. But we must provide meaningful enforcement if we want these to be meaningful laws. This measure ensures vigilant enforcement of these critical labor protections to preserve the health, safety, and well-being of all American workers.” The amendment also overturns the Supreme Court’s decision in Hoffman Plastics, which held that an employer cannot be required to pay back-pay to an undocumented worker when the is fired for supporting a union. The amendment would also:• Increase the monetary penalties for violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), including unpaid wages, unpaid overtime compensation, and child labor violations.• Increase the monetary penalties for violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA).• Make willful or grossly negligent violations of OSHA a criminal felony, subject to fines and imprisonment.• Require the National Labor Relations Board to seek a federal court injunction against an employer that has discharged or discriminated against employees during a union organizing drive. (This provision is from your Employee Free Choice Act.)• Increase the backpay remedy for workers who are discharged or discriminated against during an organizing drive, and increase the civil penalties for employers that violate employee rights. (This provision is from your Employee Free Choice Act.)• Fix the Supreme Court’s decision in the Hoffman Plastics case by clarifying that an employer can be required to pay backpay for breaking a labor law when the violation involves an undocumented worker.• Provide that 25% of all fees collected under the guestworker program must be dedicated to enhanced enforcement of the FLSA, OSHA, and the labor protections of the immigration bill in industries that have the highest percentage of violations, and the highest percentages of guest workers. • Increase the number of bilingual investigative staff at the Department of Labor. • Extend the 60-day period for guest workers to find another job after being discharged when the discharge is in retaliation for exercising a right guaranteed by law.

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