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Mexican Consul Alicia Kerber Palma and Regional Director of the National Labor Review Board (NLRB) Dennis Walsh greet their associates at an event in Philadelphia's Mexican consulate, September 1, 2016.

Immigration is a non-factor when protecting labor rights, says Walsh

Mexican Consulate partners with NLRB to promote a better understanding of labor rights in the [email protected] community.

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On September 1st, the Mexican Consulate in Philadelphia and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) celebrated two years of collaboration with a public renewal of their Memorandum of Understanding. The event was part of a series of talks, discussions and workshops focused on labor rights which will last for the entire week leading up to Labor Day.

According to Consul Alicia Kerber Palma, the main goal of the Eighth Labor Rights Week is to provide Mexican workers with information about the resources available to them through their consulate and the corresponding American agencies. These organizations serve Mexican and other immigrant workers in the United States no matter what their immigration status.

In addition to the NLRB, which defends workers’ right to form collective bargaining groups and other organizations, the Mexican Consulate makes referrals to the follow US labor rights organizations:

  • The Wage and Hours Division (WHD), a subset of the Department of Labor (DOL) which guarantees workers’ right to the minimum wage and overtime pay for every hour worked beyond a 40-hour week;

  • The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), also of the DOL, which is responsible for investigating the conditions of worksites like factories, construction sites, restaurants, and others;

  • The Nationalities Service Center (NSC), an NGO which helps trafficked persons, including those coerced to work in situations which limit their personal autonomy;

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  • Friends of Farmworkers, an NGO which works with Puentes de Salud and the Mexican and Guatemalan consulates to offer legal support to farmworkers; and has also cultivated many other strategic partnerships in the city.

The Regional Director of the NLRB, Dennis Walsh, affirmed that his agency defends the organizing and collective bargaining rights of all workers under its jurisdiction, including Latinos, and thanked his staff for their outreach work.

Readers should note that while almost all workers are covered by the NLRB, farmworkers who work in the field are protected by a different agency, the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board (PLRB).

Although Philadelphia has a large coalition of organizations promoting Latinos’ labor rights regardless of immigration status or in many cases, even ability to pay legal fees, a fear of legal involvement with DOL agencies persists among people without valid visas. Fortunately, the consulate, the NGO’s mentioned above, and the organization Community Legal Services (CLS) can all help undocumented clients considering the possibility of pursuing a case to evaluate the risks beforehand.

But the Eighth Labor Rights Week isn’t just about legal actions -- it’s also a celebration, whose goal as explained by Consul Kerber is “to dignify the work Mexicans do in the United States, contributing to the growth and development of this country.” At AL DIA, we'll also be celebrating the achievements of all Mexican, Latino, and American workers this Labor Day.

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