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Unions Want Mexico To Push For Migrant Workers’ Rights In U.S.

Labor unions are asking Mexico’s Labor secretary to push his American counterparts on new protections for guest workers in the U.S., as part of the ongoing negotiations over the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Workers’ rights groups have long denounced abuses like wage theft or inadequate work conditions. But one law that has helped them, the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act of 1983, does not apply to workers traveling to the U.S. under the temporary H-2A visa for agricultural workers, said Baldemar Velasquez, president of the Ohio-based Farm Labor Organizing Committee.

Velasquez met with Mexican Labor Secretary Roberto Campa Cifrián this week and asked him to advocate to expand protections to migrant workers as part of ongoing NAFTA negotiations, Velasquez said.

“They all suffer the same abuses, wage theft, sexual harassment, and the inadequate labor camps that they live in,” Velasquez said. But “guest workers work in agriculture are exempt from having access to that law to defend themselves, so this is specifically what we're talking about."

The U.S. Department of Labor certified 5,391 H-2A workers in Arizona and 165,741 across the country in the fiscal year 2016.

Jorge Valencia was a senior field correspondent at KJZZ from 2016 to 2019.