EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – The Mexican consulate in El Paso is taking a leadership role in educating Spanish-speaking residents in West Texas and Southern New Mexico about labor rights.
The consulate has partnered with U.S. federal agencies, the government of El Salvador area nonprofits and private law firms to put on in-person and online seminars this week covering topics like wage theft and unsafe working conditions.
“Let’s not forget that one of the reasons the United States became the most important economy in the world is because of (immigrant) labor,” said Ricardo Hernandez, deputy consul of Mexico in El Paso. “Therefore, they have the right to a decent salary, to be paid on time, to have (safe) labor condition and receive attention for (medical) problems or injuries on the worksite.”
The consulate and the U.S. Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division have a long-time agreement to ensure workers’ claims are investigated timely and without regard to nationality. Hernandez and Wage and Hour Division Assistant District Director Jacobo Valenzuela on Monday renewed that memorandum of understanding.
“This simply reassures our commitment to continue working with the Mexican consulate,” Valenzuela said.
In El Paso, most alleged labor violations include non-payment of overtime both to hourly workers as well as to qualifying salaried workers. The complaints come from a variety of industries, but those in “labor intensive” fields stand out.
“Let’s say you’re a farmworker working in Hatch, then you’re transported to another farm in Deming, that’s travel time that should be compensated. Once you’re at a worksite and travel for the benefit of the employer, that’s paid time,” said Ismael L. Camacho, a staff attorney at New Mexico Legal Aid.
Farm workers, particularly those who commute from Mexico, are often the ones most likely to not get paid and the least likely to report wage theft and other violations, officials said.
“It doesn’t matter if you are documented or not in this country, you are entitled to receive the protection of the law,” Hernandez said, adding that not everyone knows this and that’s why the consulate’s Labor Rights Week is important.
The deputy consul said all Spanish-speakers are welcomed at the seminars regardless of nationality.
For a full schedule, see the flyer below.