Saturday, Oct. 16

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State panel to investigate
work-related deaths

Immigrant workers at greatest risk     Send a link to a friend

[OCT. 16, 2004]  CHICAGO -- In an effort to protect immigrant laborers from unsafe working environments, Gov. Rod Blagojevich has appointed a special panel to investigate the high incidence of work-related death rates among Hispanic immigrant workers. The rising number of injuries and fatalities among immigrant workers in the transportation, construction, agriculture, retail and service industries prompted the governor to create this worker safety panel.

"We are going to do absolutely everything possible to protect our immigrant workers," said Gov. Blagojevich. "I am appointing these individuals so they can provide recommendations to ensure that after a hard day of work, Illinois workers can return home safely to their families."

The panel represents a group of community advocates, academic, business, labor, and occupational safety and health experts:

  • Margaret Blackshere, president, Illinois AFL-CIO
  • Kim Bobo, executive director, National Interfaith Committee on Worker Justice
  • Luis Gutierrez, U.S. House of Representatives
  • Dr. Susan Buchanan, University of Illinois at Chicago, Department of Occupational Medicine
  • Patrick Hosty, executive director, Chicago Area Laborers-Employers Cooperation and Education Trust
  • Josh Hoyt, executive director, Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights
  • Art Ludwig, director, Illinois Department of Labor
  • Miriam Perez, organizer, Day Laborer Collaborative
  • Juan Ochoa, president and chief executive officer, Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
  • Jose Oliva, director, Workers Rights Center, Chicago Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice
  • Peter Orris, Great Lakes Center for Occupational and Environmental Safety and Health
  • Jorge Ramirez, executive director, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1546
  • Caesar Santoy, executive director, Hispanic American Construction Industry Association
  • Rosemary Sokas, director, Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, University of Illinois - School of Public Health

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According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of Hispanic immigrant worker deaths has significantly increased each year for the past decade. Some factors that contribute to this are that immigrant workers rarely make complaints for fear of being fired or deported -- since they often lack union protection. Many of them are not educated about their rights to a safe workplace, which may differ from those in their native country. Also, there is a need for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to increase Spanish-speaking enforcement personnel, as safety information and training is often not provided in Spanish.

The governor's panel will identify mechanisms to decrease the risk of injury or death of immigrant workers and day laborers on the job. They will recommend bilingual and mechanical work force training and develop state programs to help immigrant workers overcome other communication and cultural barriers.

Panel members will also work closely with U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez to better coordinate efforts with federal safety standards and push legislative changes to strengthen worker protections.

[News release from the governor's office]

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