For more information contact: Joel Johnson 651-297-1934
Under a new law that goes into effect today, migrant workers who are denied wages they've rightfully earned will have a stronger recourse, said State Representatives Karen Clark, one of the sponsors of the bipartisan bill.
"This is a matter justice and fairness," said Clark, the chief author in the House. "It also makes economic sense. Migrant workers are an important and growing part of the Minnesota economy. They bring tremendous value and productivity to Minnesota businesses and agriculture. This law protects their rights to earn a decent wage and receive what's promised to them by business recruiters. It also gives hope to the thousands of families who make the long journey to Minnesota every year that their hard work will be valued and rewarded."
The new law doubles the fines for employers who violate written recruitment agreements with migrant workers. It also stipulates that employers who do not pay wages or promised benefits when they are due can be made to pay twice the amount a worker would have earned. The law takes effect August 1, 2005.
Current law requires that employers who recruit migrant workers from outside of Minnesota must provide a written agreement that guarantees a minimum amount of work, describes the type of work to be performed, and sets out the wages and benefits to be paid. Any employer who violates such an agreement, or fails to pay wages due or promised under such an agreement, will now be liable for a fine of $500 in addition to the amount of any unpaid wages or benefits.
In addition, employers who terminate a migrant worker’s employment now must pay wages due within two days of the employment ending. If an employer fails to pay wages that are due, the employer can be made to pay twice the amount of the wages that an employee would have earned from the date the employment ended to the date payment is finally made.
Centro Campesino member, Santa Arreola, a migrant worker from Del Rio, Texas came to Minnesota in 2002 to work in Chiquita Foods (now Lakeside Foods). She said the new law will not only protect the rights of migrant workers, but also increase the respect with which they are treated.
“This law is important because now employers are going to respect contracts signed with workers, and people will be happier at work because their rights will be respected," Arreola said.
Centro Compesino's Victor Contreras sees this as an important first step toward ensuring that all migrant workers are treated fairly and with dignity and respect.
“Migrant workers are a crucial part of the Minnesota economy," Contreras said. "Yet, all too often they are not paid the wages they have earned. These new laws will increase the incentives of employers to pay workers what they have earned and to punish those employers who try to take advantage of migrant workers.
“We still need to do a lot of work to guarantee that migrant workers are paid fairly and treated with dignity and respect, but these new laws are an important first step."
For more information on the new law or migrant worker issues, contact Joel Johnson, House DFL Media, at 651-297-1934 or Chela Vazquez, Centro Campesino, at 507-446-9599.
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