Secretary Hilda Solis Signs Agreements With Foreign Countries to Ensure Justice for Migrant Workers

June 17, 2012

U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis has forged foreign worker labor agreements with additional countries including the Philippines. Eleven countries have signed the partnership agreements to ensure full payment of wages and workplace safety.

It is unknown if the agreements will help victims of wage theft prior to the signing of the agreements. I have inquired and will let workers know when I get an answer.

Below is the U.S. DOL News Release:

News Release
ILAB News Release: [06/11/2012]

Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis and ambassadors of Honduras, the Philippines, Peru and Ecuador sign agreements on migrant worker rights

WASHINGTON — During a ceremony today at U.S. Department of Labor headquarters in Washington, Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis signed partnership agreements with ambassadors representing the embassies of Honduras, the Philippines, Peru and Ecuador.

"Migrant workers make important contributions to our economy," said Secretary Solis. "Today's agreements help ensure these workers are aware of the right to safe workplaces and to receive full payment of the wages owed to them under the laws of the United States."

Under the agreements, regional enforcement offices of the department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration and its Wage and Hour Division will cooperate with local consulates of the four countries. Together, the consulates and Labor Department agencies will reach out to migrant workers with information about U.S. health, safety and wage laws.

The partnerships will help the Wage and Hour Division and OSHA more effectively enforce U.S. laws, especially in high-risk and low-wage industries. This cooperation also will help both agencies identify problems faced by migrant workers and target labor law enforcement efforts.

"Honduras is extremely pleased to sign these letters of arrangement with the DOL, WHD and OSHA," said Honduras Ambassador Jorge Ramón Hernández Alcerro. "It marks an important step forward in the cooperation between our governments that will promote the respect and defense of migrant workers' rights. This collaboration exemplifies our determination to help promote labor rights for all in our countries."

"We are very pleased to sign these joint declarations and letters of arrangement with DOL," said Philippine Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia Jr. "We assure DOL we will do our part in ensuring the dissemination of helpful information to Filipino workers concerning their right to a safe and healthy working environment, and fair wages and working hours in the U.S., and in assisting them to seek redress when such rights are disregarded or outright violated."

Ambassador Harold Forsyth of Peru said, "This agreement reflects the existing cooperation and full understanding between Peru and the U.S. to jointly protect Peruvian workers' rights in the United States regarding wage issues through public outreach campaigns, education and training. This program helps to promote a legal framework between Peruvian workers and their employers to ensure the enforcement of fundamental human rights and responsibilities in the workplace."

"Ecuador considers a priority the welfare of every Ecuadorian immigrant in the United States. The agreements that will be signed with the Department of Labor are a useful tool to protect the rights of migrant workers," said Ambassador Nathalie Cely of Ecuador.

More information about the agreements and the department's program to protect migrant workers is available at The department previously implemented agreements with Mexico, Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic and India to benefit migrant workers. Other embassies interested in participating in the department's migrant worker program may contact Rebecca Rowles in the Bureau of International Labor Affairs at 202-693-4831.


It's not your money! said...

Hi Wendy,

Many of the claims for unpaid wages in the CNMI are barred by the statute of limitations, which requires that legal actions be filed within a certain time frame. The agreement between DOL and the Philippines could not revive claims that are time-barred. Collection on other unpaid wage claims is impossible because the employer is insolvent or fled the jurisdiction long ago. It is highly unlikely that the agreement would have any effect in either of those two circumstances. With all due respect to Carlito Marquez, urging workers to send documentation of their old claims to OSHA or DOL's Wage/Hour division is premature; if DOL wants that documentation, they will ask for it. I'm also afraid that trumpeting this agreement--which is likely intended as prospective only--as some sort of panacea for old wage claims will only give false hope to workers with such claims. In the American system, you cannot "rest on your rights." If you got a judgment years ago, and then did nothing to collect on it, it's extremely unlikely you ever will. On the other hand, if you got a judgment, and can show you made a consistent effort to collect on it, then the court may find your claim is not time-barred. Workers should take their judgments to a lawyer, who can give them an opinion about their chances in court.

Anonymous said...

I would love to see so many of these past employers be brought into Fed.court and be made to pay the back wages owed to the workers.
Among these, it would also be so good to see these past people made to pay the homeworkers.
So many "employers" worked for the Govt. and and played "high roller" by having a "maid" they ill could afford while sitting on the beach drinking and BBQ daily or in the poker house while abusing these workers and having them raise their kids.
Unfortunately many such as the Garment factories and others have left island so cannot be held accountable.

Wendy Doromal said...

It's Not Your Money

Thank you so much for your comment. Exactly as I thought! I discussed this problem (again!) last week with people in DC and was told probably the only way that the workers could be made whole would be to be given permanent residency so they would be free to work and try to make up the losses.

I agree with your suggestion of seeking legal help. I know some workers who attempted to collect back wages for years.

It's unfortunate that so many people and businesses that did not have the capitol to hire foreign workers were allowed to. That is why businesses like the Tinian Dynasty continually fail to pay the workers and in fact owe $30 million in back taxes, which is over 1/4 of the CNMI's annual budget! In my comments to DHS, I suggested that any business that owed foreign employers back wages should not be allowed to hire foreign workers under the federal program. It's common sense. We'll see if they ever finish processing the CW permits...

Anonymous said...

CW is such a joke with long term innocent abused cnmi foreign workers.them situation is like loosing the life but still hoping on USA justice/human dignity&rights.the soil of justice/human dignity.what the world believe on USA.this agenda must be bring to CNN/UN to let world will see the cheating of humanity in USA.its an shame on humanity this kind of abuse/harassment.please lord help cnmi legal innocent foreign workers.amen,