Chair Jacqueline A. Berrien,
Thank you for hosting this signing ceremony.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today, about 7.6 million immigrants born in Mexico participate in the American labor force. Their contributions cannot be overstated; in 2012, they contributed 4 percent of the U.S. GDP. Together with second and third generation Mexicans, that contribution rose to 8 percent. And this workforce is young. The median age of the U.S. population as a whole is 37, while the median age of Hispanics in this country is 27. The median of Mexican-Americans in the U.S. is just 25. More importantly, Mexican workers are expected to make up a larger portion of this nation’s workforce, both in low and high skilled jobs, as they replace retiring baby boomers between now and 2030.
Despite their important contributions to the American economy, Mexican workers are often times vulnerable and frequently exposed to abuses and discrimination, including sexual harassment at the workplace. Unfortunately, many of them are not aware of their rights. Often times, they tolerate these abuses and do not complain because of fear of retaliation. To take a recent example, last year two supermarket employees were suspended in Albuquerque, New Mexico, after complaining that their supervisor had prohibited them from speaking Spanish during working hours.
This reality makes the collaborative efforts of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Government of Mexico of utmost significance. Through joint outreach efforts by the Commission, the Embassy and the fifty Mexican consulates in the United States, more and more Mexican workers are empowered to stand up against abuses.
Today´s signature of a national memorandum of understanding between the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the EEOC formalizes a fruitful relationship. We already have 28 local arrangements in place between Mexican Consulates and the Commission’s district offices. Under these arrangements, Mexican nationals throughout the United States are informed of their workplace rights; complaints are referred to the EEOC; and monetary compensations are distributed even if the workers have returned to Mexico.
After months of hard work, we bring this project to completion as we come to the end of the sixth edition of Labor Rights Week. We could not have found a better way to close it.
Over the last six years, in partnership with the Department of Labor, a wide array of stakeholders, federal and state labor agencies like the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission, and consulates from other countries, have consolidated their outreach resources in this one week effort. The main objective is to inform immigrant communities of their fundamental labor rights and the procedures to file complaints against abuses in the workplace
As in previous years, Labor Rights Week highlighted a key message that captures the core mission of EEOC: That regardless of national origin or immigration status, all workers have rights and that there are processes to safeguard them.
In this year’s edition of the Labor Rights Week, we gave special attention to the needs of temporary Mexican workers that hold H1 and H2 visas. We also reached out to those Mexican nationals who have just recently joined the workforce by obtaining an Employment Authorization Document after receiving a U and T visas, or deferred action “DACA”. Regrettably, this is just the beginning of a long journey for them and those work permits do not necessarily prevent labor abuses.
Accordingly, our commitment to the protection of labor rights and to end workplace discrimination shall remain strong. The Embassy and the Mexican Consular network will continue strengthening their partnership with EEOC to empower Mexican workers. We have to make sure that all workers receive a fair treatment regardless of whom they are and where they come from. At the end of the day, their success is the success of both our two countries.