Immigration & Unions
If you have questions not covered here, the best way
to find out more would be for them to ask a local workers
center or union!
(Based on info from the AFL-CIO
What legal rights to undocumented workers have?
» On paper, most US labor law grants the same
rights and protections to all workers regardless of
immigration status. This includes virtually all of the
National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), Occupational Safety
and Health Act (OSHA), Americans with Disabilities Act
(ADA) and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
» Undocumented workers have a right under the
law to form and join unions, engage in collective bargaining
and participate in other forms of "concerted activity"
protected by the NLRA.
» However, very often employers use the threat
of U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS)
proceedings — which could culminate in deportation
— to discourage undocumented workers from asserting
their rights. Whether the threat is carried out or not,
it stands as a barrier to asserting rights.
» If undocumented workers are fired for exercising
their rights, they are entitled to back pay for any
period of unlawful termination, but they may not be
entitled to reinstatement unless they can prove their
work status has changed. (All workers fired illegally
face ridiculous delays in enforcement of the law and
often do not get their jobs back, but the risks are
higher for undocumented immigrants.)
» Since undocumented workers often are understandably
reluctant to reveal their undocumented status to the
government, they are in turn reluctant to cooperate
with such federal agencies as the National Labor Relations
Board (NLRB), the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S.
Department of Labor and the Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission (EEOC) when these agencies try to conduct
investigations into employer illegal practices.
» The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986
(IRCA) requires employers to verify that all employees,
U.S. citizens or not, are authorized to work in the
United States. Hiring an undocumented worker is $10,000
fine to the employer. However, this is rarely enforced.