WASHINGTON – The Labor Department signed agreements Wednesday with Mexico pledging to improve compliance with U.S. labor laws (search) and increase safety for Hispanic workers in the United States.
The declaration did not include additional funding or an increase in inspections and enforcement.
Department and Mexican government officials said they will build on existing initiatives aimed at reaching out to employers and Spanish-speaking workers to educate them about their rights and obligations.
The agreement and a Hispanic safety and health conference Thursday in Orlando, Florida, follow reports by The Associated Press that the death toll for Mexican-born workers has soared, with one dying every day on average in the United States, based on federal statistics.
In the mid-1990s, Mexicans working in the United States were about 30 percent more likely to die than U.S.-born workers; in 2002, they were about 80 percent more likely. Experts say the population is hard to reach, and they often take the most hazardous jobs with the least safety training and equipment.
"This administration is committed to ensuring that (Mexican workers) are safe on the job and fully and fairly compensated for their work," said Labor Secretary Elaine Chao (search), who signed the agreement with Mexico's foreign affairs secretary, Luis Ernesto Derbez (search). "These agreements will build on this administration's unprecedented joint outreach program with the Mexican Embassy and its consulates in the United States."
The department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Wage and Hour Division will develop safety training programs targeting industries with a large number of Hispanic workers. If funds are available, the department will develop new safety public service announcements and create videos and posters, and will publicize and distribute existing materials and resources.