A Win For Foreign Workers

While Congress debates the details of a guestworker program here in the states, a federal judge has ruled that workers rights apply to those from other countries.

The ruling, which was the end result of a lawsuit brought by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), says that non-agricultural guestworkers employed in the U.S. are entitled to protection under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The SPLC sums it up:

The Center filed suit against Decatur Hotels LLC and its president, F. Patrick Quinn III, in August 2006. The suit, filed on behalf of 82 guestworkers, alleged that Decatur Hotels violated the FLSA when the company failed to reimburse the workers for the visa and transportation costs.

Following Hurricane Katrina, Decatur Hotels recruited an estimated 300 guestworkers from Peru, Bolivia and the Dominican Republic with promises of 40-hour workweeks and plenty of overtime. Instead, those workers found themselves working about 25 hours a week, and sometimes far less. That made it almost impossible for them to pay off the debt they incurred. Many found themselves unable to make ends meet on what they earned.

The ruling could very well set an important precedent for guestworkers in every state and discourage exploitation from employers.

Erin Rosa was born in Spain and raised in Colorado Springs. She is a freelance writer currently living in Denver. Rosa's work has been featured in a variety of news outlets including the Huffington Post, Democracy Now!, and the Rocky Mountain Chronicle, an alternative-weekly in Northern Colorado where she worked as a columnist covering the state legislature. Rosa has received awards from the Society of Professional Journalists for her reporting on lobbying and woman's health issues. She was also tapped with a rare honorable mention award by the Newspaper Guild-CWA's David S. Barr Award in 2008--only the second such honor conferred in its nine-year history--for her investigative series covering the federal government's Supermax prison in the state. Rosa covers the labor community, corrections, immigration and government transparency matters. She can be reached at erosa@www.coloradoindependent.com.