It's All About Trust

October 17, 2019

Vulnerable immigrant workers contribute immensely to Greater Boston’s economy but are also prime targets for exploitive employers who use fear and intimidation to keep them from reporting wage theft, unsafe work conditions, and even injuries. This is not only bad for workers, but also for employers that follow the law.

When bad employers use a workers’ immigration status against them, it allows these operations to keep costs down and undercut good job providers. That is why on September 13, members of the MassCOSH Immigrant Worker Center attended a State House hearing to testify in support of improvements to Boston’s “Trust Act” to ensure the City’s policies around collaboration with ICE are transparent and that immigrant workers are protected.

An undocumented construction worker who was arrested by ICE after filing a worker's compensation claim two years ago was, according to a complaint filed by the U.S. Department of Labor Wednesday in Boston's federal court, unlawfully retaliated against by his Boston-based employer.

In 2017, Martin Paz, an undocumented construction worker, was arrested by ICE after filing a workers compensation claim for a significant workplace injury.  In February 2019, the US Department of Labor filed a complaint against his employer for illegal retaliation.  When the complaint revealed that the Boston Police Department helped federal officials arrest Martin Paz, it sent shock waves through Boston’s immigrant communities.  Already living in fear, the news only further discourages workers from reporting workplace dangers and injuries.

The Trust Act ensures that the Boston Police Department can refuse to work with federal immigration officials seeking to detain undocumented workers unless those workers are also wanted for a separate crime. But MassCOSH and its allies have found that amendments proposed by the police and other officials have too many loopholes, does not increase transparency about how the Boston Police cooperate with ICE, and would not have stopped the Police from facilitating the retaliatory arrest of Paz after his injury and workers’ comp claim. MassCOSH used the hearing to raise these points and demand immigrant workers be better protected.

Fear of retaliation like that experienced by Paz has sadly driven many immigrant workers into the lawless underground economy. MassCOSH will remain active in shaping the Trust Act so workers can report dangerous work without fear.