Thursday, March 30, 2006

Guest Workers' Rights

I don't blog about it much, but I make no secret out of the fact that I consider President Bush's guest worker program little more than a legal mechanism through which corporations can recruit cheap labor entirely dependent on their largesse for their very rights. Apparently Israel had a similar system, but thanks to their Supreme Court, that's about to change:
"Under current Israeli law, as in the United States, temporary work authorizations are granted to employers rather than the foreign workers themselves. Thus, if a foreign worker leaves his job against his employer's will or is discharged without a letter of release, he becomes an illegal resident and is subject to deportation. This creates a situation with great potential for abuse, leaving workers with few means of redress against substandard working conditions or illegally low wages. Anecdotal evidence as well as data compiled by organizations aiding foreign workers suggests that abusive conduct by employers is in fact widespread...

"The net effect of the ruling is that, while the Israeli government can still require a pre-existing employment offer as a condition of entry, it can no longer issue visas that require foreign workers to stay at particular job. The state will probably be able to restrict migrant workers to areas of employment in which labor is needed, but they will be free to move from job to job within those fields. This, combined with the Interior Ministry's proposed worker education campaign, will give the foreign workers the freedom to leave abusive employers and reduce the employers' incentive to act abusively in the first place. Now imagine a court having the guts to do the same thing for migrant agricultural workers in this country..."

The opinions of the Israeli judges sound like they'd be worth reading in full.


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