Since 1919, the International Labor Organization has brought together governments, employers, and workers from 187 UN Member States to set labor standards, develop policies and devise programs promoting decent work environments for all women and men. During a convention to address migrant workers’ rights, the ILO pronounced that employers should provide migrant workers “treatment no less favorable than that which is applied to its own nationals,” and that it is necessary “to respect the basic human rights of all migrant workers.” Here in the United States, that is simply not the case.
Gurmeet Singh came to the United States on a tourist visa 13 years ago. He was a veteran of the Indian Army, and though he was already well into his 40s, he was looking for a fresh start in a new city.
Gurmeet settled in New York and began a career in construction. Each month he sent part of his paycheck back to his family in India. Many of his jobs came from Adalat Khan, a subcontractor for a Queens construction company. According to Gurmeet’s children, the two men developed a friendship over the years.
In the spring of last year, Gurmeet began planning his first trip back to India in over a decade. Adalat offered him a job building the Dream Hotel on West 55th Street, and since it would be Gurmeet’s last job before his return trip, Adalat included an airline ticket to India in his pay.
Workers’ compensation programs were adopted in the US roughly a hundred years ago to protect employees injured in the workplace. These programs were designed to minimize unnecessary litigation, guaranteeing injured workers medical coverage regardless of fault, and in exchange, limiting employers’ losses to certain standards for lost wages, medical treatment, and rehabilitation services. Now, a Texas lawyer is working to reverse a century of progress by dismantling the workers’ compensation system.
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