National Guestworker Alliance
The National Guestworker Alliance (NGA) is a membership organization of guestworkers. Our members organize in labor camps across the United States to win collective dignity at work. We are building national power to win fairness in the terms of migration. We also partner with local workers—employed and unemployed—to strengthen U.S. social movements for racial and economic justice.
New Campaign Campaigns
McDonald's Must Pay!http://youtu.be/E8lKrbD2U84 Dear Mr. Thompson, My name is Jorge Rios. I’m a student guestworker from Argentina who came to the U.S. on the State Department’s J-1 Summer Work Travel Program, together with other students from Latin America and Asia. We paid $3,000-4,000 each to come to the United States on this program, expecting a cultural exchange and good work that would let us earn back this money over three months and travel a bit at the end. Instead, we became exploited workers at McDonald’s restaurants in Pennsylvania. We had terrible working and housing conditions. We faced threats, stolen wages, grease burns up and down our arms. We were only used to enrich our employer. We expected to have 40 hours of work a week, but we were given as little as four hours a week at the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. The employer knew we were desperate for more hours, and he kept us on call to come in with 30 minutes’ notice all day and night. I didn’t even have time to visit the public library. If we ever answered that we couldn’t work a shift—if someone was sick or exhausted when they got a call at 4 in the morning—the managers retaliated by giving us even less hours. We could not quit because we knew that if we did, our visas would be cancelled. One manager told us, “You better remember, all we have to do is make one phone call and we can deport you back to your country at any time.” Our employer Andy Cheung charged us $300 each per month to live in basement apartments he owned. As many as eight of us lived in a single basement. We slept on bunkbeds made for children that shook and squeaked. We had no privacy whatsoever. When we talked to the U.S. workers alongside us, we learned that they were being exploited too. They told us they also faced too few hours, threats from managers, and unpaid overtime. This is not the America we believed in. We believe America is a beautiful country, where everyone can have respect and fair treatment at work. We decided to stand up for ourselves, for other J-1 student guestworkers, and for U.S. workers. Today, with the support of the National Guestworker Alliance, my fellow students and I held a surprise work stoppage at the McDonald’s where we worked. We met with allies from the community, with local workers, and with unemployed people. We told our stories, and said that no one should have to experience what we did. We asked to meet with our employer Andy Cheung, but he refused. So we are respectfully asking you, as President and CEO of McDonald’s: 1. That McDonald’s pay us students back all the money we are owed, including the money we spent to come work for the company, unpaid overtime, and housing overcharges; 2. That McDonald’s offer full-time work to its U.S. workers, who are struggling with too few hours; 3. That McDonald’s reveal all the stores where it employs guestworkers, and sign an agreement with the National Guestworker Alliance to guarantee basic labor standards for them, including protections from retaliation when workers organize against abuse. Sincerely, Jorge Rios and the McDonald’s J-1 Student Guestworkers9,390 of 10,000 SignaturesCreated by Jorge Rios
Stop Walmart & Whole Foods from Sourcing Forced LaborMy name is Olivia Guzman. For 17 years, my husband Fausto and I have been coming to the U.S. each season from our hometown in Mexico as H-2B guestworkers. We worked with thousands of other guestworkers who process and pack seafood for big retailers like Walmart and Whole Foods. The guestworker visa requires us to work for only one employer. The name of our boss is inscribed in our passport, and if we are fired or leave to seek work somewhere else we can be detained and deported by ICE. Our employers paid us a piece rate—by the weight of seafood we cleaned—that often came out to be less than the minimum wage no matter how fast we worked. They housed us in decrepit labor camps on company property where snakes crawled up through cracks in the floor. Bosses and managers surveilled us in the camps, humiliated us, and even physically abused us. To keep us silent, they constantly threatened us with firing, deportation, and blacklisting so we could no longer find work as guestworkers. There comes a time you can’t take the abuse any more, and in spite of the threats, you have to speak up. I did that when I became of member of the National Guestworker Alliance (NGA). I traveled across the Gulf Coast and organized my fellow guestworkers into committees to try to change conditions in the industry. I traveled to Washington, DC, and Mexico City to tell political leaders about the abuse. But when I hosted NGA meetings in my house, the recruiter spied on us. She said we were all trouble makers and threatened to have us blocked from coming back to the United States. And I learned that the threats were real, because this year, my employer blacklisted me in retaliation for my organizing. I was removed from the employment list, accused of being a trouble maker, and blocked from coming back on an H-2B visa to my employer. Walmart says it wants to stop forced labor on its supply chain, but continues to buy from suppliers who abuse guestworkers every day. Whole Foods tells customers all about where its fish were caught, but not that the fish were packed by workers who were trapped in severe labor abuse. Walmart and Whole Foods set the standards that thousands of suppliers follow. My fellow NGA members and I are calling on them to sign the NGA’s Forced Labor Prevention Accord. The Accord is a binding agreement that would ban retaliation and blacklisting, ensure basic labor standards, and create a binding dispute resolution process that includes employers and workers. We are urging retailers to sign the Accord to ensure that their suppliers don’t trap guestworkers in exploitation and forced labor.7,622 of 8,000 SignaturesCreated by Olivia Guzman