VIA E-MAIL — I read Valerie Stakes' Industry Education column in CONTRACTOR magazine's September issue and was surprised that someone who is supposed to be educated would have such an opinion ("Bridging the safety gap with Hispanic workers," pg. 30).
Instead of telling employers to learn their language to improve morale and build a relationship, she should be telling them to obey the law and not hire illegals.
If they want to come to this country to work, they should learn our language first, come over legally and then apply for work.
I am in the construction industry and have been for more than 30 years. I do not hire anyone who cannot speak English and who is not here legally, and I have been able to build my business over the years.
Anyone who says they have to hire illegals to continue in business is just saying they do not intend to pay the proper wages to do the work. But you can bet they are still charging the same price as if they were paying proper wages.
Any business that wants to hire illegals should face a heavy fine for each illegal hired and a large fine for breaking the law.
Valerie's column totally misses the point of hiring illegals. It should be telling employers to obey the law and not hire them, and then the safety problem would be greatly reduced.
Valerie Stakes replies: The column does not suggest in any way that contractors hire illegal immigrants from any country, and I'm saddened that you perceived it as such. I completely agree with you that companies should face fines for improper hiring practices. These companies often regard employees as disposable labor and provide little training if any.
Instead, the column was written in response to discussions I've had with many contractors and associations wanting to know how to better connect, recruit and train workers from the Hispanic community (who are here legally).
While your company may not have difficulty recruiting strictly English-speaking employees, others face a shortage of qualified labor. They are looking to be more creative in their recruiting practices and are willing to deal with the language barrier in their training practices.
Here, OSHA states that employers are responsible for providing employees with a safe workplace and with training.
Furthermore, that training must be in a language that employees understand.