Remarks Prepared for Delivery by U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao For Signing of the Joint Declaration and Letters of Agreement on Worker Protection between the United States and Mexico

July 21, 2004

It is a great pleasure to welcome Mexico’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Luis Derbez; Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs for North America Geronimo Gutierrez and Mexican Ambassador to the United States, Carlos de Icaza to this signing ceremony. We are here today to sign historic agreements that will protect Hispanic workers. These agreements are a milestone in President George W. Bush’s unprecedented efforts to protect Hispanic workers in the United States.

I also have with me today John Henshaw, Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health, and Victoria Lipnic, Assistant Secretary for Employment Standards, whose agencies are taking the lead in implementing this Administration’s historic Hispanic outreach initiative in the workplace.

Hispanics are an integral part of the American workforce and Mexican workers comprise the largest component within the Hispanic workforce. President George W. Bush and his administration are committed to ensuring that they are safe on the job and fully and fairly compensated for their hard work.

This Administration’s historic efforts to protect this growing segment of our workforce have resulted in safer workplaces for these workers. This includes, in 2002, the first decline in the number of Hispanic workplace fatalities in 7 years. But more needs to be done. Hispanic workers often work in dangerous occupations, such as construction and transportation. And too many Hispanic workers are still being injured on the job. That’s why the Labor Department has developed a Hispanic Task Force to help OSHA reach out more effectively to employers and employees in industries with high concentrations of Hispanic workers.

Some of these tools include:

* Spanish-language versions of safety and health manuals and guidelines;
* Safety and health classes in Spanish;
* A toll-free help line where Spanish-speaking callers can report concerns about health and safety; and,
* A Spanish-language health and safety Web site.

Another critical protection for Hispanic workers is full and fair compensation. And I’m proud of the fact that the Labor Department has made this a top priority. To date, the Department has recovered and collected more than $18 million in wages for nearly 31,000 workers, many of whom are Hispanic and in low-wage occupations.

And the Department is working with Mexican consulates across the country to reach out and help Mexican workers. This partnership, which was launched in Houston, Texas, in July of 2001 is called the Justice and Equality in the Workplace program and has expanded now to Dallas, Las Vegas and Los Angeles.

So I am very proud to be here today to sign the joint declaration with Secretary Derbez and to witness the signing of the two letters of agreements pledging continued and expanded cooperation with the government of Mexico. These agreements will build upon this Administration’s historic outreach program with the Mexican Embassy and its Consulates in the United States.

Now, I would like to ask Minister Derbez to make a few remarks.

And then Minister Derbez and I will sign a joint declaration pledging to continue to work together to promote safe and fair workplace practices for Mexican workers in the United States. After that, Assistant Secretaries Vicky Lipnic and John Henshaw will sign two letters of agreement with Undersecretary Gutierrez.

I am so pleased to see these letters of agreements signed. These really are historic. They emphasize the strong commitment of our two governments—the United States and Mexico—and our two Presidents, President George W. Bush and President Vicente Fox, to continue to ensure that Mexican workers are safe on the job and fully and fairly compensated.

Thank you for being here.
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