The plight of immigrant Latino workers will be the focus of a half-day conference sponsored by the California Applicant Attorneys Association (CAAA) on February 8 at the Citizen Hotel in Sacramento. “Death, Denials & Discrimination: A Conversation” will bring together a dozen distinguished figures from the state’s labor, legislative and legal sectors to provide expert overviews on the challenges facing the immigrant Latino labor force.
Among those challenges are the sheer statistical realities that the 2.4 million undocumented Latino workers in California comprise about 10% of the state’s workforce, but in 2014, they accounted for 59.4% of workplace injuries and 37.8% of workplace deaths. These daunting figures suggest a unique set of circumstances not only for workers, but for the employers, legislators, attorneys and judges who must contend with the complex challenges of undocumented workers suffering injuries on the job.
Three panel discussions at the conference will address these and other concerns facing both undocumented and documented Latino workers.
“Latino Workers’ Injuries & Deaths” will feature panelists Arturo S. Rodriguez, president of the United Farmworkers; Kent Wong, director of the UCLA Labor Center; Barry Broad, legislative advocate for the California Teamsters Public Affairs Council, and Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights.
The “Rights of the Undocumented” panel that follows will feature Assemblymember Adam Gray (D-Merced), an expert on workplace issues; Doug Bloch, political director of the Teamsters Union Joint Council 7; Joe Capurro, an attorney and advocate whose 35 years of experience in workers’ compensation law have included appearing before the California Supreme Court; and Laura Polstein, the immigration senior staff attorney with the workers’ rights and Latino support organization Centro Legal de la Raza.
The concluding discussion, “Tearing Down Walls,” will include panelists Maria Elena Durazo, the general international vice president of immigration and diversity for the labor union “UNITE HERE”; Thomas A. Saenz, president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund; and Bill Herreras, an attorney with 40 years of experience in workers’ compensation law who has also argued cases before the California Supreme Court.
Boxer & Gerson Partner Maria Grasso, chair of the conference’s organizing committee and long active in legal issues affecting Latino immigrants, will offer opening remarks to kick off the day. Sager also chairs the Board of Directors of the Latino legal services and support group Centro Legal de la Raza, conducts a monthly radio interview show on workers’ rights on Spanish radio station KIQI in San Francisco, and visits the Mexican Consulate in San Francisco monthly to give pro bono presentations on workers’ compensation law to immigrants.
As a Spanish speaker herself, Sager has represented thousands of Spanish-speaking clients over her nearly 18-year legal career, and is thus in a unique position to understand the fears and concerns of immigrants during this turbulent political time. She will be joined briefly on the podium during opening remarks by Rodrigo Baez, Consul of Protection & Legal Affairs for the Sacramento Mexican Consulate. She will also play a 2-minute video produced in both English and Spanish that discusses the benefits even undocumented workers are entitled to when injured on the job. The video can be downloaded anytime at vimeo.com/caaaworkcomp.
The idea for this conference was hatched in discussions last year between Boxer & Gerson Partner Bert Arnold, who recently ended his year-long term as president of CAAA, and his colleague Sager, whose experience on the State Bar Workers’ Compensation Executive Committee and other activities regarding immigrant rights has seen her heavily involved in workplace issues involving Latinos. When Arnold and the CAAA decided that one critical goal would be to heighten the activity and profile of the organization’s Latino Caucus, he turned to Sager for assistance. She then parlayed much of her experience with the State Bar and her many contacts in the field of immigration and workers’ rights to join forces with the Latino Caucus in the creation of the upcoming conference.
Initial funding for the conference was provided personally by the CAAA Board of Directors last year when the idea was first discussed in earnest at a July board meeting. A subsequent and separate collection among the CAAA’s Latino Caucus was to be donated to the California Legislature’s Latino Caucus in furtherance of that group’s goals.
For more information and registration, go to latinoworkcomp.eventbrite.com