Alabama labor law sparks controversy

The Mexican government is reviewing a labor union’s complaint that Alabama’s crackdown on illegal immigrants violates an international trade agreement, according to an official with Mexico’s labor department. The group, the Service Employees International Union, claimed in April that Alabama’s law targeting illegal immigrants violates protections guaranteed to migrant workers under a side agreement to the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA.

The Mexican government, in the letter, said it had asked the United States to begin talks allowed under the agreement. Labor contends the state law, parts of which have been declared unconstitutional by federal courts, is discriminatory.

Governor Robert Bentley signed the bill, HB 56,  into law last year after it was passed by the GOP-controlled legislature. While intended to “put thousands of native Alabamians back in the work force,” the law instead led to a labor shortage. According to Bloomberg, as a result many Alabama farms have had little choice but to hire legal Haitian and African refugees to keep their businesses operating.

“We hope that further review of Alabama’s racial profiling law will make clear its devastating impact on workers, on the law’s potential for minimum wage and overtime violations, and on workers’ freedom of association which are supposed to be protected under the NAFTA labor clause,” Eliseo Medina, secretary-treasurer of the union, said in a statement.

A spokesman for Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, Jeremy King, said the law tried to make sure people living in the state are doing so legally, “and there is nothing unjust about that.”

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