In August and September, I detailed allegations by various parties, including a senior elected official, of immigration irregularities in the hiring of construction workers at a highly subsidized facility in Jackson County, Georgia. Regarding the security practices, new allegations have emerged in this location. Some employees and employers have taken different positions on these claims (which I cannot evaluate and which I have no position on). If an employer is circumventing the immigration law, it indicates that the employer is also circumventing other laws.
As a backdrop and repeat, the state of Georgia and Jackson Counties invested heavily in landing a battery manufacturing facility operated by SK Battery America (SKBA), a subsidiary of South Korean company SK Innovation (SKI). Even in a resilient economy, states and municipalities will bid each other with economic incentives to keep the promise of good jobs for their residents, and the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic (with the accompanying economic downturn) has intensified those efforts.
In May, CBP reported that “33 Korean nationals with fraudulent employment letters” arriving at Hartsfield International Airport in Atlanta via Korean Air from Inchon (Seoul), South Korea, were arrested. Local reports (from Randy Travis with local Fox partner) indicated they were on their way to the Jackson County site. This sparked a surge of interest in what was going on there, particularly from local union officials and MP Doug Collins (R-Ga.), The former senior member of the House Judiciary Committee who represents the region.
Travis suggested that contractors “flew overseas rather than using Americans to do some of the groundwork” (SKBA denied renting the construction themselves), as I noted in my September post.
In response, SKBA pledged in August to conduct so-called “ongoing inspections” to ensure contractors are complying with immigration regulations, and SKI said it plans to impose “severe sanctions, including possible dismissal” on any contractor identified against the US – Violate labor law. So far, so good.
Thereafter, on Sept. 14, Travis reported that some construction workers at the SKBA Jackson County facility had notified the federal government that certain contractors there were “ignoring safety concerns in order to complete the job on schedule.”
Specifically, Kimel Brantley, who had serially worked as a safety officer for one of the contractors and one of the subcontractors on site, filed a complaint with the OSHA about issues he saw. Brantley apparently told OSHA that “he has seen” many workers exposed to falls and general safety hazards, “but instead” companies decided to risk this activity to keep production on track through 2022 “.
He went on to claim that “the majority of employees are Korean nationals and Latino workers who have shown a lack of understanding of American safety standards.” Despite being half-Korean himself, Brantley does not speak the language, claiming that “he tried to emphasize safety on the construction site, but because he couldn’t speak Korean his advice went nowhere”.
I would like to point out that the contractor Brantley worked for (Eastern Corporation) vehemently denies the allegations and tells the Fox partner, “They cannot imagine Mr. Brantley’s comment being true because he is independent Violates Eastern’s strict security policy. Security issues are our top priority. ‘”The subcontractor in question, MiDong, did not respond to the point of sale.
Brantley isn’t the only one complaining about security there. Randy Gregory, who installs elevators on site and has worked in the construction industry for 26 years, said, “It’s a wonder no one has been killed.” He continued, “You keep an eye on security to get something done.”
The union has filed a separate OSHA complaint on behalf of Gregory and other workers (without naming a specific contractor) that includes pictures showing what [Gregory] Serious security breaches by another contractor were found on site. “The complaint states:
“The consensus of workers who care about leaving the workplace at the end of the day in the state they walked that morning is that there is little attention to proper safety procedures and prevention in the workplace.”
Travis reports that the local ambulance “has responded to four field calls since April and transported two workers, but none with life-threatening injuries.” In July, OSHA fined a separate subcontractor at the construction site $ 6,072 (down from an initial fine of $ 10,120) for what Travis explains was “a scissor lift accident that involved a worker being hospitalized” .
For its part, SKBA states that “the safety management on site is carried out under the responsibility of our general contractors”, that “the safety of the construction personnel on the construction site is the most important priority”. It is also claimed that it “works with our contractors to ensure that all safety standards and appropriate on-site procedures are followed”.
Eastern makes it clear that it “trains its employees and subcontractors regularly to create the working environment [is] as safe as possible for all employees on site. “There was no comment on the photos, some of which can be seen in the Fox partner’s story (and the accompanying video) of the allegations.
Although I worked in construction law more than two decades ago, I make no claim to comment on (let alone judge) the various allegations regarding the safety of this construction site. Usually there are two (or more) sides to every story and I leave it to OSHA – and the various companies involved, their workers and the union – to sort it all out.
That means in general, as I explained in an August 2019 post: “Illegal immigration promotes the exploitation of workers”. I emphasized that “even illegal immigrants are entitled to protection under most of the United States’ labor laws, with the (obvious) exception to the provisions on employer sanctions in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).”
This post continued:
The United States has some of the best laws protecting the working conditions of any country on earth in human history. However, when the pool of willing workers is much larger than the number of jobs available to them, employers have an advantage in recruiting, and some inevitably insist on working conditions that violate these laws. In other words, when potential employees are desperate enough, they are ready to accept the terms and conditions set by the potential employer, even if those terms are against the law and potentially harm the employee.
Brantly claims he saw “Koreans” instead of “American workers” hired on the site and claims, “And they weren’t qualified … They have some people there who need jobs. Which I do for $ 6,000 a year would.” Month they will do for two. “
I don’t know if that’s true or not. However, in the video accompanying Fox’s written article, Brantly stated that the member’s coverage “brought about a lot of changes, many Korean workers never even reporting for work,” allegedly after SKBA set up a checkpoint on the website, on which “foreign workers have to present passports and prove that they can legally work here” (which SKI had promised, as I stated in my post from September).
Other violations of labor law can often be found in places where violations of the INA’s employment regulations are (or have occurred) and vice versa. Oddly, however, as I stated in this August 2019 article, some senior members of Congress have hired ICE in the past to investigate immigration violations among employers that have been identified with other (non-immigration) employment violations.
In my experience, some worker complaints are valid and some are not (and some are in between) and, hoping that I have already clarified this, I am unable to evaluate worker claims about safety at the Jackson site County. While I am in a much better position to comment on the alleged immigration violations, I don’t have all of the facts, so I’m holding back.
However, if the immigration complaints are found to be valid, I won’t be surprised if the security complaints also turn out to be true (and vice versa). In no area of American life is there illegal immigration in a vacuum. This is also true (if not more) of safety at work – a concern that we should all share, regardless of political or immigration views.