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US migrant nurses, other health care workers face multiple problems: NBC News

Xinhua | Updated: 2023-06-06 09:25
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A protester waves to pedestrians outside Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan, New York, the United States, on Jan 11, 2023. Thousands of nurses from New York City's Mount Sinai Hospital and Montefiore Bronx went on strike over staffing shortage, low wage and other issues. [Photo/Xinhua]

NEW YORK - Nurses and other health care workers who have been brought to the United States from overseas to fill thousands of vacant jobs say in some instances they've been subjected to unsafe working conditions, wage theft and threats of tens of thousands of dollars in debt if they quit or are fired, reported NBC News on Sunday.

"In interviews, more than a dozen immigrant health care workers from across the country described being placed in jobs where there was so little staff that they weren't able to meet patients' basic needs and feared for their physical safety," said the report.

They also described being paid less than their American counterparts despite immigration laws that require they be paid the local prevailing wage, working unpaid overtime and having been misled about benefits, such as free housing, which in one case amounted to a vacant room in the nursing home where the nurse worked, according to the report.

"But when the workers tried to leave their jobs before the expiration of multi-year contracts, they were faced with paying tens of thousands of dollars in penalties to their employers, forced into arbitration or sued, in some cases for more than 100,000 US dollars," the report cited a review of employment contracts, lawsuits and other documentation.

"These unconscionable contracts effectively trap these workers in debt bondage, making it impossible for them to leave their jobs," Martina Vandenberg, president of the Human Trafficking Legal Center, was quoted as saying in congressional testimony last month about what she saw as a wider problem. "The workers are handcuffed by debt, unable to flee."

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