COLUMBUS (TDB) -- While the feds are busy raiding Ohio businesses suspected of hiring illegal immigrants from Mexico and Central America, the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation appears headed in a completely different direction. It has scheduled six seminars for employers in Cincinnati, Cleveland and Columbus called "Communicating Safety to Your Spanish Speaking Workforce."
Among other things, the BWC intends to teach businesses in the state "simple two or three word Spanish phrases" to help create a safer workplace environment. That hardly seems a necessity for native born Hispanics in Ohio's workforce -- most should have some fluency in English just by growing up and going to school in the United States. The most recent available Census estimate (2005) shows 2.3% of Ohio's 11.5 million residents are of Hispanic or Latino descent. They are not necessarily foreign born. In fact, only 3% of the state's population is known to have been born outside the United States, and only 6% of all Ohioans speak a language other than English at home. (Those numbers would not include undocumented aliens who avoided the Census takers.) Meanwhile, the BWC Spanish Speaking Workforce program is unfolding as the Bush administration has begun to step up scrutiny of businesses suspected of hiring people who entered the U.S. illegally.
Apparently, the BWC believes there are significant numbers of people in Ohio who now hold jobs and are not able to communicate in the English language. The question is: How many of these Spanish speakers are in the United States with proper visas, or green cards that allow them to work? Another question: How many are participants in the underground economy? The first of the day-long BWC safety sessions is Sept. 4 in Cleveland. An announcement urging Ohio businesses to sign up for the program has been obtained by The Daily Bellwether, and it says:
"The Division of Safety & Hygiene Training Center Offers a one-day class to anyone who works with, supervises or directs Spanish-speaking employees and is responsible for safety education, injury reductions, training and communication.
"What you will learn:
"Cultural awareness issues that impact safety training, communication, and trust;
"Tips and techniques to overcome communication barriers when teaching safety to your Spanish speaking workforce;
"How to develop a training format and safety environment that works for your Spanish speaking employees;
"How to motivate and get your Spanish speaking employees involved with safety;
"Simple two or three word Spanish phrases which can immediately be put into practice."
A copy of the BWC announcement is being circulated by the Ohio Manufacturers' Association. The BWC's free seminar is being conducted by a Los Angeles company called Bilingual Solutions International. That firm says its goal "is to improve communication, quality of work, production and to reduce injuries, accidents and fatalities."
Federal officials who arrested more than 160 people on immigration violations at a poultry processing plant in suburban Cincinnati on Tuesday said unlawful employment has lured illegals into the U.S. Julie Myers, assistant secretary of homeland security for immigration said:
"Unlawful employment is one of the key magnets drawing illegal aliens across our borders. When illegal aliens use fraudulent documents or engage in identity theft, they not only exploit a vulnerability, they also cause real harms to U.S. citizens. We will pursue egregious violators by seeking criminal charges and continue to deploy tools such as the new Social Security no match guidelines to help businesses comply with the law."