Category Archives: Day Labor

Standing up for dignity women day laborers

Source: Maria Figueroa, Ligia Gualipa, Yadira Sanchez, and Legna Cabrera, Workers Justice Project, Worker Institute at Cornell, Jews for Racial & Economic Justice, 2016

From the abstract:
This report examines the range of issues facing women day laborers who seek employment at in Brooklyn. Over the years day laborers have become one of the most vulnerable groups of workers within the growing non-standard workforce in the U.S. There is an added vulnerability that results from women day laborers being employed as domestic workers. Despite improvements in the law, policy gaps remain for providing wage and workplace safety protections for day laborers who work as domestic workers.

Immigrant laborers have a new tool to fight back against rampant wage theft in the US

Source: Kate Groetzinger, Frida Garza, Quartz, June 30, 2016

….The Jornalero app has three main functions: First, it allows day laborers to record the hours they work. Second, it allows them to file a wage theft report directly to a workers’ center from their phone. Third, it allows them to send out an alert when they experience wage theft, to warn other day laborers with the app about nonpaying employers in the area.

Most day laborers have smartphones, according to Ligia Guallpa, executive director of the Worker’s Justice Project, a center in Brooklyn, New York. But one of the biggest impediments to fighting wage theft is the misconception among day laborers that they are not protected by US labor laws if they violate immigration law….

Leer en español.

Danger and Dignity: Immigrant Day Laborers and Occupational Risk

Source: Jayesh Rathod, American University – Washington College of Law, WCL Research Paper No. 2016-09, March 21, 2016

From the abstract:     
The plight of immigrant workers in the United States has captured significant scholarly attention in recent years. Despite the prevalence of discourses regarding this population, one set of issues has received relatively little attention: immigrant workers’ exposure to unhealthy and unsafe working conditions, and their corresponding susceptibility to workplace injuries and illnesses. Researchers have consistently found that immigrant workers suffer disproportionately from occupational injuries and fatalities, even when controlling for industry and occupation. Why, then, are foreign-born workers at greater risk for workplace injuries and fatalities, when compared with their native-born counterparts? This Article seeks to develop answers to that question with the aid of empirical research and to build upon a growing interdisciplinary literature.

This Article presents findings from a qualitative research study designed to explore the factors that shape occupational risks for immigrants. The study, conducted over several months in 2014, centered on in-depth interviews of eighty-four immigrant day laborers seeking employment in different parts of Northern Virginia. The workers’ responses present a complex picture of the immigrant worker experience, reflecting persistent dangers alongside powerful expressions of worker dignity: while the Virginia day laborers continue to encounter significant occupational risks, many comfortably asserted their rights, complicating standard narratives of immigrant worker subordination and vulnerability.

The results of the study also point to ongoing economic insecurities, and regulatory failures relating to the provision of training, use of protective equipment, and oversight of smaller worksites. The findings also signal the need for a more holistic approach to workplace regulation that concomitantly examines a range of workplace concerns, including wage violations, hostile work environments, and health and safety risks. Finally, the day laborers’ experiences reveal that worker centers are well positioned to insulate immigrant workers from workplace risks, by promoting transparency and accountability in the employer-employee relationship.

Latino immigrant day laborer perceptions of occupational safety and health information preferences

Source: Claudia M. Díaz Fuentes, Leonardo Martinez Pantoja, Meshawn Tarver, Sandy A. Geschwind and Marielena Lara, American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Volume 59 Issue 6, June 2016
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Background: We address immigrant day laborers’ experiences with occupational safety in the construction industry in New Orleans, and opinions about content and method of communication for educational interventions to reduce occupational risks.
Methods: In 2011, we conducted seven focus groups with 48 Spanish-speaking day laborers (8 women, 40 men, 35 years on average). Focus group results are based on thematic analysis.
Results: Most employers did not provide safety equipment, threatened to dismiss workers who asked for it, and did not provide health insurance. Attitudes toward accepting unsafe work conditions varied. Women faced lower pay and hiring difficulties than men. Day laborers preferred audio format over written, and content about consequences from and equipment for different jobs/exposures.
Conclusions: Day laborers have common occupational experiences, but differences existed by gender, literacy and sense of control over safety. Day laborer information preferences and use of media needs further studying.

The Unexpected Power of Informal Workers in the Public Square: A Comparison of Mexican and US Organizing Models

Source: Hugo Sarmiento, Chris Tilly, Enrique de la Garza Toledo and José Luis Gayosso Ramírez, International Labor and Working-Class History, Volume 89, Spring 2016
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Street vendors in Mexico and day laborers in the United States, both groups of informal workers who labor in public space, face formidable structural obstacles to securing their rights as workers. Despite their apparent vulnerability, these informal workers have built perhaps the most powerful informal worker organizations in their countries. In this article, we explore and explain to the extent possible the sources, forms, and limits of this unexpected power. We explore organizational and strategic commonalities as well as differences and seek to explain both.

Symposium Issue – Reimagining Labor Law

Source: UC Irvine Law Review, Volume 4: Issue No. 2, May 2014

Articles include:
Reimagining Collective Rights in the Workplace
Catherine L. Fisk
…. A group of eminent and rising scholars were invited to address fundamental questions: What are the alternatives to the Wagner Act model of majority unions, workplace collective bargaining, and the current regime of social welfare provision on which it depends? What institutional structures could be created to provide dignity, opportunity, and protection to work? Rather than focusing on the current regime, the authors were challenged to explore alternatives and not to take anything for granted, including the existing divisions between or structures of labor law and employment law.

The articles explore a variety of alternative legal and social regimes based in existing practice in the United States—including the hybrid union-community worker organizations like Our Walmart and Fast Food Forward, sector-based worker groups like the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, Occupy initiatives, workers’ centers, national progressive organizations like the National Employment Law Project, and community organizations like the Asian Pacific American Legal Center. Some are based on comparative studies, examining possibilities of creating in the United States institutional structures that show promise elsewhere in the world. Some generalize from careful studies of particular campaigns or organizations, with an eye toward scaling up successful efforts. Some examine different legal regimes—the First Amendment freedom of assembly clause, for example—and some examine different forms of representation and institutional structures, including worker centers. Some explore feasible legal strategies to address the marginalization of unauthorized migrant workers. Others propose legal reforms to invigorate private membership organizations that protect the interests of people at work, such as by reducing restrictions on the collection of voluntary political contributions through payroll deduction and liberating unions from some of the restrictions imposed by state right-to-work legislation. …

….The articles in this symposium collectively argue three important propositions. First, collective activism will be crucial to any revitalization of labor. Labor law reform should aspire to enable the organizing that is essential to effective collective activism. Each of the papers proposes a different way that law can either facilitate such organizing and activism or avoid thwarting it. Second, and related, institutional design matters a great deal to whether worker activism will occur and, if it does occur, whether it will be effective in improving working conditions. Third, legal rules should be crafted to facilitate collective worker action by making worker collectives sustainable and scalable institutions; by giving them crucial roles in existing legal regimes to empower worker voice in many important legal and political forums; by leveraging power at the local, state, and national level; and by thwarting efforts to use legal doctrines like preemption or legal bureaucracies like criminal justice to eviscerate organizing gains.

The third step of the argument is where the authors strike out on four different but intersecting paths. The paths are: (1) empowering collectives, especially at the local level; (2) creating mechanisms to enhance leverage through local, national, and international frameworks; (3) improving access to information to enhance worker power; and (4) strengthening the institutional power of unions by protecting the ability of unions and worker collectives to fund their operations. The first two of these offer macro perspectives on how law facilitates and thwarts worker activism. The third and fourth examine the ways that law creates (or destroys) the institutional frameworks that empower workers to act collectively in organizing, in negotiating and administering agreements over conditions of employment, and in political action. ….

Latin America’s “Third Left” Meets the U.S. Workplace: A Promising Direction for Worker Protection?
Chris Tilly & Marie Kennedy

Beyond Unions, Notwithstanding Labor Law

Marion Crain & Ken Matheny

Not Dead Yet: Preserving Labor Law Strengths While Exploring New Labor Law Strategies
Lance Compa

Riding the Wave: Uplifting Labor Organizations Through Immigration Reform
Jayesh M. Rathod

Policing Wage Theft in the Day Labor Market
Stephen Lee

Productive Unionism
Matthew Dimick

Organizing with International Framework Agreements: An Exploratory Study
César F. Rosado Marzán

Extending the Case for Workplace Transparency to Information About Pay
Cynthia Estlund

Automatic Elections
Michael M. Oswalt

Restoring Equity in Right-to-Work Law
Catherine L. Fisk & Benjamin I. Sachs

Paycheck Protection or Paycheck Deception? When Government “Subsidies” Silence Political Speech
Brian Olney

Policing Wage Theft in the Day Labor Market

Source: Stephen Lee, University of California Irvine School of Law Research Paper No. 2014-70, November 25, 2014

From the abstract:
In recent years, workers’ rights advocates have turned to a novel tactic in the fight against employer exploitation: pushing for the criminalization of wage theft. In a growing number of jurisdictions, advocates have persuaded lawmakers to pass laws imposing criminal sanctions — hefty fines and the possibility of imprisonment — onto employers for engaging in these bad acts. In this Essay, I focus on the challenges of enforcing wage theft laws within those industries dependent on unauthorized immigrant labor. I argue that federal immigration enforcement programs — ranging from funding inducements to information-sharing schemes to collateral penalties — dampen the promise of turning to the police as allies in the effort to eradicate wage theft. Specifically, local law enforcement agencies (LEAs) that consider protecting unauthorized immigrants (through the enforcement of wage theft laws) must do so amid competing pressures to identify and detain unauthorized immigrants (through the enforcement of federal immigration laws). The structure and design of these federal immigration enforcement programs make it difficult for LEAs to fully withdraw from the larger enterprise of identifying and removing immigrants, which is necessary to effectively enforce wage theft laws in immigrant-dominated communities. My point here is not to dissuade labor rights advocates from ever turning to the criminal justice system for help in the fight against workplace exploitation. But assessing whether the police can solve the problem of wage theft in the day labor market requires further study. Thus, I conclude the Essay with a research agenda of sorts in which I lay out further research trajectories to help answer the question of when policing wage theft can be both effective and desirable.

Will Today’s Excluded Workers Midwife Labor’s Rebirth?

Source: New Labor Forum, Vol. 20 no. 3, Fall 2011
(subscription required)

Worker Centers: Entering a New Stage of Growth and Development
By Janice Fine
Do worker centers represent the next stage of labor insurgency?

The Excluded Workers Congress: Reimagining the Right to Organize
By Harmony Goldberg and Randy Jackson
A report from the founding convention.

The Workers Center Movement and Traditional Labor Law: A Contextual Analysis

Source: Eli Naduris-Weissman, Berkeley Journal of Employment and Labor Law, Vol. 30 no. 1, 2009
(subscription required)

From the Lexis Nexis summary:
This Article explores how traditional labor laws, primarily the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) and the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA), should apply to worker centers. … According to Fine’s study, fifty-six percent of worker centers engage in industry-specific organizing, meaning that they build organizations of workers and engage in campaigns intended to improve wages and working conditions in a particular industry in some geographic area. … The study also found that most day-laborer worker centers do the following: (1) provide a defined space for workers to assemble, as well as a job-allocation system (either a lottery, list of available workers, or some other selection mechanism) that imposes order or a hiring queue on the day-laborer hiring process; (2) require job seekers and employers to register with center staff, which helps workers identify employers and hold them accountable to labor standards; (3) set minimum wage rates; and (4) monitor labor standards, employer behavior, and worker quality.

Decent Work, Living Wages, and the Government’s Hidden Leverage

Source: American Prospect, Special Report, Vol. 20 no. 8, October 2009

Today, the country’s primary labor market – regular jobs with reliable wages, benefits, and terms of employment – is being drained by a rise in temporary and contract work with no security. By using its power as a contractor and by enforcing laws already on the books, government can turn millions of bad jobs into good ones.
Articles include:

Broken Laws, Unprotected Workers – Annette Bernhardt, Ruth Milkman and Nik Theodore
Rebuilding our economy on the back of illegal working conditions is morally untenable — and it is bad economics.

Dark and Bitter – Nancy Cleeland
Food workers increasingly exist in a legal limbo with no protections for wages, benefits, job security, or life and limb. Why are employers like Hershey off the hook?

Decent Work – Robert Kuttner
How government can get back on the side of promoting good jobs.

Forgotten Corners of the Economy – Stephen Franklin
As unemployment rises, the illegal treatment of day laborers only worsens. Where’s the government?

Good Jobs, Healthy Cities – Peter Dreier
Some city governments are using their economic muscle to promote good jobs.

Government Paves the Way – Paul Sonn and Annette Bernhardt
A decent work agenda for the Obama administration.

Stuck on the Low Road – David Bensman
Deregulation turned truck driving from a good job into a bad one. Now, thanks to local organizing and government action, there’s a better road.

The Good War and the Workers – Steve Fraser
World War II defense contracts raised labor standards. Government could use the same leverage in peacetime.

Which Side Is Government On? – David Moberg
Millions of contract workers whose salaries are ultimately paid by government live in poverty. Uncle Sam should demand high standards, not pay as little as possible.