Access Denied 07.22.2011
(Los Angeles) In response to the Associated Press article published today, Pablo Alvarado, Director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network commented,
“The alarming deportation statistics released in the AP report are a matter for national concern. The arbitrary enforcement of unjust immigration laws will widen the President’s credibility gap among Latinos. The President should either hold ICE accountable for belying his campaign promises, or the President himself should be held accountable. As the Congressional Hispanic Caucus has requested, the Se Communities program should be immediately suspended until the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General can complete her report. At this rate, President Obama’s S-Comm policy will go down in history with Eisenhower’s “Operation Wetback.” Both have the same pernicious consequences, but one has a more clever name.”
The National Day Laborer Organizing Network has led efforts against the Se Communities program; litigating in federal court to uncover the truth under the Freedom of Information Act and coordinating the Turning the Tide campaign whose local participants have led to the states of Illinois, New York, and Massachusetts opting-out of the troubling programs because of the dragnet effect reported by the AP today.
Supervisors expressed strong support July 20 for an ordinance that a San Francisco coalition of labor advocates is pushing for to prevent wage theft and shore up protections for low-income workers. Spearheaded by Sups. Eric Mar and David Campos with Sups. Ross Mirkarimi, link Jane Kim, John Avalos, and David Chiu as co-sponsors, the legislation would enhance the power of the city’s Office of Labor Standards and Enforcement (OLSE) and double fines for employers who retaliate against workers.
Dozens of low-wage restaurant workers, caregivers, and day laborers turned out for a July 20 Budget & Finance Committee meeting to speak in support of the Wage Theft Prevention Ordinance, which was drafted in partnership with the Progressive Workers Alliance. The umbrella organization includes grassroots advocacy groups such as the Chinese Progressive Association, the Filipino Community Center, Pride at Work, Young Workers United, and others.
A restaurant worker who gave his name as Edwin said during the hearing that he’d been granted no work breaks, no time off, and had his tips stolen by his employer during a two-and-a-half year stint in a San Francisco establishment, only to be fired for trying to take a paid sick day. “When I was let go, I did not receive payment for my last days there,” he said.
His experience is not uncommon. An in-depth study of labor conditions in Chinatown restaurants conducted by the Chinese Progressive Association found that some 76 percent of employees did not receive overtime pay when they worked more than 40 hours in a week, and roughly half were not being paid San Francisco’s minumum wage of $9.92 an hour.
“People who need a job and can’t afford to lose it are vulnerable to exploitation,” Shaw San Liu, an organizer with the Chinese Progressive Association who has been instrumental in advancing the campaign to end wage theft, told the Guardian.
The ordinance would increase fines against employers from $500 to $1,000 for retaliating against workers who stand up for their rights under local labor laws. It would establish $500 penalties for employers who don’t bother to post notice of the minimum wage, don’t provide contact information, neglect to notify employees when OLSE is conducting a workplace investigation, or fail to comply with settlement agreements in the wake of a dispute. It would also establish a timeline in which worker complaints must be addressed.
“The fact is that even though we have minimum wage laws in place, those laws are still being violated not only throughout the country but here in San Francisco,” Campos told the Guardian. “Wage theft is a crime, and we need to make sure that there is adequate enforcement — and that requires a change in the law so that we provide the Office of Labor Standards and Enforcement more tools and more power to make sure that the rights of workers are protected. Not only does it protect workers, but it also protects businesses, because the vast majority of businesses in San Francisco are actually … complying with the law, and it’s not fair for them to let a small minority that are not doing that get away with it.”
So far, the ordinance is moving through the board approval process with little resistance. Mayor Ed Lee has voiced support, and Budget Committee Chair Carmen Chu, who is often at odds with board progressives, said she supported the goal of preventing wage theft and thanked advocates for their efforts during the hearing. The item was continued to the following week due to several last-minute changes, and will go before the full board on Aug. 2.
By Susan Dickson, Staff Writer | July 21, 2011 | Source: CarrboroCitizen.com
As one group of residents fights Carrboro’s anti-lingering ordinance, another is looking toward a solution that could resolve the issues surrounding the law – a day-laborer center.
Though discussions are in the very early stages, local Latino leaders, law enforcement, elected officials, day laborers and other stakeholders are talking about just how this community might find a solution that could improve the situation for everyone.
In December, Orange County Justice United asked the mayors of Carrboro and Chapel Hill and others to convene a task force to examine and address the issues surrounding day laborers, and last month 30 to 40 residents and leaders came together to talk about those issues.
“I think it’s really important that we have a sanctioned place for workers so that they can be distinguished from folks who are not necessarily looking for work,” Carrboro Board of Aldermen member Randee Haven-O’Donnell said.
Day laborers, many of them Latino, often gather at the intersection of Davie and Jones Ferry roads in hopes that contractors will come by and offer them work. In November 2007, the board of aldermen approved an anti-lingering ordinance for the intersection after residents of the surrounding neighborhood complained of public alcohol consumption, public urination and littering in the areas around the intersection. The ordinance prohibits lingering at the intersection between 11 a.m. and 5 a.m.
The board recently heard claims that the ordinance is unconstitutional and voted to take another look at it when it reconvenes in September.
Mauricio Castro, a member of Justice United’s immigrant-family action team and a leader in the Latino community, said he felt it was more important to focus on a solution for day laborers than on the ordinance.
“We don’t see the ordinance at this point as a priority for the work that we’re doing because we believe that the ordinance will fix itself if we have a suitable place where the workers can gather and find work,” he said.
Haven-O’Donnell said she felt it was important to separate the issues of a possible center and the ordinance.
“If the focus is on the ordinance, then it’s fueling the negative energy of the neighbors and the community and capturing the workers when [the two issues] need not be connected,” she said. “There is a way to do this. There is a way to decouple it and that’s by getting the workers a dignified not only work station but eventually a work center,” which could provide services in addition to a gathering space.
Castro said he and others on the team are doing research on day-laborer centers and the experiences of other communities to determine how best to approach such a center. Castro said the center could be an organized setting that could provide protection for both workers and those who hire them. At the June stakeholder meeting, representatives from the National Day Laborer Organizing Network presented best-practices strategies and other information to those in attendance.
“We want people to really understand this,” Castro said. “It’s very easy these days, with the anti-immigrant rhetoric that we have, that people can take this out of context.”
Haven-O’Donnell said that one of the most important points that she took from the discussions was the need for the workers to be on board with whatever direction a possible solution takes.
“You can set up certain things, but if they’re wary of being involved and they’re not involved, they can’t help move it forward,” she said. “My key interest is making sure that their status is elevated as workers.”
El Centro Hispano, which hosted the June meeting, has been suggested as a possible location for a day-laborer center, but Castro said he wants to think outside of the box and explore all options in the community before making a decision.
“We want to do it right,” Castro said. “Part of my job and responsibility is to make sure that, at the end, there is a resolution one way or the other.
“At some point, we are going to have to make the call about whether we have a center or whether we have a corner that’s better organized,” he said.
For now, the team will continue to conduct research and educate the public, Castro said, adding that he hopes to have a more specific plan – that won’t involve fighting the ordinance – within the next six months.
July 18, 2011 | 6:00 PM | By Leslie Berestein Rojas | Source: Multi-American SCPR
What are the stories of the people who line up seeking work outside home improvement stores, patient storage facilities, the local U-Haul truck rental center?
KPCC intern Caro Rolando and reporter Corey Bridwell didn’t have to go far to find out. A group of day laborers gathers early each morning at a U-Haul location in Pasadena down the street from the station, among them this young man from the coastal Mexican state of Sinaloa, who agreed to be interviewed so long as he wasn’t identified.
He shared was what it’s like working as a jornalero without papers on the margins of the labor force, and the inherent insecurity of it, financial and otherwise.
Proposed federal legislation that seeks to limit worker exploitation was introduced in the House of Representatives last month. Under the Protect Our Workers from Exploitation and Retaliation (POWER) Act, undocumented workers who suffer severe labor violations, abuse or employer retaliation could be considered for temporary legal status under what’s known as the U Visa, typically reserved for crime victims. Those involved in or witnesses to a workplace claim could also be granted a stay of removal.
Li Shuang Li waited tables six days a week in a San Francisco Chinatown restaurant where workers were yelled at for carrying only one pot of tea in each hand.
She had no health insurance, sick days or vacation. There were three servers for a restaurant that sat 80. Shifts could last 10 hours.
For that, the mother of two says she was paid $900 a month – less than $5 an hour.
Li counts herself among the lucky ones.
“Some families are in a much worse situation,” Li, 42, said in Cantonese through an interpreter. “There were workers who were not paid wages for three to 10 months.”
It’s part of a national scourge known as wage theft. More than two-thirds of low-wage workers reported some type of pay-related law violation, according to a 2009 report by the National Employment Law Project, which interviewed 4,387 front-line workers in Chicago, Los Angeles and New York.
The theft comes in many forms, including paying less than minimum wage, denying meal and bathroom breaks, and forcing employees to work long hours without overtime. In extreme situations, workers are locked into factories or businesses for 24-hour shifts, advocates said.
“It’s a huge problem in the city of San Francisco, in the state of California and nationally,” state Labor Commissioner Julie Su said. By some estimates, California drops $7 billion a year to wage theft in lost tax revenue and economic participation by low-wage workers, Su said.
Language a barrier
Victims are often recent immigrants in low-paying jobs who speak little English. Women are more often victims than men, studies show. Workers in restaurants, retail, domestic service, the garment industry, along with day laborers, are particularly susceptible, state labor officials said. Victims often don’t know the law and are hesitant to report abuse.
“Language is a big barrier,” Li said.
There is also the economic pressure to survive.
Some employees who haven’t been paid for months continue to work, believing it’s the only chance to get their money, advocates said.
Eduardo Jaramillo, 35, said he was collecting recyclables in the Mission District before he got a job as a dishwasher and janitor at the Viva Portofino restaurant in San Leandro.
Jaramillo said he knew he wasn’t being paid overtime he was owed after working 12 hours some days, six or seven days a week, for $320 to $350 a week. But he continued working. “I needed my job,” he said.
He quit after about three months, filing a claim for $2,674 with the state labor commissioner, according to an attorney with the nonprofit La Raza Centro Legal. The case is continuing.
His old boss laughed at him, Jaramillo said. Later, he bumped into the man.
“He yelled at me that he’s going to have me deported,” Jaramillo said. A call to the owner of Viva Portofino was not returned.
Such threats are common, officials said, even though state labor laws apply, regardless of immigration status.
“Violations are happening at an increasing rate today in a climate of lax enforcement at the federal level and increasing boldness” by law-breaking employers, said Shaw San Liu, an organizer at the Chinese Progressive Association.
San Francisco officials are trying to tackle the problem. The city has an office dedicated to enforcing local labor laws – the only one of its type in the country. Legislation to tighten enforcement, pushed by community groups like the Chinese Progressive Association, is before the Board of Supervisors.
Last week, City Attorney Dennis Herrera sued Dick Lee Pastry, a Chinatown restaurant, for failing to pay more than $440,000 in wages to seven employees.
The workers were forced to work up to 14 hours a day, six days a week, for less than $4 an hour, according to the lawsuit. San Francisco’s minimum wage, which is higher than the state’s, is currently $9.92 an hour.
The owners, Peter Yu and Ada Chiu, are accused of creating fake schedules showing that staff only worked three hours a day.
“Robbing employees … doesn’t just hurt working families,” Herrera said. “It also hurts honest businesses and their employees by corrupting a competitive marketplace.”
In 2005, Herrera sued the owners of the defunct King Tin Restaurant, seeking $115,000 in back wages for cheated workers. The restaurant paid $85,000 to settle the case.
Herrera’s office also sed an order in 2006 for the Golden Dragon Restaurant to pay $1.1 million in back wages and penalties.
Since the city’s minimum wage law took effect in 2004, San Francisco officials have recovered nearly $4.4 million in back wages for workers, according to the city’s Office of Labor Standards Enforcement.
“We investigate every complaint we receive,” said Donna Levitt, who heads the office, which has a staff of 16 to enforce labor law, including about six handling minimum wage and paid sick leave violations.
Last year, they received complaints about 81 businesses across the city, she said.
Supervisors David Campos and Eric Mar are the chief sponsors of legislation before the board that would require employers to notify workers of a wage investigation, double the penalty for retaliating against workers to $1,000 and allow investigators to cite employers immediately for violations. Currently, the city has to give the employer notice of the violation and at least 10 days to correct the problem.
Pending amendments would also require the city to resolve labor claims or refer them to a hearing within six months, but Levitt said she doesn’t have the staff to meet that deadline.
“Many investigations are complicated,” she said. “They involve numerous job-site visits, requesting and getting an employer’s records, interviewing employees, interviewing the employer, conducting an audit.”
Li, who now volunteers to help workers in situations like hers, said an economic recovery can’t take hold until wage theft is addressed.
“If you don’t even have enough money to eat until you’re full,” she said, “how are you going to have any kind of money to spend?”
By the numbers
$9.92: current hourly minimum wage in San Francisco.
$4.36 million: Amount of stolen wages the city has recovered since 2004 from employers who failed to pay minimum wage.
$22 million: Amount state Division of Labor Standards Enforcement found was owed statewide to workers who had not been properly paid in 2009 – and those were only businesses that got caught.
$56.4 million: Projected amount stolen every week from workers in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.
2,692: Number of employees who have had stolen wages returned to them since 2004 under San Francisco’s minimum wage law.
520: Number of San Francisco businesses that have been the subject of minimum wage complaints since 2004.
Sources: San Francisco Office of Labor Standards Enforcement, state Division of Labor Standards Enforcement, National Employment Law Project
E-mail John Coté at email@example.com.
Move drives workers to Home Depot’s curbs and parking lot.
WEST GLENDALE — Catholic Charities officials have closed the day labor center across from the Home Depot in Glendale after the city, facing a multi-million budget deficit, cut its subsidy for the center.
Created at a time when Glendale banned soliciting from curbs — a law city officials agreed to relax after they were challenged in court — the center has in recent years struggled to attract skeptical workers, who prefer to seek work curbside, officials said.
“When our lawsuit was resolved, we relaxed our rules,” said City Councilman Ara Najarian. “There really was no incentive for people to use the day labor center.”
The City Council voted last month to eliminate the city’s $90,000 subsidy as members worked to fill a projected deficit of $18 million in the General Fund, which pays for basic public services.
In turn, the operators of the center, Catholic Charities of Los Angeles, say they had no choice but to close up as of July 1. The center had guaranteed a minimum hourly wage of $8, restrooms, water, telephone access and a waiting room for workers.
“It was a relevant program. There was more organization. People could come needing some help and they could be picked up for work,” said Moed Khan, director of the San Fernando region for Catholic Charities. “I guess that’s pervasive these days, all of the cuts to government. It’s sad, but that’s the reality.”
The move could raise tensions between neighbors, laborers seeking work and Home Depot, which calls on Glendale police to enforce its no-trespassing clause for solicitors.
“We maintain our no-solicitation policy that prohibits solicitation of any kind on our property,” Home Depot spokeswoman Kathryn Gallagher said in an email.
Since the July 1 closure, more workers have turned to the corner of San Fernando Road and Harvard Street to find employment — pushing other regulars into the Home Depot parking lot, where they run the risk of being kicked out or cited by police.
But some workers say it’s a risk they are willing to take for a couple hours of work.
“I used to work a lot more … but since construction dropped, there is less money,” said Juan Carlos Gonzalez as he sought work inside the parking lot Wednesday morning.
Most days, Gonzalez, a 38-year-old East Los Angeles resident, arrives at the Home Depot site about 8 a.m. and will work as much as he can before heading to his second job at a factory.
While the work often is daunting, Gonzalez, who spoke in Spanish, said he must press on to provide for his six children.
“It’s hard, but there is always a chance to get even a small job,” he said. “And because we are immigrants, it’s much more difficult to get work.
Glendale Police Sgt. John Gilkerson, who oversees police enforcement of the area, said that so far, there has been no change in crime activity or complaints since the day labor center closed.
“I am sorry to see it go because it serviced a certain percentage of workers,” he said.
Enforcement in the area regarding the workers was mostly driven by complaints from businesses and residents, Gilkerson added.
SB 1070 Has Been Bad for Arizona and Worse for Mexicans, But It Inspired a Year’s Worth of Great Art – Page 1 – News – Phoenix – Phoenix New Times
Read more http://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/2011-04-21/news/sb-1070-has-been-bad-for-arizona-and-worse-for-mexicans-but-it-inspired-a-year-s-worth-of-great-art/
When: 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. July 23
Local medical students, researchers and high school students are coming together again this summer to offer health services to low-income and underserved residents.
The Urban Health Fellowship includes two health fairs and then a July 26 summit where students will present findings from a research project.
Those involved will continue last year’s work, looking at health problems and access to health services among the day laborer population in the Harbor Area.
Students are surveying those who come for health screenings and other services at fairs this month, said Lisa Hean, one of the medical students involved.
“We want to find out where they go for health services, what problems they’re having, whether they’re scared for immigration issues,” she said.
The program, organized by the Harbor-UCLA Department of Family Medicine and Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute, brings together high school and undergraduate students, medical students, medical residents and professional researchers who work together for six weeks.
The goal is to inspire young students from underserved areas to go into the medical field, and to encourage medical students to direct attention toward the disadvantaged in urban areas.
Last year’s group interviewed day laborers at work sites and health fairs, finding that the majority didn’t have any source of health care.
Many of those who came for services also did not have basic immunizations for tuberculosis and other highly infectious diseases, and many suffered respiratory problems and other health issues.The first health fair last weekend drew about 150 people. The next fair is July 23 at the Harbor City day laborer site.
Services include screening for anemia and diabetes, blood pressure checks, dental services, women’s and children’s health, immunizations and diet and nutrition information.
The program is supported by several groups, including Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe, L.A. City Councilwoman Janice Hahn, Molina Medical Centers and the UCLA School of Dentistry.
The summit will be held at 12:30 in the Cragin Theater at Banning High School in Wilmington.
By Bonnie Hobbs | Thursday, July 14, 2011 | Source: ConnectionNewspapers.com
The Centreville Immigration Forum (CIF) was initially begun as a way to connect people and organizations that worked with Centreville’s immigrant population. It provided ESOL classes to teach English to the day laborers and eventually evolved into a group focused on creating a worker center for them.
The CIF is now interviewing potential staff members, raising money and making plans to open this facility — to be called Centreville Labor Resource Center (CLARC) — sometime in September.
“We’ve made excellent progress,” said CIF President Alice Foltz. “We’ve had good support from many volunteers in the community, plus new volunteers in the last couple months. And we believe that, when the center opens, we’ll be ready to operate it successfully.”
Currently, day laborers looking for jobs congregate outside the Centreville Square Shopping Center, on the outskirts of Centrewood Plaza and near the Centreville Regional Library. But store owners said their presence discouraged customers from coming to their businesses. And some moms were uncomfortable bringing their children to a library with men standing outside of it.
So Al Dwoskin, who owns the Centreville Square Shopping Center, volunteered to provide a space for a worker center if the CIF would run it. The facility will get the workers off the streets and provide an organized way for employers to connect with them.
Although CLARC will be within his ping center, it will be housed in a storefront in an area away from most customer traffic. It will also be large enough to accommodate all the laborers indoors. The resource center will be open Monday-Saturday, from 6 a.m.-noon. CIF volunteers will participate in the day-to-day operation, under the guidance of a full-time, professional director.
“Over a two-month period, we interviewed people for this position before our personnel committee, worker committee and the CIF Board of Directors,” said Foltz. “We had 19 excellent applications, but the person we selected was just outstanding.”
While declining at this point to reveal the potential director’s name, she said, “We decided to hire a person who we believe has great skills and capabilities, as well as experience with similar work in other areas. But we won’t formally offer the position until all the funds are raised.”
Foltz did say, however, that the director will be bilingual. Since the day laborers are Hispanic, it’s a requirement for all jobs at the center. She also stressed that the director-to-be has experience, not only with management, but also with an immigrant population and grant-writing.
Meanwhile, the CIF is also working on several other things in tandem to prepare for the center’s opening — deciding on support staff, figuring out how many workers it will serve and tending to the myriad details involved in running such an entity. And, of course, said Foltz, “We need to complete our fund-raising, in part, to make sure we can hire support staff.”
The CIF may hire one full-time or nearly full-time assistant director. But its Board of Directors and the center director together will make the decision on the support staff. Said Foltz: “Even though we haven’t advertised for these positions, we already have about 10 applications.”
She said the support staff will assist with the job matching between the employers and workers and will help schedule and oversee the volunteers. The CIF has already trained 35 volunteers and will hold another training session shortly before the center opens its doors.
This summer, two student volunteers — one from Pennsylvania and one from New Jersey — have interned with the CIF, doing counts of the day laborers. “We need to know how many folks are on the corner in the morning, how many employers pick them up and how many workers get jobs,” explained Foltz. “This information will help us plan well for when the center opens.”
Although the facility is not anticipated to be open on Sunday, Foltz said worker counts are also being made on Sundays, too, “because people in the community are concerned that they’d be there when the center would be closed.” The interns have also spent a few mornings each week talking with the workers about how CLARC will operate, telling them about its benefits and describing how the job distribution will work.
There’ll eventually be signs directing potential employers to the resource center. And the CIF has already given the workers flyers to hand to their employers, so they, too, will know about the new center.
The space, itself, is also being readied. Needed repairs are already underway and, said Foltz, “A good number of furnishings have been donated by a lot of generous folks.”
Regarding finances, she said the CIF needs about $45,000 more for salaries and benefits for the paid staff. “We’ve raised about $50,000 and have some more pledged,” said Foltz. “Our total, annual budget is $234,000, including the cost of the space, utilities — for which Dwoskin is paying, supplies, furnishings and salaries for the director and assistant director.
CIF members have visited other, similar centers and its directors to obtain guidance about how best to operate its own facility. It’s also prepared the forms that both workers and employers will fill out, as well as flyers and informational brochures for when the center debuts.
On June 21, CIF members considered the staff hiring-timeline and also discussed answers to tough questions they’ll receive once the center is up and running. These included operational, practical and philosophical questions that local residents may pose, such as, “Will it solve the problem of day laborers standing outside waiting for work?”
“We’re certainly convinced the center will benefit the entire community,” said Foltz. “It will provide a safe place for the workers to wait for employment, off the street, so it will reduce traffic congestion. And it will resolve folks’ concerns about [their own] safety and loitering.”
Many of the workers have wives and young children to support, and all they ask is fair pay for an honest day’s labor. But as things stand now, they have no recourse if they toil all day for an employer who then refuses to pay them. But once the new facility is operational, that should no longer be a problem. Said Foltz: “Because we’ll know who the employers who hire them are, the center will provide a system to make sure the workers are paid fairly.”
She said the workers will be inside the center and volunteers will greet the employers, possibly outside the entrance, as they arrive. In addition, the workers will receive training and classes there on English, taxes, job skills and financial management. Health screening for things such as blood pressure and diabetes may also be offered.
For more information about the center, to volunteer or to donate, go to centrevilleimmigrationforum.org. or call (this summer) 703-257-4111. Besides being excited about this project finally coming to fruition, Foltz hopes it will be accepted and welcomed by the residents.
“One of the community’s concerns is that the workers won’t use the center,” she said. “But that’s not true. They’re enthusiastic about it and see the benefits very clearly. If anyone has any worries, I’d definitely encourage people to find out firsthand what’s going on by volunteering.”
The public will be notified in advance of the opening and will also be invited to attend an open house there. “We’re not trying to solve the national immigration problem,” said Foltz. “This center has no government funding — so this is a private solution to a public problem. And in many ways, this is a model for the way many problems can be solved.”