For Workers Who Get Stiffed,

For Workers Who Get Stiffed, Immigration Status is Irrelevant


For Workers Who Get Stiffed, __fg_link_4__  Immigration Status is Irrelevant

Day laborers wait for work on Main Street in the Village of Brewster earlier this month. Credit Ashley Tarr

One attorney says that day laborers should get as much information as possible on the person who hired them.

While one business owner in Brewster says he wants village officials to clear Main Street of the day laborers waiting for work, order some others don’t seem to mind. The mayor says village officials’ hands are tied. The police chief says the men aren’t causing issues for his department. And the day laborers—they say they just want jobs. In this two-day series, Patch takes a look at some of the issues with the day laborers downtown.

Work is picking up for a group of men who spend winters living off savings and trying to pass time in one-bedroom apartments.

For day laborers in the Village of Brewster, the change in seasons means a chance to earn up to $100 a day or $10 an hour — a huge jump from the $7 some say they would earn for a day’s work in their home country of Guatemala. For most laborers, the possibility of bringing home those wages is enough to keep them waiting for work, scarce and unpredictable as it is sometimes.

According to 15 men who spoke to Patch with the help of translator Jaemie Caban, the Brewster Police Department’s community affairs officer, working in half-year cycles is the norm for this community of immigrants.

“It’s a struggle to try to get work here in Brewster,” one laborer told Caban.

Most of the men hope their labor culminates in one of two ways: the ability to send money back home to support their families, or the ability to save, so they can improve their own lives here in America.

But neither of those goals are easy to reach given the wages they make and the rent they pay. Dressed in blue jeans, sweatshirts or sweaters, sneakers or work boots and the occasional “New York City” baseball cap, the group of day laborers standing in front of Maximum Deli on a morning in early April chatted back and forth before agreeing on a range of their average annual incomes and housing costs: Between $8,000 and $12,000, and $400 a month, respectively.

Most said they send at least half of the money back to their home countries. Many shook their heads when asked if they always receive their pay.

“It happens often where they get picked up for work and never get paid for the work they did,” Caban explained after listening to the men for a few moments.

The laborers, whose ages range from 20 to 50, said temporary employers sometimes pick them up for what is supposed to be a multi-day construction job. After the first day—which could last beyond eight hours, as one man said there is no “set time”—the workers are dropped off and told they will be paid the next day when they start the second portion of the job. Often times the men, especially ones who are new and still learning the ropes, never see the person who hired them again.

Earlier this month Caban had one laborer come to her in tears because he was not paid the $800 he was promised.

“I told him it was a civil manner,” she said. “I just advised him to try to get a lawyer. There are lawyers out there that would help because this happens often.”

Sometimes employers scare workers from pursuing unpaid wages with threats of contacting Immigration Services. Many of the men Patch spoke with are here illegally; one said that a number of them are trying to get their green cards. According to that day laborer, the financial and time commitments are challenges. He has spent more than $7,000 so far and is waiting on at least two more court appearances.

The Westchester Hispanic Coalition provides resources for immigrants who are trying to attain legal residency. Based in White Plains, the coalition is also a place where laborers can learn their rights and seek assistance in pursuing unpaid wages.

According to Corinne S. Beth, an immigration attorney with the coalition, employers’ threats should be taken with a grain of salt, as people who hire undocumented workers are breaking the law themselves.

“Legally speaking, immigration status is completely irrelevant to the money a person is owed,” she said.

Beth said it is important for the worker to have as much information on the employer as possible for lawyers at the coalition. They will usually call first, then send a demand letter. If neither of those options are successful, the case could go to small claims court.

While Caban was speaking with the men a car pulled up. The driver asked if he was free to hire the men, two of who were already walking toward the vehicle. They hopped in without any questions.

“The majority of the time they don’t get the name,” Caban said. “They’ll take anything.”

The coalition sees new cases like this almost every week, but there are plenty of workers who do not reach out for help, Beth said. The New York State Department of Labor did not return phone calls seeking specifics on the number of unpaid wage claims submitted last year.

Even with the sometimes sporadic payments and unsteady work, many of the laborers said their experiences in America are pleasant.

“What he wants people to see,” Caban translated for a man who answered many of the questions on behalf of the group, “is that … they’re not all bad.”

54 years ago…

54 years ago…

LARRY KASSOUF | | Source: Longboat Key News

Pipecrafters yard at 7:20 a.m.
Broadway Avenue and Miles Park Avenue
Cleveland, cheap Ohio
Summer 1957

54 years ago… My father would check for any last-minute changes in scheduling before he dropped me off for work at the Van Aken job. He would then go on to the other job sites the company had, order but he would return often to the Van Aken job throughout the day, as this was the largest and most complex job the company had. At the end of the workday, he would be there to pick me up.

Pipecrafters was a pipeline construction company. They installed water, sanitary sewer, storm sewer, natural gas and telephone lines. This would be the first of many consecutive summers in which I worked as a common laborer for my father’s company. The money was great, and in one year I would have a driver’s license. A car was in my scope!

My first job each morning was to collect, clean and fill all of the kerosene lamps that had been placed out at quitting time the evening before. Being the youngest and newest employee on the crew that was installing a 60-inch storm sewer line from Shaker Square to Warrensville Road along Van Aken Boulevard (a five-mile stretch), I was given the least desirable chores by the foreman of the crew. However, putting out the lights at the end of the day was a serious matter, since these lights directed traffic away from dangerous conditions for 16 hours of each day. I was proud to earn the trust of the foreman after the appropriate training period.

After completion of the kerosene lamp task, I would be dispatched to the ditch where the crew was placing 60-inch sections of storm sewer pipe. They were five feet tall and eight feet long. Each section had a hole in the top middle of the pipe to hold the attachment from the enormous crane, which placed the sections of pipe in the ground. They also had a joint where each section joined the previous section. Both the hole in the top middle of the pipe and the joints required sealing with hot tar. The inspectors would come at the end of each day to confirm this had been done properly.

At a height of just over five feet, I could literally stand in the pipe and do the second worst job on the project, ‘inside tar man.’ Of course, the worst job was the kerosene lamp detail. Each joint was sealed with hot tar from the inside to keep leakage to a minimum and to ensure that each section of pipe remained aligned properly. The hole on top was also sealed with a plug and tarred from the inside. Between the lights and the tar, I earned my credentials with the foreman, the laborers and the various heavy equipment operators. It was, however, the day laborers who became my friends and mentors.

The laborers were a mixture of Appalachian whites, Blacks, and Italian and Eastern European immigrants. They were singularly the most prideful people I have ever been around. I learned a lot about people and how to treat your fellow voyagers from the day laborers at Pipecrafters.

They never loafed around and always helped each other complete a task. They were not limited in their thinking about the jobs they were tasked. If they could do a job more efficiently and improve the end product by extra effort, they always did so without fanfare. The only “atta-boys” they required were internal or from each other.

They arrived for work on time, took the allotted 30 minutes for lunch and quit on time. They appreciated the opportunity to work and showed that appreciation by working hard all day. They arrived for work clean and neat and left dirty, sweaty and tired. They taught me that it takes just as long to learn a bad habit as it does to learn a good habit. They taught me how to get on with a job, get along and share with others. Additionally, I learned how to make wine, smoke ribs, make sausage, cook food on the manifold of a truck engine and find the best bakeries in the neighborhoods of Cleveland.

At the end of my workday my father was there to pick me up. We would return to the Pipecrafters yard to wind up the day’s company business, then go home for dinner. My father would look at my dirty, sweaty being, slap me on the back and say nothing. I could, however, see the pride in his eyes and the recognition of a job well done. My friends at Pipecrafters made this possible.

Crowd Rallies This Weekend for Domestic Workers Bill of Rights

Crowd Rallies This Weekend for Domestic Workers Bill of Rights

By: Molly Rosenthal | March 7, mind 2011 – 12:23 pm

Crowd Rallies This Weekend for Domestic Workers Bill of Rights Domestic workers, employers and their families gathered at the Women’s Building this Sunday in support of a new Domestic Workers Bill of Rights.

Introduced by California assembly member Tom Ammiano last month, the bill would provide basic job protections for nannies, caregivers and housekeepers, regardless of immigration status.

Historically, domestic workers have not been included in many labor laws. California’s Occupational Safety and Health Act (CAL-OSHA) doesn’t apply to them. In many cases, California overtime law does not apply, either — especially in the case of live-in workers. If signed into law, the legislation will be the second of its kind. New York state enacted a similar law last August.

If the bill is passed, domestic workers will be entitled to a roster of benefits familiar to most other workers: overtime pay, paid vacation, meal and rest breaks, workers compensation, advance notice of termination.

It’s that last one that would be most welcome to Esmeralda Montufar, a domestic worker from Graton Day Labor Center in Santa Rosa, who told the crowd that she had once been fired via Post-It note. She arrived at work one morning to find a note that read “No work today” on the front door, even though her employer was home.

“After the family invited my husband and me over for Christmas dinner, the note confused me,” Montaf said through a translator. “I took it home to my husband because I didn’t know what to do. I kept thinking, ‘Are we a part of this family or are we not?’”

Other aspects of the bill illuminate the particular strangeness of working in a person’s home, such as the right, for live-in employees, to eight hours of sleep and access to kitchen facilities.

“So many of us want to be good employers but we don’t know how,” said Jessica Lehman, leadership organizer for Hand in Hand, who sponsored the event along with Mujeres Activas y Unidas. “We’re  here because all our justice is all wrapped up together. If you’re talking about women’s rights, it’s connected to immigrant rights, disability rights, and so on.”

Mujeres Activas y Unidas plans to bring domestic employers and workers together to educate them on maintaining a just and healthy relationship, while raising morale through expert hearings and media events.

The first hearing for the legislation will be held in Sacramento on April 13.

En Español:

Este domingo se reunieron trabajadores domésticos, empleadores y sus respectivas familias en el Edificio para Mujeres en apoyo de un nuevo Proyecto de Ley para Trabajadores Domésticos.

El asambleísta de California Tom Ammiano presentó el proyecto el mes pasado. El proyecto de ley daría protección básica laboral a niñeras, proveedores de cuidado y amas de casa sin importar su status inmigratorio.

Históricamente, los trabajadores domésticos no se incluyen como tal en muchas leyes laborales. La Ley de California para la Salud y el Cuidado Ocupacional (CAL-OSHA) no se puede aplicar a dicho grupo de empleados. En muchos casos, la ley de horas extra en California tampoco se puede aplicar; en especial en el caso de trabajadores que viven de planta en el lugar de trabajo. Si se aprueba como ley, la legislación sería la segunda de su especie. El estado de Nueva York aprobó una ley parecida el pasado mes de agosto.

Si el proyecto de ley se aprueba, los trabajadores domésticos tendrán derecho a un abanico de beneficios que muchos otros trabajadores tienen como el pago por horas extra, vacaciones pagadas, descansos para comer y descansar, compensación laboral, aviso por adelantado de liquidación. Se trata de este último el que Esmeralda Montufar, una trabajadora doméstica del Centro de Jornaleros Graton en Santa Rosa, está esperando. Le dijo a una multitud de personas que una vez la despidieron al haberle dejado una nota Post-It. Una mañana llegó a trabajar y encontró una nota que decía: ‘Hoy no hay trabajo’ en la puerta de la entrada, aunque su jefe estaba en casa.

“Después la familia nos invitó a mí y a mi esposo a cenar para Navidad, la nota me confundió”, dijo Montaf por medio de un traductor. “Me llevé la nota a la casa, a mi esposo porque no sabía qué hacer. No dejaba de pensar ‘¿somos parte de esta familia o no?’”

Otros aspectos del proyecto de ley pondrían más en claro la particular que es trabajar en la casa de una persona: el derecho para empleados que habitan en el lugar de trabajo a ocho horas de sueño, y acceso a instalaciones de cocina.

“Muchos de nosotros queremos ser buenos jefes pero no sabemos cómo”, dijo Jessica Lehman, líder organizadora para Hand in Hand, quien patrocinó el evento junto con Mujeres Activas y Unidas. “Estamos aquí porque la justicia está enmarañada. Si hablan sobre los derechos de las mujeres están conectados a derechos de inmigrantes, derechos para discapacitados, y así”.

Mujeres Activas y Unidas planea hacer que se reúnan los empleadores domésticos y sus trabajadores para enseñarles cómo mantener una relación justa y saludable y poder al mismo tiempo, levantar la moral por medio de audiencias y eventos con medios de comunicación.

La primer audiencia para la legislación se llevará acabo el 13 de abril en Sacramento.


Georgia Lawmaker Seeks to Outlaw Day Laborers

By: GEORGE FRANCO/myfoxatlanta


ATLANTA – Day laborers are used all over Metro Atlanta for cash paying jobs. However, those days are numbered if a Georgia legislator has his way.

State Senator Jeff Mullis has introduced a bill to ban the hiring of day laborers. The proposal has sparked debate on what it may or may not do for the state of Georgia.

D.A. King is an independent consultant who has worked with Georgia lawmakers to craft previous legislation aimed at illegal immigration.

“The goal is attrition though enforcement, to encourage people in the country illegally to leave Georgia. The real villains in this are the people that hire the black market labor,” said King.

“Are we going to go after the teenagers that come knock on your door, wanting to cut your lawn? That happens all across Georgia, all over the suburbs. They’re day laborers,” said Jerry Gonzalez of the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials.

Gonzalez said enforcing the law would be a problem when Georgia lawmakers are struggling with red ink.

“Georgia’s budget is in a hole. How are we going to pay for it? So, this is bad for Georgia’s business,” said Gonzalez.

“If we take away the illegal labor, we’re going to have to hire legal labor, which was the original plan,” said King.

Sen. Mullis said in a statement, “The people of Georgia deserve a measure that most appropriately deals with Georgia’s most pressing needs, without hurting businesses.”


Day Laborers will picket exploitive employer

–via Renee Saucedo
Monday Feb 7th, clinic 2011 1:24 PM

On Tuesday, February 8, at 9 am, at 2619 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, in Oakland, dozens of day laborers , domestic workers, and their supporters will picket the private home of a Bay Area contractor who won’t pay the over $6000 owed to the worker under a State Labor Commissioner Order and Award.


CONTACT: Renee Saucedo (415) 425-6575

Jose Cruz worked as a laborer for Il H. Jun, a roofing and general contractor doing business in the Bay Area as Jun’s Associates, Inc. Mr. Cruz filed a claim with the California Labor Commissioner and received an Award for $6,213.11 for unpaid wages, penalties, and interest.

“My employer kept saying he would pay me, but he either didn’t at all, or would pay me with checks that bounced,” states Jose Cruz, a day laborer from Chiapas, Mexico who finds work off of San Francisco street corners.

This picket exemplifies how day laborers and domestic workers, through their workers center, the San Francisco Day Labor Program /Women’s Collective, organize themselves to hold exploitative employers accountable.

“We want to make sure that, despite this climate of hate against undocumented workers, employers get the message that they have to pay us for our work and we must be treated with dignity,” says Jose Ramirez, a day laborer leader with the San Francisco Day Labor Program /Women’s Collective .

La Raza Centro Legal, in San Francisco, represented Mr. Cruz in his wage claim.

Employer’s contact information: Jun’s Associates, Il H. Jun, (510) 830-7749, ilhyunjun [at]

(Source: CA Bay Area Indy Media)


Through this lawsuit, filed in April 2010, NDLON, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and the Cardozo Immigration Justice Clinic seek to “Uncover the Truth” about the “Se Communities” program.  We have obtained over 80,000 pages of documents, many of which are available online.  The documents show that, despite ICE’s representations of S-Comm as a program…

Alertan de fallos en los programas de bienestar para los hijos de indocumentados

7 de abril de 2010, 04:09 PM

Washington, 7 abr (EFE).- Un informe publicado hoy alerta de los fallos de los programas de bienestar infantil que obvian las circunstancias de hijos de padres indocumentados arrestados o deportados, y perjudican a los niños de familias inmigrantes separadas.

La organización de atención a la infancia First Focus publicó hoy el reporte “Atrapado entre sistemas: la intersección de las políticas migratorias y de bienestar infantil”, que recomienda una mejor coordinación y más flexibilidad en los sistemas migratorio y de protección de menores.

Según el informe, alrededor de 5,5 millones de niños en Estados Unidos, de los cuales un 73% nacieron en este país, sufren las contradicciones de ambas legislaciones y sus procesos.

Entre sus consecuencias indirectas, están los padres que pierden en los juzgados la custodia de sus hijos por su estatus legal, barreras lingüísticas que dificultan procesos burocráticos o requisitos imposibles de cumplir porque los progenitores se enfrentan a procesos migratorios.

“Todos estos obstáculos incrementan el tiempo en que los niños separados están dentro del sistema de bienestar y crean riesgos por inapropiados plazos y requisitos” de los sistemas de adopción y de acogida de niños, indica.

Concretamente, el informe se refiere a la Ley de Adopción y Familias a Salvo (ASFA), una legislación federal que impone “estrictos plazos” a los padres de niños que están bajo el cuidado de agencias de bienestar.

Estos tiempos suelen ser en muchas ocasiones imposibles de completar por padres deportados o arrestados, ni por sus familiares en el país que son también indocumentados.

El informe también detalla casos de menores en instituciones de asistencia a menores que terminan en denuncias a la agencia de Inmigración y Aduanas (ICE) por parte de los empleados.

Un ejemplo que detalla es el de un trabajador social que denunció a la policía en febrero de 2009 el estatus migratorio de una guatemalteca madre dos hijos estadounidenses.

La mujer pasó a las dependencias del ICE y cuando los abuelos de los niños acudieron a la misma oficina de asistencia para niños para atender a sus demandas, estos fueron también detenidos.

Acciones como ésta incrementan la desconfianza de las comunidades inmigrantes en las agencias de asistencia a niños, apunta el informe, porque pueden provocar que, por miedo a la deportación, muchos casos sospechosos o graves de maltrato infantil no sean denunciados.

Los menores además quedan entonces “atrapados” entre las imposiciones legales de ambos sistemas y se ven obligados a permanecer en centros de adopción.

El presidente de First Focus, Bruce Lesley, defendió que “no hay razón para que un niño sufra el trauma de ser separado de sus padres y termine en centros de acogida cuando hay soluciones tangibles para prevenir estas situaciones”.

En ese sentido, el informe concluye que “la falta de protocolos nacionales para guiar la colaboración entre entidades migratorias de bienestar infantil amenaza a la unidad familiar y al bienestar de niños en casos en que los servicios de protección infantil son necesarios”.

Así, recomienda guías que determinen pautas de colaboración y de comunicación a favor de la protección de los intereses de niños y sus familias en los diferentes sistemas, tanto el migratorio, el de justicia criminal como el de bienestar infantil.

Algunas de las propuestas son que durante los arrestos de padres se tenga en cuenta si tienen hijos y se actúe en consecuencia, o que los progenitores puedan llamar por teléfono para planear el cuidado de sus hijos mientras están ausentes.

También se plantean alternativas a la deportación de padres con menores en Estados Unidos que no suponen un riesgo para la comunidad, como la permanencia de los progenitores bajo vigilancia o mediante la imposición de multas.

Source: Yahoo! Noticias en Español

US Labor Secretary sends message to America’s under-paid and under-protected:‘We Can Help!’

News Release
WHD News Release: [04/01/2010]
Contact Name: Dolline Hatchett
Phone Number: (202) 251-7929 cell or 202-693-4651 office
Release Number: 10-0411-NAT

US Labor Secretary sends message to America’s under-paid and under-protected:‘We Can Help!’

Solis announces national campaign and commits to bringing justice to nation’s working poor

CHICAGO — Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis today used the historic setting of Chicago’s famed Jane Addams Hull-House Museum, store on the Chicago campus of the University of Illinois, to unveil the U.S. Department of Labor’s “We Can Help” campaign. Solis committed to helping the nation’s low-wage and vulnerable workers, and reminded them that her agency’s personnel will not waver in protecting the rights guaranteed by law to every worker in America.

“I’m here to tell you that your president, your secretary of labor and this department will not allow anyone to be denied his or her rightful pay — especially when so many in our nation are working long, hard and often dangerous hours,” Secretary Solis told an energized crowd of workers, community advocates and leaders. “We can help, and we will help. If you work in this country, you are protected by our laws. And you can count on the U.S. Department of Labor to see to it that those protections work for you.”


Today’s event marked the beginning of the “We Can Help” nationwide campaign. The effort, which is being spearheaded by the department’s Wage and Hour Division, will help connect America’s most vulnerable and low-wage workers with the broad array of services offered by the Department of Labor. The campaign will place a special focus on reaching employees in such industries as construction, janitorial work, hotel/motel services, food services and home health care. It also will address such topics as rights in the workplace and how to file a complaint with the Wage and Hour Division to recover wages owed.

Through the use of Spanish/English bilingual public service announcements — featuring activist Dolores Huerta and actors Jimmy Smits and Esai Morales, the launch of a new Web site at and a toll-free hotline, 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243), the department is renewing its emphasis on reaching and assisting workers who often find themselves denied the pay legally guaranteed to them by law. The campaign also underscores that wage and hour laws apply to all workers in the United States, regardless of immigration status.

“The nation’s laws are for the protection of everyone who works in this country,” said Secretary Solis, speaking from the site where President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Labor Secretary Frances Perkins once worked. “It is appropriate and correct that vulnerable workers receive what the law promises, and that no employer gain a marketplace advantage by using threats or coercion to cheat workers from their rightful wages. I have added more than 250 new field investigators nationwide — an increase of a third — to help in this effort. If you are a worker in America, on this day, we promise you a new beginning and a new partnership to ensure you receive the wages you deserve.”

Chicago’s Hull-House opened in 1889 when Jane Addams, the first American woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize, rented the site to institute and maintain educational and philanthropic enterprises to improve conditions in the industrial districts of Chicago. By its second year of existence, Hull-House was host to 2,000 people every week and today remains a central force in reaching out to Chicago’s poor.

Read this news release en Español.

Source: U.S. Department of Labor – We Can Help!

Activists on DHS’s 287g Program: “End It, Don’t Mend It”

Activists on DHS’s 287g Program: “End It, Don’t Mend It”

Source: Uprising Radio, Host: Sonali Kolhatkar (KPFK 90.7 FM)

Listen to this segment | the entire program

Activists on DHS’s 287g Program: “End It, Don’t Mend It” On Friday, the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security released an extensive internal report on its 287 (g) immigration agreements. The agreement facilitates the deportation of undocumented immigrants who have committed serious crimes and grants federal immigration authority to state and local police enforcement officials. It gained national notoriety and spurred much controversy in Arizona when Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio began utilizing it to conduct immigration sweeps and roundups. Friday’s comprehensive review of all the 287 (g) agreements DHS has in place found that the federal-local partnerships lacked oversight and were inconsistent in their applications from agency to agency. In contrast with the policy’s officially stated aims, local police were found to have used their authorities in targeting undocumented immigrants arrested only for minor offenses. Inadequate safeguards on civil rights were also highlighted. Despite the internal report’s findings, Immigration and Customs Enforcement or ICE has said that it has been aware of such problems and has already taken measures to address them. Immigrant rights activists, on the other hand, have responded to the report by calling on the Obama administration to end, not mend the agreements.

GUEST: Chris Newman, Legal Director of National Day Laborer Organizing Network

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