NDLON in the News

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Workin’ at the car wash

08.23.11 | Rebecca Bowe | Source: SFBG.com

Workin’ at the car wash Worker advocates with La Raza Centro Legal and the San Francisco Day Labor Program are partnering with city officials for a creative approach to addressing the pervasive issue of wage theft: A worker-owned car wash.

On Aug. 17, attorneys from La Raza joined with City Attorney Dennis Herrera to announce that a lawsuit had been filed against the owners of Tower Car Wash for longstanding labor law violations that resulted in workers earning less than minimum wage. The complaint, filed jointly with the city and La Raza, seeks to recover up to $3 million in compensation, penalties, and interest for the cheated workers.

The Tower Car Wash lawsuit, along with other high-profile complaints alleging wage theft that the city has filed against the owners of Dick Lee Pastry and Danny Ho, who allegedly cheated day laborers out of the money they were owed, would never have come to fruition if low-wage workers hadn’t come forward. Individuals like Tower Car Wash employee Rosa Ochoa, who’s involved with La Raza’s Colectiva de Mujeres, have publicly challenged their employers for labor violations, a tough stand in a state with exceptionally high unemployment in the midst of a recession.

“What we feel like is really important about this lawsuit is that for us, it’s about worker empowerment,” says Workers’ Rights Coordinating Attorney Kate Hegé of La Raza. “It wouldn’t be possible without these workers being able to come forward.”

The idea for a worker-owned car wash emerged out of a desire to advance the goal of worker empowerment, Hegé notes. With help from Sup. David Campos, interim Mayor Ed Lee, and pro bono assistance from the law firm Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, La Raza and the San Francisco Day Labor Program hope to establish a regular car wash on weekdays in the city-owned lot on Bayshore and Alemany boulevards, the location of the Alemany Farmer’s Market and the Alemany Flea Market on Saturdays and Sundays.

“We’ve been working with the city for the past several months to start a green, worker-owned car wash cooperative where workers of the San Francisco Day Labor Program would not only administer it, but work and gain benefits,” Renee Saucedo, Community Empowerment Coordinator at La Raza, told the Guardian. “The main thing about this day labor car wash is that it’s going to be run by the workers themselves.”

The project comes on the heels of a broader local effort to improve protections for low-wage workers. Earlier this month, the Board of Supervisors approved the Wage Theft Prevention Ordinance, crafted in partnership with the Progressive Workers Alliance to strengthen the the city’s Office of Labor Standards & Enforcement.

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LAWRENCE: Learn to serve others, and enrichment will follow

By The Rev. Robert P. Lawrence | Source: The Herald News | Aug 19, find 2011

“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
— Philippians 2:4

Several years ago, the executive of a steel company in Pittsburgh resigned his position and applied for work in a steel mill in another city. This one-time executive became a day laborer for the first time in his life. Some of his friends who knew what he had done thought his actions were very strange. Some saw his decision as a stunt. Others thought he was out of his mind.

But his decision to move from management to laborer was very deliberate. Working six months side-by-side with other laborers, the one-time executive gained a viewpoint of the workers’ problems from a new and entirely different perspective. This man, who spent summers in Westport, became a recognized authority in management-labor relations as he was fulfilling Paul’s statement that we should learn to see matters from other people’s points of view.

This lesson applies not only to business and industry, but to community and family relationships as well.

If a family or a community becomes dysfunctional, we can find the cause generally in a breakdown of relationships. If there is any one reason for a person to feel isolated, divorced or separated, we can find the cause as a feeling of being unimportant. One of the stronger human needs that every person requires for a happy relationship in the work force, a happy marriage or in academia is that of feeling important.

A person merely watching the clock on the job; a spouse who is taken for granted for what is expected or a student wanting a grade of 72 when a 70 is passing is a person who fails to see their role as being important enough to make a difference.

We live in a sociological, psychological and spiritual milieu where everybody is a somebody and relationships may always remain fractured when the interests of theirs are ignored.

One of the great losses in family life is the disregard for that time when families gathered for the family dinner and each family member was provided with the opportunity to share the moments of the day, both good and bad. What the member experienced was not only the time to unload their joys and high moments as well as their hurts and disappointments, but also the satisfaction that someone was interested enough to listen.

What better way to communicate our love for someone than to trust that person with our feelings, from which the listener wants the best for us. Not only is our text sound spiritual counsel, but it also points the way to healthy satisfactions for a life well-lived.

We all have had the experience of being in a relationship where the conversation is all one way. We are told that a person all wrapped up in themselves is a very small package. Nothing is more frustrating than to relate with someone with strong narcissistic needs.

Most every situation one can imagine receives either a healthy or neurotic need.

Eating is obviously healthy for nutrition of the human body. But think of the neurotic needs one has for junk food that creates obesity.

Love is obviously a healthy experience for the human condition. But think of those neurotic needs to manipulate or control others in the name of love.

Work is obviously a healthy expression of our creativity. But think of those neurotic times used as avoidance from family responsibilities.

When neurotic, we think only of our own needs. As Paul suggests, when healthy, we think of others.

When we consider the needs of others and make people feel good about themselves, it is amazing that the response is often the recipient giving back many times over what they have received. The Master had insight on this point by saying “to do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

We all have two kinds of relationships: intrapsychic, when we think only of ourselves; and interpersonal, where we think of others. Paul made it clear that the egos of most people care for themselves, but the healthy self with a good self-image will consider the needs of others.

There is a wonderful message from American Indians that reads: “Don’t judge a person until you have walked two moons in his moccasins.” Therapy and counseling are most effective not by telling someone what to do, but when a troubled person is brought to that point when he sees he has value and worth that motivate a healthier style of life.

The author sir Alexander Peterson agrees with our text today when he writes: “Make us masters of ourselves that we may be the servants of others.” It is amazing how enriched one’s life becomes when they serve the needs of others.

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Hispanic Center Helps Workers Get Paid

There are many reasons employers don’t pay up, and people who don’t get paid can get help.

By Christine Rose | Source: Danbury.patch.com

Hispanic Center Helps Workers Get Paid

Executive Director Ingrid Alvarez-Dimarzo Credit Christine Rose

The current economic climate is hot for workers who aren’t getting paid for the hours they work, and this is as true for employees of large corporations as it is for the day laborers on Kennedy Avenue.

While undocumented residents may fear they have less rights to go after deadbeat employers, there are remedies for anyone who is not getting to paid to recoup their wages.

Police Capt Thomas Wendel said he doesn’t doubt that immigrant workers may be suffering lost wages by unscrupulous employers, but Executive Director Ingrid Alvarez-Dimarzo said, “In this time of economic hardship, it’s a problem that effects everyone.”

Gary Pechie from the state Department of Labor’s Wages and Workplace Standards agrees with both Wendel and Alvarez-Dimarzo. He says that he has worked with the department since 1977 and he has never seen it this bad.

The Hispanic Center is reporting that as many as ten people a day are coming in for help. Pechie says that in the 1970s the Department of Labor received about twenty complaints a year, and now they are receiving as many as twenty a day.

“It isn’t just blue collar workers, either. It’s the white collar people, management, who hold on hoping things will smooth over, and go quite a while without getting paid,” Pechie said.

When a business is failing, both employee and employer often ignore reality.  Employees who continue to show up for work may find that things will not improve, while hoping that if they work this week, the boss will pay them for last week. Yet, their optimisim does not always pay off, and workers are complaining across the state, they aren’t getting paid.

Besides the economy, there are many other reasons for employers don’t pay. Sometimes the boss and the worker disagree about how much is owed and neither will settle except for what they believe is owed. In these cases, the labor department will investigate the claims to determine the actual amount owed.

Companies that are struggling sometimes withhold federal taxes and don’t pay them. In other cases, companies neglect to pay unemployment insurance. Under those circumstances, both the company and the worker could suffer.

Pechie said that not paying back pay is a Class D felony and could result in jail time, but that employers shouldn’t be afraid to come forward for help.

“We will call their bosses, file the reports,” said Leslie Leon, Intake Spet at the Hispanic Center.  ”We have people coming in who speak Brazilian, Portuguese, Spanish; all ethnicities are having a problem these days.”

The Hispanic Center has developed clinics to help both businesses and employees understand the options available to help them escape a never-ending cycle of non-payment of employees and taxes.

“Many small business owners have been deducting taxes that were never paid to the IRS. That money was supposed to be used for unemployment insurance. Those businesses might fear the consequences and avoid our calls. But they should know that we can help them,” said Alvarez-Dimarzo.

The Center arranges payment plans with the IRS to help workers get paid and for businesses to pay their back taxes. According to Alvarez-Dimarzo, ”As long as they come forward and there is a plan, we can help them work it out.”

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Administration Announcement Falls Short

In Response to the announcement made by Senior Officials that DHS would review its caseload of 300,000 currently in deportation proceedings, Chris Newman, Legal Director for the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, issued this statement:
“The administration has earned the President the title of ‘Deporter-in-Chief.’ We hope the statement today announcing review of the current caseload of victims of indiscriminate enforcement is carried forth. However, we have heard elegant statements of priorities before, and the problem is that those announcements have been belied the administration’s actions.
In order to fulfill its promises, the Obama administration must end policies like Se Communities that result in the criminalization of innocent immigrants who are Americans in Waiting like those who came before them. To date, the administration has pursued policies that are sowing and fear and devastation among immigrant communities, and it must reverse course to stop the Arizonification of the country.” …

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U.S. Forced to Release New “Embarrassing” Documents On Controversial Se Communities Program

Judge to Hold Hearing Today as Government Tries to Withhold More Documents

New York – In the wake of protests and civil disobedience in Chicago yesterday and across the country criticizing the Obama administration’s Se Communities program, immigrant advocates called on the government to turn over remaining documents about the program sought in a Freedom of Information lawsuit and to halt the controversial program.
A batch of unredacted documents released by court order this week, which federal district court Judge Shira A. Scheindlin called “embarrassing,” included acknowledgement by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) attorneys that they would have to “rewrite” memos on whether the program is mandatory for states and localities and revealed schisms between the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on the right of states and localities to opt out of the program. In her order, Judge Scheindlin chided the agencies for going “out of their way to mislead the public about Se Communities,” and pointedly stated that the “purpose of the [Freedom of Information Act] is to shed light on the operation of government, not shield it from embarrassment.”
The judge has not yet ruled on whether the government must release other documents relating to the legal authority to make Se Communities mandatory. Strikingly, the government continues to attempt to withhold documents that shed light on that policy. ICE will be back in court today arguing it should be able to keep secret documents relating to the agency’s purported legal basis to impose S-Comm on unwilling states like Massachusetts, Illinois and New York.
The documents are being sought in a Freedom of Information lawsuit brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights and the Immigration Justice Clinic of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law with the law firm of Mayer Brown LLP on behalf of the National Day Laborer Organization Network.
One previously redacted email chain of over 100 pages shows the director of Se Communities, David Venturella, dodging questions from Margo Schlanger, an important official from the Department of Homeland Security Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (OCRCL). When ordering release of this document, Judge Scheindlin observed that the exchange showed “clearly obfuscating” and “non-responsive” answers from ICE in response to a request for clarification from OCRCL about Se Communities policy. DHS000196-000317.
Another email chain from July 2010 discussing a draft response to Representative Zoe Lofgren’s letter requesting clarification on the agency’s opt-out policy indicates that the FBI was considering an opt-out option. The FBI had concerns that if no opt-out was allowed, states might consider not sending fingerprints to the FBI for other purposes. The email notes that “moving away from the mandatory stance” would require “S1” (Secretary Napolitano) and AG approval. ICE FOIA 10-2674.0002039.
The back-and-forth and deception was clearly frustrating to ICE officials. In an angry email dated August 6, 2010, a Se Communities employee comments: “We never address whether or not it is mandatory – the answer is written to sound like it is but doesn’t state it. It’s very convoluted – or is that the point? I’m all about shades of grey but this really is a black and white question…Is it mandatory? Yes or No. Ok, so not such an easy question to answer.” ICE FOIA 10-2674.0011165-ICE FOIA 10-2674.11171.
Commenting on the documents, Sunita Patel, staff attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights said, “The previously redacted portions of these documents—now public for the first time—reveal the extent of ICE’s deceit and political game-playing in its communications with states and localities. Perhaps more disconcerting, though, is the confusion and flip-flopping within the agency about their own policies and plans for deployment of such a high-impact and unprecedented program.”
Added Bridget Kessler, an attorney with the Cardozo Immigration Justice Clinic, “These newly unredacted documents signal that the fight is not over yet. ICE’s purportedly ‘mandatory’ S-Comm policy appears to lack a sound legal basis, and is certainly misguided and confused as a matter of policy. Massachusetts, New York and Illinois should continue to push the federal government to honor their rejection of S-Comm.”
Sarahi Uribe, national organizer for the National Day Laborer Organizing Network said, “Even as they moved full-speed-ahead with deploying this program across the nation, at times top-level agency officials didn’t seem to fully understand—or disagreed about—how the program would work. Everywhere around the country people are resisting—there have been walkouts and arrests during S-Comm hearings, rallies, and thousands of petition signatures delivered to President Obama. The time has come. It’s time to halt S-Comm.”
The groups said they will continue to litigate this case to obtain the full information about S-Comm that the public is entitled to.
Visit CCR’s NDLON v. ICE case page or the joint website, UncovertheTruth.org, for an index of the newly released documents, the text of the FOIA request, the lawsuit filed in the Southern District of New York and all other relevant documents.
The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change. Visit www.ccrjustice.org.
The mission of the National Day Laborer Organization Network is to improve the lives of day laborers in the U.S. by unifying and strengthening its member organizations to be more strategic and effective in their efforts to develop leadership, mobilize day laborers in order to protect and expand their civil, labor and human rights. Visit www.ndlon.org.
The Immigration Justice Clinic of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law was founded in 2008 to provide quality pro bono legal representation to indigent immigrants facing deportation. Under the supervision of experienced practitioners, law students in the Clinic represent individuals facing deportation and community-based organizations in public advocacy, media and litigation projects. Visit www.cardozo.yu.edu.

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Closing of Palm Beach County day-labor center leaves workers back on the streets

Closing of Palm Beach County day-labor center leaves workers back on the streets

Day laborers gather outside Caribbean Plants on Okeechobee Boulevard and F Road Wednesday morning. Buena Fe, one of only two day-labor centers in Palm Beach County, closed last month.

Mitra Malek, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer | Source: PalmBeachPost.com

— Workers are back at street corners along Okeechobee Boulevard, hoping to trade manual toil for money.

Buena Fe, one of only two day-labor centers in Palm Beach County, closed last month.

The slow economy forced the hand of the church that ran the center, said the Rev. Calvin Lyerla of Acts II Worship Center.

“We just could no longer justify the expense,” Lyerla said.

The 500-member Pentecostal congregation footed the entire $50,000 annual budget to run Buena Fe, which opened in March 2008. The center couldn’t find partners, and county agencies rejected the half-dozen or so grants it sought, Lyerla said.

“They were providing a great service to the town,” Mayor Dave Browning said.

Only 15 to 20 workers came to Buena Fe daily this year, about half the number compared with early days. And only 8 to 10 employers used the center daily for the same period. The center registered a total of 1,065 workers and 87 employers.

For a while, Buena Fe boomed. Plenty of migrant workers, most from Mexico and Guatemala, biked to the double-wide trailer on Okeechobee Boulevard. That kept drivers and workers safe; Okeechobee Boulevard is a quick-moving thoroughfare that doesn’t lend itself to the stop-and-go traffic of employers scouting for laborers.

Now the town is left with its original problem.

“It’s not quite as bad because there’s less work,” Browning said. “At the same time, everybody who doesn’t have a job is out there looking for work. There are eight to 10 guys at the stops. It becomes a safety issue.”

The town council in 2008 approved an ordinance banning workers from hawking manual skills on local street corners. But the law has no traction unless they have some other place to meet.

“Legally, I don’t know that we can prevent people from meeting on the road, even though it’s dangerous,” Browning said.

Loxahatchee Groves Landowners Association President Marge Herzog also is concerned about whether children waiting at bus stops near the corners in pre-dawn hours will be comfortable with a group of men nearby.

“It has been an issue for the young girls, the catcalling, the ‘hey girlie,’” said Herzog, who was vice mayor when opened.

Meanwhile, Caribbean Plants at F Road and Okeechobee Boulevard, has agreed to let workers gather there, which could help, Lyerla said.

Buena Fe’s shuttering follows that of the Lake Worth Resource Center, which closed in December after two years. El Sol in Jupiter is still open, launching in September 2006.

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