NDLON in the News

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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.

(Source: MissionLocal.org)

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Wal-Mart Warehouse Workers File Class Action Wage Theft Lawsuit

By Kari Lydersen | In These Times | Monday, Feb 28, 2011, 2:57 pm

Wal-Mart Warehouse Workers File Class Action Wage Theft Lawsuit

Deathrice Jimerson and Demetrie Collins allege they were cheated out of hundreds of dollars in wages at a Wal-Mart warehouse. (Photo by Kari Lydersen)

CHICAGO—After three months of working in a Wal-Mart warehouse in the Chicago suburbs last fall, Robert Hines was fed up with getting paid much less than he had been promised by the company Reliable Staffing, which hired temporary workers to unload containers.

But the final straw came when he wasn’t paid at all for seven 10-12 hour days he’d worked shortly before Thanksgiving, he says. His calls to the agency weren’t returned, and when he went in person to demand his money, he said a manager claimed he and his work partner, Leo Williamson, had never worked those days at all.

So Hines and Williamson are among eight named plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit filed today in federal court charging Reliable Staffing, its owner Daniel Gallagher and Schneider Logistics, which runs the Wal-Mart warehouse in Elwood, Ill., with violating state and federal labor laws.

When former Reliable Staffing workers marched into the agency last Monday demanding pay and billing records (as is their right under the Illinois Day and Temporary Labor Services Act), they were not given any records and, they say, were greeted with hostility by Gallagher.

Under the Illinois day labor act, considered one of the nation’s strongest such laws, the workers have the right to see what Reliable Staffing billed Schneider for their work, and what it paid them. If the hours and/or piece rates reported to Schneider and reported to the workers themselves don’t add up, it could show Reliable Staffing was intentionally not paying workers for their labor.

The plaintiffs think that was standard practice at the company.

“The lady looked me in the face and said I have no recollection of you working,” said Hines, 37. “I got vulgar comments, a snazzy attitude from them. And I was breaking my back for peanuts, or to not even be paid at all.”

The lawsuit alleges violations of the aforementioned Illinois Day and Temporary Labor Services Act, along with the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Illinois Minimum Wage Law and the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act. Allegations include unpaid overtime, failure to pay state and federal minimum wage and failure to pay at least four hours’ wages when workers were called in to work, as mandated by the day labor services act.

The lawsuit says that plaintiffs who worked for Reliable Staffing from 2006 on were promised $10 an hour, plus a piece rate for unloading trucks, including a higher “premium” piece rate for heavier goods. It alleges they were not paid the piece rate as promised, and that in fact workers were often paid less than state and federal minimum wage along with not being paying overtime.

Hines said that at the rate promised, his paychecks for working often from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. should have been at least $300 a week – not counting overtime, which he also should have been due. But he was usually paid $239.

The suit also alleges workers were not paid for mandatory waiting time, adding up to multiple hours per week. It says that when one defendant wrote his arrival time on a sign-in sheet, a supervisor actually tore the sheet up.

“Reliable Staffing actually did not keep track of people’s hours,” said attorney Chris Williams. “That’s illegal. Even if you are paying a piece rate, under federal law you need to show that adds up to at least minimum wage.”

And the suit alleges Reliable Staffing violated state laws by failing to provide workers with documentation of where and for which third party they would be working, the nature of the work and how much they would be paid. The suit basically alleges that workers were paid the $10 piece rate only – often divided between two or three workers, workers say – and then the employer simply made up the number of hours the worker supposedly worked by dividing the piece rate by 10.

“The check stub is a fiction—their check stub could show they worked 36 hours when they really worked 72 hours,” said Williams. That’s why, Williams said, it’s so important the workers are able to demand their billing records under the state day labor services act.

“The workers are supposed to be able to go into the office and get this information themselves,” Williams said. “But unfortunately the law isn’t working. That’s why we had to take this to federal court.”

The suit says:

In fact, Defendants Reliable and Gallagher provided Plaintiffs and similarly situated laborers with check stubs that contained false information, showing the final gross compensation to the laborer divided by $10.00, thereby showing a number of hours worked on the check stub that bears no relationship to the actual number of hours worked…

Rather than provide Plaintiffs and the Class with the actual hours worked, Defendants Reliable and Gallagher provided Plaintiffs and the Class with a fictional number of hours worked and a fictional pay rate as described in paragraph.

The lawsuit adds that failing to provide workers documentation of their employment terms makes it easier for employers to cheat workers, saying:

The Illinois legislature found that such at-risk workers are particularly vulnerable to abuse of their labor rights, including unpaid wages, failure to pay for all hours worked, minimum wage and overtime violations, and unlawful deduction from pay for meals, transportation, equipment and other items.

The workers’ want unpaid wages, going back up to three years. The lawsuit also asks for statutory damages on some counts, attorneys’ fees, and that the company be blocked from violating these laws in the future. The suit notes that under the day labor services act, third party companies like Schneider that hire staffing companies are liable and legally responsible for any unpaid wages by the staffing company.

Depending on how the law is interpreted, it’s possible Wal-Mart itself could be liable.

“Hopefully this lawsuit will trickle down and help not just us but other people,” said Hines. “Maybe they’ll wake up and see that they have to treat people fairly if they want to get more out of us. Now they’re sitting there high on the hog, eating nice food, while we’re on the dollar menu at McDonald’s.”

(Source: InTheseTimes.com)

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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.”

Source: myfoxatlanta.com

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Arizona to Nativist Lobby, “Stop Cheating on Me”

State Feels Spurned by Anti-immigrants’ Expanded Focus

“I used to be Tanton’s one and only,” Arizona sobbed in a confessional interview last week, speaking of John Tanton the head of the FAIR network responsible for today’s anti-immigrant climate.

Arizona called for the interview last week after attention began to drift as other states such as Kentucky and Mississippi introduced and passed SB 1070-like legislation in their own legislatures.

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