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Connecticut Becomes The First State To Require Paid Sick Leave For Service Workers

June 6, ed 2011 | Originally posted in CityTownInfo.com

State legislators approved a bill on Saturday that makes Connecticut the first state in the nation to require employers to offer paid sick leave to their workers.

According to The New York Times, the bill, which the House voted 76 to 65 and was approved by the Senate on May 25, applies to service sector businesses with 50 or more employees who receive an hourly wage. However, manufacturing companies and nationally chartered nonprofit organizations, day laborers, independent contractors and temporary workers are exempt. Employees who qualify will be able to earn one hour of paid sick time for every 40 hours worked. The benefit is capped at five days per year. CNN reported that Governor Dannel Malloy is expected to sign the bill before it goes into effect at the beginning of 2012.

“This is a historic moment and a very common-sense moment,” said House Speaker Christopher Donovan to CNN. “People get sick and there should be some way that they won’t lose pay or lose their job if they get sick.”

MSNBC reported that the United States is one of the few industrialized nations in the world that does not require paid sick time for workers. Vicki Shabo, director of the work and family program for the National Partnership for Women & Families, stated that more than 40 million U.S. workers do not have paid sick time. Liberia, Papua New Guinea and Swaziland also do not require it.

CNN noted that although no other state has such a mandate, San Francisco has required all employers to provide mandatory paid sick leave to workers since 2006. Washington D.C. and Milwaukee began mandating paid sick leave in 2008.

According to MSNBC, labor advocates hope that the passing of the bill in Connecticut will encourage other states to follow suit. Massachusetts is already considering a bill that would give workers seven paid sick days and other cities–including Philadelphia, Denver and Seattle–are looking into similar legislation.

Not everyone is on board with the legislation, however. Many businesses argue that the bill will significantly raise the cost of doing business and adds another obstacle for companies trying to stay afloat in today’s tough economy.

However, according to CNN, Shabo pointed out that paid sick time is a public health issue and, in the grand scheme of things, is a huge benefit to everyone.

“The cost of providing a sick day is less than having a worker show up sick and not be productive and spread their flu or virus to their co-workers or customers,” argued Shabo. Furthermore, she added that most workers do not use up all of their sick time.

Despite some debate, Governor Malloy said he supports the bill.

“Why would you want to eat food from a sick restaurant cook? Or have your children taken care of by a sick day care worker? The simple answer is–you wouldn’t. And now, you won’t have to,” he said in a statement quoted by The New York Times.

Compiled by Heidi M. Agustin

Sources:

“Can a paid sick leave plan go national?” msnbc.msn.com, June 5, 2011, Eve Tahmincioglu

“Connecticut legislators first to pass paid sick leave bill,” CNN.com, June 4, 2011, Leigh Remizowski

“In Connecticut, Paid Sick Leave for Service Workers Is Approved,” NYTimes.com, June 4, 2011, Peter Applebome

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Los Angeles Resolution Calls for SCOMM OPT OUT

(Los Angeles) The City Council today passed a resolution opposing the discredited “Se Communities” jail deportation program, amid growing calls for the California TRUST ACT, legislation moving in Sacramento which would limit California’s participation, and ensure local police’s ability to opt-out of the program.
The resolution is part of a turning tide against the Obama Administration’s discredited jail deportation program.
Pablo Alvarado, Director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network commented, “The tide is turning on the dangerous, dishonest ‘se communities’ program. S-COMM was sold to the American public by DHS under false pretenses. It’s snake oil. It makes communities less safe, it imperils civil rights, and it is poisoning political efforts to reform unjust immigration laws. Today, Los Angeles said very clearly it isn’t ing the snake oil, and the City Council has taken action to prevent the Arizonification of our community.
There is an urgent need for the TRUST Act in California, and an end to the program all together. Se Communities has become a symbol of President Obama’s broken promises on immigration reform. Ending it would be a concrete step to repair that trust, and it would be the first step on a path to immigration reform. ”

Los Angeles City Councilmember Reyes said, “We need to end this ugliness, the meanness of federal policies that are punitive to vulnerable people. This is not the America we want.”
Michel Moore, Assistant Chief of Special Operations of the LA Police Department, reaffirmed, “Undocumented status is of no interest to the department. Se Communities undermines our ability to maintain trust and communication with communities. Trust and communication that’s essential to ensure their safety.”
Councilmember Huizar stated, “We say no thank you to the federal government. We say no to s-comm.”
More than a year ago, Washington DC, Arlington, VA, San Francisco, and Santa Clara, CA sought to opt-out of what was originally represented as a voluntary deportation program, “Se Communities.” The actions of those cities has escalated to a domino effect of states seeking out of the now discredited program, attempting reforms, or pledging not to participate in the case of those yet to sign-on.

In the past month, Governor Quinn of Illinois and Governor Cuomo of New York announced their suspension of the program and the cancellation of the memorandum of agreements between their states and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. Observing how S-Comm has been implemented in other states, Massachusetts Governor Patrick announced Monday that his state would not sign on to the program. In California, a bill that would regulate the program and reinforce its voluntary nature, the TRUST Act, recently passed the Assembly and is awaiting vote in the Senate.
Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren has said DHS has been “essentially lying to local government” about the program. Her calls for a thorough investigation have corresponded with requests by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus to immediately suspend the program.
The Oakland City Council is scheduled to pass a similar resolution this evening.
The National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) is a plaintiff in an on-going FOIA lawsuit against DHS/ICE for access to documents related to the Se Communities Program. NDLON plays a central role in California advocacy for the TRUST Act and coordinates the Turning the Tide campaign….

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Federal labor officials host summit on Latino, immigrant worker safety

Source: THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | First Posted: June 05, 2011 – 4:07 pm

BRIDGETON, case N.J. — Federal labor officials say Latino workers suffer workplace injuries and deaths on the job at a higher rate than all other workers combined.

Experts say in New Jersey, stuff the problem is prevalent among migrant farmworkers or those hired as day laborers; two groups often exposed to wage abuses or workplace safety hazards.

The U.S. Department of Labor is hosting a summit on the issue Sunday in Bridgeton to educate people on workplace safety and federal wage protections.

Latino workers accounted for nearly one quarter of the total number of New Jersey worker fatalities in 2009, according to the most recent numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Organizers were expecting participation from more than 200 people, including workers, representatives from community groups, unions, faith-based organizations, and federal and state agencies.

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Day laborers face hardships

By Philip Riley & Chris Samson
ARGUS-COURIER STAFF | Posted in the PressDemocrat.com

Published: Thursday, June 2, 2011 at 3:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, June 1, 2011 at 3:26 p.m.

(Editor’s note: This is one in a series of stories about Latinos in Petaluma. This article shares the personal stories of some of the day laborers.)

Day laborers face hardships

Terry Hankins/Argus-Courier Staff Day laborers Humberto Lopez, left, and his brother, Nazario Lojas, pass the time as they await an offer to work.

passing by the Shell station on the corner of Washington and Howard streets has likely seen them — men gathered, waiting for a slowing car or a honking horn, hoping for any sign of work.

These day laborers, or jornaleros, as they are called in Spanish, have been a fixture in the community for many years. Most are hired by residents for temporary work in their homes or yards, but others find sporadic work with local businesses or vineyards.

As many as 70 workers gather along the one-block stretch of Howard Street at the busiest times of the year. But last Friday, about 25 to 30 men were waiting in a light drizzle near the corners of Washington Street and Western Avenue. All cite better wages as their reason for coming to Petaluma from their home countries in Latin America, and their stories highlight the economic forces at play in a complex global economy.

For many workers, the amount they earn in a single day is equal to working as much as a week back home. They typically find work a few days each week, work eight hours per day, and earn $10 to $15 per hour, many sending most of their wages to family back home.

Noe Castillo, 25, is a native of Veracruz, Mexico and an undocumented resident. He arrived in Petaluma six years ago to earn a living and said he has taken English as a Second Language classes to help him improve his situation.

Castillo gets occasional work as a tile-setter for a local company. But there was no work last week, so he went to the street corner hoping someone would hire him. On Friday morning, he was still waiting for his first work of the week.

Day laborers face hardships

Day laborers stand under a tree at the corner of Howard and Washington streets to escape rain on Friday as they wait for work. Terry Hankins/Argus-Courier Staff

Castillo shared stories of mis from those who hired him and other workers. One employer did not alert workers before he threw lumber down to them off of a 15-foot porch, almost hitting one worker in the head. He said some of the toughest workers have been degraded to the point of tears.

“This man yells and mistreats all the workers,” said Castillo. “He calls us ‘dogs.’”

Alejandro Guzman, 55, also said his experience as a day worker has not been a good one.

“They don’t always treat you well,” he said. “Sometimes the person who hires you says (at the end of the day) that they need you to work tomorrow and they will pay you then, but they never come back.”

He and other workers suffer harassment and other indignities.

“People look at us with non-accepting eyes,” he said. “They say, ‘What are you doing here? Why are you standing on this corner?’”

He says the owner of the Shell station treats them well, but a business owner at a different location called the police because he didn’t want the laborers standing in front of his store.

Guzman, who has no other job at the moment, says he gets hired about two days a week on average. He is experienced as a carpenter, as well as in concrete, sheetrock and landscaping work.

His undocumented status makes it difficult to find regular work. He said he has worked at local companies, but when they find out he does not have a Social Security card, they lay him off.

He left Veracruz, Mexico, 10 years ago seeking work in the United States to support his family — a wife and two children now 13 and 20 years old — and has not been able to return since. He sends his family as much money as he can.

“I wish we could get labor permits so that we can go back to see our families and return,” he said. Even more, he wishes that conditions would change so that he could bring his family to the United States. But it’s “very expensive and very dangerous” to cross the border as an undocumented resident, he said.

Nazario Lojas, 38, immigrated from Peru in 1992 and became a naturalized citizen. He attended Casa Grande High School and Santa Rosa Junior College, but has to supplement his income as a part-time landscaping worker by seeking day work.

“I come here every morning, Monday through Saturday,” said Lojas, who said he is usually hired three or four days a week for concrete and masonry work.

Unlike other day workers, Lojas says he has never had a bad experience. “I’ve never had to chase anybody to pay me,” he said. “I always show them my identification and Social Security card.”

Lojas, who is unmarried, has a brother and sisters who live in the area. One of them, Humberto Lopez, was also waiting for work on Friday.

Lopez sends money he earns to his wife and 12 children in his home country of Peru. Back home, he found more stable work in construction and other labor jobs, but came to Petaluma because of the higher price he could get for his work.

Lopez has been trying to become a legal resident, but said that the cost to finalize his paperwork has halted that process. His mother is a U.S. citizen and has filed forms to help him immigrate. But hiring an immigration lawyer can cost thousands of dollars.

“Whatever little money I have, I have to send back to my family,” he said.

Earlier this year, a group of local residents announced plans to create a hiring hall to help the workers connect with employers, learn job skills and provide shelter. The hiring center would also let employers give feedback on the work they receive and would help workers report abuse.

Members of the group, called Petaluma Latinos Active in Civic Engagement, or PLACE, say that the building would help formalize an informal workforce that “is already here and not going anywhere.” All of the workers interviewed (with translation help from PLACE members) said that they would welcome a hiring hall.

“It would be a magnificent opportunity,” said Lopez. “There are many who share the same feelings and thoughts. Learning English would be helpful.”

“It would make everything better for all of us,” said Guzman about a hiring hall.

The hiring hall could also provide information and resources to workers on issues such as find finding food, housing and the language barrier, said members of PLACE.

“Some of them have to choose between paying their rent or ing food,” says Gloria McCallister, a PLACE member.

“The Mexican culture is very proud,” McCallister added. “They want to work. They don’t tend to seek out social services because they consider it begging. They just want some simple respect.”

(Contact the writers at philip.riley@arguscourier.com and chris.samson@arguscourier.com)

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New Latino Group Aiming for Day Labor Center in Petaluma

Center would offer English classes, trades works and serve as a community hub for Latino workers

By Karina Ioffee | May 23, try 2011 | Posted in Petaluma.Patch.com

New Latino Group Aiming for Day Labor Center in Petaluma

Day laborers wait at the Shell gas station at Bodega and Howard Street on a recent day. A group of activists wants to build a day labor center in Petaluma that would offer English classes, site works on various trades, showers and bathrooms and basic health services. They say the center would help protect workers from on the job injury, unscrupulous bosses who don't pay and other abuses. Credit Karina Ioffee

After hitting an impasse more than five years ago, a group of residents has revived the idea of building a day labor center in Petaluma, a place where workers could access basic health services, take English classes or learn skills that would keep them safe on the job.

The people behind the effort are members of the city’s first nonprofit organization devoted entirely to Latino issues, a group called PLACE, which stands for Petaluma Latinos Active in Civic Engagement and which began meeting late last year. The group’s mission is to promote civic and social engagement of Latinos in the community.

“What we are trying to do (with the day labor center) is create is a place where people can feel connected to one another and not feel like they are all alone,” said Gloria McCallister, a PLACE member who also works as a private Spanish tutor. “What many people don’t realize is these people don’t want to leave their countries, but they are being forced to by economic necessity.”

The exact number of day laborers in Petaluma is not known, but PLACE members say it’s clear there is a big need. Day laborers who are injured on the job or not paid have no recourse against the employer.

In addition, day laborers, or jornaleros, as they are called in Spanish, have nowhere to relieve themselves, are taunted and yelled at by passing motorists and have no protection from the elements.

“One time, some kids drove by and started shooting pellet guns at us,” said Juan Luis Angeles, 36, a day laborer originally from Hidalgo, Mexico. “Other times, people scream at us and tell us to go back home.”

But above all else, day laborers say a center would provide a se place to wait for work, without being told to move on by the police. It would also protect people from the elements, say PLACE activists.

“It’s really immoral to see those workers in cold weather, drenched by the rain or waiting in the heat and not do something about it,” said Donna Shearer, a Petaluma resident and professor at Sonoma State University’s OSHER Lifelong Learning Institute.

Even before she teamed up with the fledgling Latino nonprofit, Shearer saw the importance of building a hiring hall for day laborers. She visited centers in Graton and Healdsburg and was impressed by the programs offered, such as English classes and works that improve workers’ skills. At Graton, there is even a coffee cooperative that works with a local company to import coffee from Oaxaca, Mexico, which is served at the center.

A hot cup of coffee and a place to congregate can go a long way for building community, says Israel Escudero, a Latino activist originally from Mexico. So do classes that utilize time otherwise spent just waiting around to learn new skills.

“We will need volunteers to teach workers how to properly use tools,” Escudero said. “We have people going out on projects and hurting themselves because they don’t know how to use the equipment.”

A similar effort in 2005 to build a day labor center floundered after organizers could not build enough momentum for the project. This time, they’ve learned their lesson, said Teresa Lopez, another PLACE member and the daughter of Mexican immigrants.

Organizers have began outreach to the community and are seeking partners to collaborate on various aspects of the center. They also want to make sure day laborers are included in the ongoing discussion, so that they are not only clients of the center, but active participants in its creation.

“It’s always been a dream of ours to have a hiring hall in Petaluma,” Lopez said. Perhaps this time around, the dream is poised to one day become reality.

Do you think a day labor center is needed in Petaluma? Tell us in the comments.
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Community members honor fallen laborer, create awareness about immigration reform

By ALEJANDRO CANO
Published: Saturday, story May 21, 2011 4:49 PM CDT
(Posted in Fontana Herald News)

Community members honor fallen laborer, __fg_link_3__  create awareness about immigration reform

Marina Wood speaks out for social justice at the ceremony which honored Fernando Pedraza, a day laborer who died four years ago. (Herald News photo by Alejandro Cano)

Four years ago last May 5, a day laborer from Rancho Cucamonga lost his life when a vehicle collided with a group of pacifist demonstrators who defied members of the Minuteman Project and their anti-immigrant ideas.

That day laborer was Fernando Pedraza, a proud father and immigrant who every day gathered at the corners of Grove and Arrow in Rancho Cucamonga to look for work. The same corner where Pedraza died has become a sanctuary for immigrants who day after day defied the challenges as they tried to find work.

On the fourth anniversary of his death, family, students, activists and organizers from the Pomona Economic Opportunity Center (PEOC), National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), and the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW), in addition to members of the community, gathered on the same corner to honor their fallen comrade and to create awareness about the issue of immigration reform.

“His death will not be in vain. His death represents the suffering of millions of people across the nation who are desperate for immigration reform,” said Jose Calderon, professor of sociology at Pitzer College in Claremont. “Here we are remembering Fernando, but most importantly we are here united against hate, asking public officials for a path to legalization”.

Father Patricio Guillen from Libreria del Pueblo in San Bernardino implored God for mercy and for strength to continue facing the tough road ahead. Guillen understands the road to legalization is paved with severe roadblocks, but he has faith that soon millions of undocumented immigrants will some day be legalized.

Norma Pedraza, the daughter of Fernando, thanked the community for all the support. She remembered her dad as a working man with great goals and ideas, and hoped for legalization that would end abuse and discrimination.

Marina Wood, a student at Claremont Graduate University who teaches English, computer and basic skills to day laborers at the corner, paid respect to Pedraza while urging the community to continue fighting for essential needs.

“This corner is a sanctuary, as many have said before, and in many ways it was because of Fernando Pedraza, who won a court case making it legal for the guys to stand here,” said Wood. “There is a lot I would like to see here at the corner. A bathroom. Some shade. Water. Computers, of course. But really, I want this corner to be empty one day because every person has a job, legally without hiding in the shadows, without living in fear, without being discriminated based on color, language or nationality.

“Community is hard to find and it’s hard to foster, but we really do have a community here and I will not give up. As they say, no pare, sigue, sigue.”

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