NDLON in the News

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Sandy Springs targets day laborer traffic

Drivers hiring workers must pull off road; limits also placed on locations

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

andy Springs can’t do anything about the day laborers lingering at major Roswell Road intersections, hoping that a passing car will bring work.

That’s because anyone can be in the public right of way. Plus, the upscale city has admitted it has — and needs — those kinds of workers by adopting a new local law that focuses more on traffic than its does the people on the sidewalk.

“We are not stopping anyone from seeking employment or from hiring, ” councilman Rusty Paul said. “We are just trying to be smart about safety.”

The problem has come from the traffic jams — and risks to pedestrians — created when a driver stops to offer work. Police Chief Terry Sult said the workers will ignore traffic in their rush to land a job, creating hazards and sudden stops on some of the city’s most heavily traveled roads.

In some cases, the workers swarm around a potential employer so quickly it blocks traffic completely, Sult said.

So under the new law, the city will fine any driver who doesn’t pull off and park to hire the workers. The citation is $250 for the first offense, $500 for the second and $1,000 and up to three months in jail for the third.

“There is an orderly way to do things,” Sult said. “We can’t have people slamming on their brakes because someone in front of them decides to stop and hire someone.”

The city weighed the issue for a month before approving it Tuesday. No one spoke out against the measure, and some churches have even signaled they approve of the push for safety.

The new law does limit where people can solicit work. The laborers face the same fines for being on private property, such as parking lots, unless the owners give permission.

The laborers also have to stay 300 feet away from freeway ramps, city attorney Wendell Willard said.

That distance — that of a football field — should keep traffic on busy I- 285 and Ga. 400 moving, he added.

Traffic flow, and the hiring process, would also run more smoothly with more job centers.

City officials said they hope the new law will encourage more of the hiring centers like the one that Holy Spirit Catholic Church opened on Northwoods Drive earlier this year.

There, workers register for jobs daily and the staff helps keep track of there comings and goings as a way to protect them from being mistreated. Plans are also under way to offer language classes for workers as they wait.

“I am very proud of our community for doing this,” Mayor Eva Galambos said. “We are doing the right thing by everyone.”



Rally at Bill Maher Taping: Ask Napolitano about DHS Racial Profiling!! // For Immediate Release

Rally at Bill Maher Taping: Ask Napolitano about DHS Racial Profiling!! // For Immediate Release

For Immediate Release // Excuse Cross Postings // Please Forward

Contact (Engish y Español):  Loyda Alvarado (323) 434- 8115 

What:     Press Conference, cheap Rally, and Demonstration 

Why:      To Urge Bill Maher to Ask Secretary Napolitano about DHS Racial Profiling Practices, 287(g), Joe Arpaio

Where:  7800 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles, CA   (Near corner of Beverly and Fairfax)

When:   Friday, July 24, 2009

Time:     5:30 to 7 pm

(Los Angeles)  Immigrant, civil, and labor rights advocates will hold a rally and press conference outside the taping of Real Time with Bill Maher on Friday at 5:30 pm.   Protestors will urge Mr. Maher to ask tough questions of DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano about her relationship with the notorious Maricopa County Sheriff, Joe Arpaio.  Specifically, Secretary Napolitano should be asked why DHS has not severed its contract with Arpaio (Napolitano’s hometown sheriff), and why DHS opted last week to expand a failed experimental Bush immigration enforcement policy that has demonstrably resulted in mass racial profiling.

During his press conference yesterday, President Obama used very strong language to denounce racial profiling practices by local police.   However, last week, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced the expansion of the widely-criticized 287(g) program, which outsources federal immigration enforcement authority to local sheriffs.  In recent years, Joe Arpaio has become a symbol of the program’s failure, as his use of 287(g) has resulted widespread allegations of racial profiling.  The Department of Justice recently launched a high-profile investigation of Arpaio’s practices.    Indeed, Sheriff Arpaio’s relationship with neo-nazis has been noted by Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon; Arpaio himself has said it’s an honor to be called KKK; and he has even posed for photos with high-profile neo-nazis.     The New York Times has published several editorials calling for the termination of the 287(g) program in general and Arpaio’s contract in particular.  Those editorials are available here,  herehere, and most recently, here.  

Salvador Reza, a community leader in Phoenix, issued the following statement:  ”Secretary Napolitano has the legal authority and the moral obligation to end Arpaio’s reign of terror in her hometown of Phoenix.  Instead, she is expanding the 287(g) program and intends to make the country look like Maricopa County.  We hope Bill Maher has the courage to ask hard questions of Secretary Napolitano.”


New Orleans day laborers want wage theft criminalized

Facing South Magazine:

Post-Katrina New Orleans has become the center of a national effort to protect migrant day laborers from wage theft. 

As Facing South has covered, following the 2005 hurricane season, site the Gulf Coast region saw an explosion in its Hispanic population, seek particularly in New Orleans where migrant workers came to fill the construction jobs that opened up during the post-Katrina recovery effort. Estimates indicate the New Orleans metro area’s Hispanic population has tripled in the last three years, from about 60,000 to about 180,000. 

Many of New Orleans’ Hispanic migrant workers have faced rampant wage theft, coercion and abuse. Following the hurricanes, in what labor rights advocates have called the “disaster after the disaster,” hundreds of contractors along the Gulf Coast employed migrant workers to clean up debris, repair damaged roofs and restore flood-soaked buildings, Contractors then reneged on promises to pay workers after that work was completed. The exploitation has been especially rampant in New Orleans, where thousands of workers employed by construction contractors to rebuild homes are still routinely shortchanged and denied promised wages once the work is completed. 

In fact, according to a recent study by the Southern Poverty Law Center, New Orleans has the highest incidence of wage theft in the South. Of those workers surveyed by SPLC, a whopping80 percent of the workers said they were victims of wage theft while working in New Orleans’ recovery since Hurricane Katrina. A 2008 survey of 300 day laborers indicated they had worked a total of 12,000 unpaid days and lost a total of $400,000 in wages, reports the New Orleans CityBusiness.

There are very few legal options for migrant workers, and the current laws on the books aren’t enough to protect workers, day labor advocates say. Simply put, there are no criminal statutes that hold contractors who practice wage theft legally accountable for their actions. 

New Orleans day laborers and labor rights advocates have been campaigning to stop wage theft, and to end the abuse, intimidation, exploitation and discrimination against migrant day laborers. Organizing with the New Orleans Congress of Day Laborers, a project of the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice, workers have urged local lawmakers and officials to pass tougher laws that would classify shortchanging or denying wages to a hired day laborer a crime. 

Workers brought their case before the New Orleans city council in a public hearing in late June, testifying to the rampant abuse in the sector. New Orleans Councilman Arnie Fielkow has started working on a city ordinance, which he hopes to have drafted by August, that would protect day laborers by criminalizing wage theft. 

Under state and federal law wage theft is a civil offense, which means workers can file civil suits against employers in small claims court, but often migrant workers face challenges to taking such measures. Fielkow’s ordinance would instead make wage theft a criminal offense, allowing cops to arrest violators. Supporters of the ordinance hope the law will empower the New Orleans Police Department to crack down on offending contractors and discourage employers from violating wage laws.



Money woes may force day-labor center to close

by Connie Cone Sexton – Jul. 21, 2009 10:16 AM
The Arizona Republic

The land in and around the Macehualli Work Center in northeast Phoenix has been a field of dreams for many years for Salvador Reza, who runs the day-labor center.

He worked to create a place to help men and women find temporary day jobs, but also wanted to develop the land into housing and possibly, a two-story employment and training center.

But now, Reza’s ability to hold on to the site at 16801 N. 25th St. near Bell Road is in jeopardy, he said Monday. Two years ago, Reza’s organization entered into an agreement with Chicanos por la Causa. “Unfortunately, the economic crisis hit and CPLC was not able to fulfill its commitment,” he wrote in a letter to supporters, alerting them to the need for funding.

Edmundo Hidalgo, president and chief executive officer of CPLC, confirmed the situation. “At the time, when we conceptualized the mixed-used project, the residential portion was to provide resources because of some of the shortages on the commercial side. But then the residential portion was no longer viable.”


Funding problems


“With the downturn of the housing market, we got caught holding the bag,” Reza said. Reza said his group bought the land with a loan. “We cannot afford a $700,000 property and we will have to put it up for . Hopefully, we’ll come up with somebody who is willing to permit the center to continue operating. But no one wants to step up to the plate.”

In the meantime, Reza said his group has been trying to keep up with the interest on the 2.2-acre parcel. “But it’s $60,000 a year and that’s hard.”

He estimates they may have another three months to operate the day-labor center, unless the land is sold.

“The losers will be the Palomino neighborhood, the business alliance and the businesses, really, because they (the day laborers) will go back to the streets,” Reza said.


Center timeline


• February 2003: Center opens as the first taxpayer-funded day-labor center in the Valley.

• June 2003: Opponents of the center launch what will be a failed recall campaign against Councilwoman Peggy Neely. She was blamed for bringing the center into the neighborhood.

• June 2004: Phoenix officials confirm the city will not back the center financially.

• May 2005: Gov. Janet Napolitano signs House Bill 2592, a Republican-backed bill that bans local governments from spending taxpayer money on day-labor centers.

• June 2006: Three of the four non-profits that fund the center confirm they are withdrawing financial support.

• February: The center turns six years old



Immigrant actors tell their story

Day laborers in Los Angeles offer impromptu street theater between jobs.


Day Laborers Await Court Date for ‘Peddling’ Tickets

Written by Alex Garcia, Sun Contributing Writer 

San Fernando Sun

“For now, we feel good because we’re not going to pay anything [right now].”

Those were the words of Oscar Velasquez, a Guatemalan day laborer who showed up last week at the branch of the Superior Court of Los Angeles in the city of San Fernando to comply with a ticket for “peddling” received May 19 while waiting for work outside a Home Depot store on Foothill Blvd.

Instead of paying for the ticket, Velasquez and five other day laborers requested a court date to go before a judge. They were given a Dec. 17 court date to present their case before a judge, who will decide if they must pay the citations or not.

“We don’t know if they’re going to rescind the tickets we have,” said Velasquez, who last year spent three days in the city of San Fernando jail for not paying a previous infraction.

As the San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol reported last week, dozens of day laborers at the site have been issued “peddling” tickets by the San Fernando Police Department (SFPD) since last year.

Their crime: entering the parking lot of the commercial plaza where the home improvement and several other businesses are located. They must stay out on the sidewalk while waiting for someone to hire them for menial jobs.

The day laborers say the citations issued are a form of harassment by SFPD officers who they claim have even cited them while they exited restaurants in the plaza still with coffee in their hands. Velasquez said he was even ordered by a SFPD officer to go from the sidewalk into the parking lot so he could give him a ticket.

The City of San Fernando doesn’t have an ordinance that prevents people from seeking work on public property, according to Antonio Bernabe, day laborer organizer with the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA).

The situation also troubles Peter Schey, Executive Director for the Center for Human Rights & Constitutional Law, who thinks ticketing day laborers could be a violation of their civil rights.

“What is peddling? If they are being issued citation under a little used ordinance and the reality is just in essence to get rid of them, I would think that would raise significant constitutional questions.” Schey said.

“They [the day laborers] have a right without disrupting others, without disrupting businesses, or customers of businesses they have the right to assemble in common areas and it seems like a subterofuge to use a peddling ordinance when they’re not really peddling goods or items for and they are available for hire if anyone wants to hire them. It seems like a ruse to me.”

San Fernando City Attorney Michael Estrada said he couldn’t comment on the cases without reviewing each one, and had no plans to look into the issue because the city council had not directed him to. He also noted he wasn’t going to second guess police chief Robert Ordelheide.

City Administrator Jose Pulido said the police actions were in response to security problems at the site.

“It was the illegal activity that was the cause of concern and they (day laborers) were almost accosting women for panhandling purposes,” said Pulido.

Pulido said managers from stores at the site had cited problems with day laborers as their number one concern. He said “They were causing a visible mess, debris and disorderly conduct, some people were drinking and some people were using s so it ran the whole gammit and some of the men were confronting some of the women [pers] panhandling. It wasn’t a nice place to be and they asked the city to help.”

Meanwhile, the police’s actions against the day laborers at the site have stopped. Police officers still come around, but they haven’t issued any tickets since May, according to the day laborers.

This is due in part to pressure from Sylmar resident Sam Cordova, who has become an outspoken critic of the police’s actions after witnessing the issuance of the tickets and a SFPD officer yelling at the day laborers.

He calls the peddling accusations against the day laborers a “made up charge” that doesn’t apply to them. Cordova is encouraging the day laborers to fight the tickets and accompanied them last week when they went to court.

“They’re not going to pay anything,” vowed Cordova. “Day laborers will get their day in court.”

Still, he said only six of the 16 days laborers who have outstanding tickets showed up on the day they had to go to court last week.

“Some of them are still scared,” said Cordova.