hmmm.... it looks like day laborors get cheated out of their wages a lot.
Day-labor issue widespread in U.S. Workers surveyed around the nation
Steven Greenhouse New York Times Jan. 22, 2006 12:00 AM
The first nationwide study on day laborers has found that such workers are a nationwide phenomenon, with 117,600 people gathering at more than 500 hiring sites to look for work on a typical day.
The survey found that three-fourths of day laborers were illegal immigrants and that more than half said employers had cheated them on wages in the previous two months.
The study found that 49 percent of day laborers were employed by homeowners and 43 percent by construction contractors. They were found to be employed most frequently as construction laborers, landscapers, painters, roofers and drywall installers.
The study, based on interviews with 2,660 workers at 264 hiring sites in 20 states and the District of Columbia, found that day laborers earned a median of $10 an hour and $700 month. The study said that only a small number earned more than $15,000 a year.
The professors who conducted the study said the most surprising finding was the pervasiveness of wage violations and dangerous conditions that day laborers faced.
"We were disturbed by the incredibly high incidence of wage violations," said one of the study's authors, Nik Theodore of the University of Illinois-Chicago. "We also found a very high level of injuries."
Forty-nine percent of those interviewed said that in the previous two months an employer had not paid them for one or more days' work. Forty-four percent said some employers did not give them any breaks during the workday, while 28 percent said employers had insulted them.
Another of the study's authors, Abel Valenzuela Jr. of the University of California-Los Angeles, said: "This is a labor market that thrives on cheap wages and the fact that most of these workers are undocumented. They're in a situation where they're extremely vulnerable, and employers know that and take advantage of them."
In some communities, tensions have soared over day-labor sites, with complaints that the workers interrupt traffic, block sidewalks, trespass on store property and litter. In addition, the laborers have become the target of groups opposed to illegal immigrants.
The survey found that 59 percent of day laborers were from Mexico and 28 percent from Central America, while 7 percent were born in the United States. Sixty percent of immigrant workers said day labor was their first occupation in the United States.
The margin of error for the survey was not available.
While waiting for work Friday in the Pico Union section of Los Angeles, Cesar Ramirez, a 46-year-old from Mexico, said he had been hired only one day in the previous week.
He said he makes $15 an hour when he works on plumbing or electrical jobs, but $8 or $10 an hour when hired to do landscaping. Many weeks, he said, he does not earn enough to support his six children.
Ramirez said he had worked as a day laborer since arriving from Oaxaca, Mexico, four years ago. "I keep doing it because I can't find a permanent job."
He said a contractor had recently failed to pay more than $500 due him after he had spent five days doing electrical and plumbing work. Ramirez asked a workers' rights group to help him get paid, but he was unsuccessful because he did not have the contractor's name, telephone number or address.
Nearly three-fourths of the day laborers surveyed said they gathered at day-labor sites five or more days a week, with the average laborer finding work three to three and a half days a week. In good months, day laborers earn $1,400, the report found, and in bad months, $500.
The study said that the number of day laborers had soared because of the surge of immigrants, the boom in home building and renovation, the construction industry's growing use of temporary workers, and the volatility of the job market.
The study found that 73 percent said they were placed in hazardous working conditions, like digging ditches, working with chemicals, or on roofs or scaffolding. The report said that employers often put day laborers into dangerous jobs that regular workers were reluctant to do.
One-fifth said that in the past year they had suffered injuries requiring medical attention, and 60 percent of that group said their injuries caused them to miss more than a week of work.
"Day laborers continue to endure unsafe working conditions, mainly because they fear that if they speak up, complain, or otherwise challenge these conditions, they will either be fired or not paid for their work," the report said.