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Day Labor Centers

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Essay title: Day Labor Centers

Executive Summary

Each morning, at hundreds of street corners throughout the city, there are workers and employers meeting to arrange employment for the day. These are the day labor markets that have been dramatically increasing in presence forming near home improvement stores, at busy intersections, and in parks and other public spaces. If you were to observe these laborers, you would notice that most are wearing work clothes for performing often difficult and dirty manual labor, both skilled and unskilled. It important to note, however, that lack of organization and regulation allows for the circumstances that give rise to this complex labor market to be misunderstood. However, findings mainly from that National Day Labor Survey allow the enormous breadth of this labor market to be considered.

New York City has a large Day Laborer Workforce. This workforce has become a fixture in today’s economy and society. They are, however, among the most exploited and at risk workers in the nation. In fact, the day labor market is endemic with violations of worker’s rights. Studies demonstrate that day laborers are regularly denied payment for their work, many have to work under hazardous conditions, and their employers subject most to further abuses. In addition, the existence and rise in the presence of day laborers has created community tensions partly due to misinformation and perceptions formed of these workers. The most practical and viable solution to alleviate the expanding day labor population is the establishment of worker centers. There must be an effort that strives to secure worker centers throughout the city. The establishment of worker centers can ultimately accomplish the following:

• Cultivate positive relations between immigrants and their communities in which they live and work

• Prevent labor and Civil Rights abuses, improve working conditions, and recover unpaid wages.

• Monitor and enforce minimum wages, overtime, health and safety and other employment laws.

• Actively develop leaders among workers to take action on their own behalf for economic and political change.

The research provided describes how an effective worker center can be established. Most importantly, it is the duty of the day laborers to lead the efforts in the organization and operation of the center. The goal of the worker center must go beyond the establishment of a physical locality where employers solicit laborers, it must ultimately create an environment that not only organizes but also educates laborers. There must be a means by which day laborers are given an opportunity to make the transition into the mainstream economy.

In addition, in full response to the innumerable problems, violations and abuses in the day labor market, there must be a significant change in public policy that will reinforce the resolutions provided by worker centers.

I. Definition: Day Laborer

A day laborer, or jornalero, is someone who gathers at a street corner, park, empty lot, in front of a home improvement store, or elsewhere to sell their labor for the day, hour, or for the length of a particular job. The day labor market is a highly visible yet largely ignored market in New York City. According to the 2003 New York Day Laborer Survey, there are an estimated 8,000 day laborers in the greater metropolitan area, but this is considered an underestimate due to difficulties counting an extremely mobile and transient population. Day laborers gather at fifty-seven hiring sights throughout the five boroughs.

Day laborers are predominantly Latin American, immigrant men, but include women and members of all other races. For example, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, there is a day laborer hiring site where nearly a hundred women of Polish and Latin American descent seek and obtain employment. Day laborers are culturally very diverse, coming from many countries on the American continent and abroad, and from many cultures within a single country, including people from a variety of indigenous cultures. Most have limited English proficiency, and many are unable to read and write in their native language. All day laborers are poor, lack access to quality health care for themselves and their families, and suffer from routine abuse and exploitation on the job.

Day Laborers are among the most exploited sectors of our society, with typical earnings far below the poverty line for work that is often difficult and performed under adverse conditions. Discrimination, underpayment or non-payment of wages, unsafe working condition and other forms of abuse are widespread

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