The 1/22 Sunday New York Times carried an article on a just-released nationwide study of day laborers, Broad Survey of Day Laborers Finds High Level of Injuries and Pay Violations by Steven Greenhouse. (Accesssing the article may require free registration).
The co-authors are two of the most visible academic-based researchers of immigrant labor. Working Immigrants plans to introduce their prior studies on local day labor markets (such as Chicago and Washington DC) in the near future.
Co-author Abel Valenzuela Jr., is on the faculty of University of California at Los Angeles and director of UCLA’s Center for the Study of Urban Poverty. Co-author Nik Theodore is the director of the Center for Urban Economic Development at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
The NYT article recaps some of the major findings from this newly-released study, but as of today (1/22), the full study is not yet available on the Net. The following are excerpts from the study:
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, 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.
. . . . . . . . . . . .
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.
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, especially winter months, $500.
Work safety and workers compensation standards appear to be routinely violated….where are OSHA and state regulators?
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 – often with minimal training and safety equipment.
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.
Among day laborers injured on the job during the previous year, 54 percent said they had not received the medical care they needed, mostly because they could not afford health care or the employer refused to cover them under the company’s workers’ compensation insurance.
Day labor centers are – per the co-authors – part of the solution:
The biggest hope for day laborers, the study said, are the 63 day labor centers that operate as hiring halls where workers and employers arrange to meet. Many set a minimum wage, often $10 an hour, that employers must pay the laborers.
We will shortly be looking at a recently published book on day labor centers.