Labor law violations and low wage immigrant workers

A groundbreaking study of low-wage occupations in three metropolitan cities found that almost 26% of workers failed to receive the legally required minimum wage…and of those eligible for overtime, a whopping 75% did not receive the pay they were entitled to. Many of the industries most prone to violations such as wage theft and unpaid overtime are also industries that are most heavily populated by immigrant workers. Indeed, as of eight years ago, over half of all workers born in Mexico and Central America were employed in seven notoriously low-wage, high-violation industries: construction, restaurants, retail, landscaping, agriculture, food manufacturing, and building services…

A 2013 study found that 41% of Latino immigrants working in the agriculture, construction, hospitality, and poultry processing industries in Nashville, Charlotte, New Orleans, southern Georgia and several towns and cities in northern Alabama had experienced wage theft.

Expanding the scope of immigration reform to include labor standards enforcement is fundamental to ensuring that the rights of immigrants are upheld and all workers, immigrants or otherwise, stand on equal footing not just with each other, but with their employers as well.

From Janice Fine and Gregory Lyon, Segmentation and the Role of Labor Standards Enforcement in Immigration Reform, Journal on Migration and Human Security, 2017

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