In the process of making Brother Towns, one of our good friends in Jacaltenango, Rosa, lost a brother in the United States. He died as result of a construction work accident. Rosa and her family still grieve and deeply miss him. Unfortunately tragedies like this one are not so uncommon among day laborers.
Day laborers are among the most vulnerable members of the U.S. workforce. Many immigrant day laborers arrive in the U.S. with little or no money. Employers often take advantage of the fact that these workers are desperate for work and likely to accept nearly any job offered to them, regardless of its safety or pay.
Abuses in the day labor sector are rampant. Workers are regularly denied payment for their work, placed in the most hazardous job sites, and often endure insults and abuses from employers.
Because of the highly unregulated nature of the day labor market, abuses continue unchecked. Undocumented day laborers are often reluctant to report abuses out of fear of being caught by federal immigration authorities. They are also frequently uninformed about their rights. Current U.S. labor regulations (and procedures to investigate labor abuses) fail to adequately address nonstandard working conditions such as those of day laborers.
Community-supported day labor centers have become uniquely positioned to advocate for the interests of both day laborers and the larger community – working on behalf of both employers and employees. Day labor centers not only provide organization and structure for fairer hiring practices and wage ranges, they also streamline the hiring process, monitor worker quality, and hold employers more accountable for workplace abuses.
In 2002 the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) published a report on worker protection in the day labor market.
The GAO’s findings and recommendations are available here.