THROUGH THE DAY LABORER’S EYES: A STUDY OF WAGE THEFT AMONG DAY LABORERS IN OAKLAND
A youth project sponsored by PUEBLO (People United For A Better Life In Oakland) Funded by the California Endowment’s East Oakland Building Healthy Communities initiative
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS First of all, we would like to thank the East Oakland Building Healthy Communities initiative for believing in our project and providing funding to make it into reality. Without your support, this project would have not been possible. Thank you to People United for a Better Life in Oakland (PUEBLO) for their continued support and wise advise from Executive Director Rashidah Grinage. PUEBLO was our sponsoring community organization that also helped us formulate this grant proposal when it was just an idea. We would like to thank Jay Donahue and Rhina Ramos for their thoughtful revisions, which helped us strengthen our survey. Our guest speakers – Fernando Flores, Rhina Ramos, Laura López, and Gabriela Galicia – deserve huge thanks for educating us about policies and offering different perspectives on the issue of wage theft. Our society is improving each and every day because of dedicated people like you. To councilmember Gallo, thank you for listening to our findings and proposals. We hope you will implement many changes to address this issue. Most importantly, thank you to the youth who were part of this project – Jazmin García, Jhovana Pérez, Mónica Villa, and Sergio Pérez-Galindo. It is your energy, your thoughtfulness and dedication that truly pulled this project together. Thank you for realizing our ambitious goal! You were all picked for this project because we knew you are the world’s future leaders, each in your different ways. To the workers, thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your earnest responses and for the stories you told us that opened our eyes and made us realize the challenges you face every day. We appreciate your help and know that we are working to make these recommendations reality to better Oakland. To the reader, thank you for taking the time to read our report. We hope it will inspire you to take action and help this vulnerable population. The fight must go on! ¡La lucha sigue! Sincerely, Kim and Gloria “Jack” Mejía-Cuéllar Wage Fairness Project Leaders Yale University, Class of 2016
Contents: Acknowledgements……….2 Executive Summary……..3 About Wage Fairness…….4 Methodology………………...5 Data………………………………6 Testimonies………………..23 Recommendations………28 About the Team…………..29
The Wage Fairness presents their findings to members of Street Level Health Project ‘s Worker Collective on August 21, 2013. 2
For raw survey data, visit www.wagefairness.wordpress.com
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY DAY LABOR IS NOT UNCOMMON IN OAKLAND. We see workers every day, standing on street corners early in the morning, waiting for employers to pick them up for whatever odd job the day brings. Day laborers are independent worker who do not hold a stable job. They often take temporary jobs in manual labor, such as remodeling homes or gardening. The day laborer and the employer decide a pay rate (such as paying them hourly, by the day or by the whole job). In the summer of 2013, a passionate group of five youth named the Wage Fairness Project came together to interview day laborers in East Oakland. We created and administered a bilingual survey on day laborers’ working conditions and focused in particular on day laborers’ experience with wage theft, which is when employers underpay workers, do not pay them at all for their labor, or pay their workers late. The goal of the Wage Fairness Project was to create recommendations that improved the lives of the day laborers by showing that wage theft was a huge issue to policymakers and local organizations. We wanted to inform workers of their rights and offer ways to combat wage theft. We interviewed 71 workers in 4 weeks.
than day laborer and the employer had agreed on or not being paid at all (73.92% of workers, 51 people out of 69 respondents). The second most common form of wage theft was being paid late for their labor (59.15% of workers, 42 people out of 71 respondents). A troubling figure we found during our research was that nearly half of all workers who had experienced wage theft did not take action (45.90% of workers, 28 people out of 61 respondents). The most commonly cited reason for not taking action was because the worker was embarrassed (28.57% of workers, 14 people out of 49 respondents), followed by the workers’ belief that taking action would not make a difference (20.41% of workers, 10 people out of 49 respondents). The Wage Fairness Project analyzed the findings of the study, met with experts on wage theft and policy and crafted recommendations informed by our study, outlined below. We hope these recommendations will be implemented by organizations that work with day laborers in Oakland and policymakers who represent them. Recommendations • Create a booklet for day laborers to keep a timesheet (including start time, end time and breaks) and information on their employer (including their name, phone number, address, license plate). • Stronger penalties for employers who do not pay workers - make employers pay workers many times more what they owed their employees when they purposefully did not pay them. • For organizations who work with day laborers to distribute a flyer to day laborers, which highlights their rights, offers tips on what to do to prevent wage theft and describes resources they have at their disposal. • For Street Level Health Project to expand their model of an Oakland Worker’s Collective, where employers’ information is documented and workers receive a fair wage ($15/hr). • Distribute our report to government officials and organizations that work with day laborers to raise awareness of the issue.
The average day laborer in Oakland: • Is Latino/Hispanic (98.59% although some identify themselves through their nationality rather than the pan-Latino label) • Is undocumented (76.6% of workers, 54 people out of 71 interviewed) • Does not have a high school diploma (85.71% of workers, 60 people out of 71 interviewed) • Has a limited ability in English • Supports his family in the U.S. and abroad • Is likely to take jobs in landscaping/gardening and construction/carpentry. The most startling finding we discovered regarding wage theft was that most workers (80% of workers, 56 people out of 71 respondents) had experienced some sort of wage theft. The most common form of wage theft was being paid less for labor 3
The Wage Fairness Project is: (from left to right) Project Leader Kim Mejía-Cuéllar, Mónica Villa, Jhovana Pérez, Project Leader Gloria “Jack” Mejía-Cuéllar, and Jazmin García (not pictured: Sergio Pérez-Galindo).
The Wage Fairness Project is a group of college and high school students from Oakland who are dedicated to improving Oakland for everyone. We are a program of the organization PUEBLO (People United For a Better Life in Oakland). Our goal was to gather statistical data and testimonies on the injustices day laborers face in the workplace, including wage theft, which is when employers underpay workers or do not pay them at all for their labor. In order to make change, we needed to record the experiences of day laborers and show lawmakers wage theft is a serious problem affecting real people. East Oakland provides a unique opportunity because many Latino residents are day laborers. We used the information we gathered from surveys to create policy recommendations to improve day laborers’ working conditions and strengthen worker protections. The Wage Fairness Project then presented these ideas to the leadership of Street Level Health Project, an organization that recently (summer 2013) received funding from the City of Oakland to increase their
services to day laborers, and asked them to implement these policy changes. We also spoke with City Council member Noel Gallo (District 5) to make him aware of the conditions day laborers faced (the majority day laborers interviewed lived and worked in his district). Participating youth: - Created a bilingual survey on wage theft for day laborers in East Oakland - Interviewed day laborers - Learned how to input data using SurveyMonkey - Analyzed the results of the survey - Created a blog and used social media skills (Facebook page, Wordpress, Twitter) - Met with community leaders and local organizations to create policy recommendations - Drafted a report on their findings The Wage Fairness Project, which ran from July to August of 2013, was funded by a mini-grant from East Oakland Building Healthy Communities (EOBHC). The EOBHC is funded by the California Endowment. 4
METHODOLOGY 1. The group formed in late July and immediately begun brainstorming questions for the survey. 2. We sent a preliminary version of the survey to Rhina Ramos, Co-Coordinator of ROC the Bay (Restaurant Opportunities Center) and Jay Donahue, Program Manager for the DataCenter. 3. We received feedback from Ramos and Donahue and we made edits to our survey. 4. We translated the survey into Spanish. 5. We decided on worksites we would visit to survey workers. 6. We reached out to Street Level Health Project to collaborate with them on outreach and surveying workers. One of our members giving a short presentation to their Oakland Workers’ Collective on July 30, 2013. We also visited worksites with Street Level to conduct surveys on one occasion. Street Level was instrumental in presenting our project to the community and helping us gain the trust of many of the workers. 7. We did outreach and surveyed workers on our own. When we conducted the surveys, we wore official PUEBLO t-shirts and nametags bearing the project logo. All of our interviews with workers were conducted in Spanish (except for a few that were done in Mam with the help of Don Francisco from Street Level Health Project). 8. While we were doing outreach, we also spoke to professionals and experts about our project’s mission. We also discussed our policy proposals with them, which we developed with our findings. We spoke to the following experts throughout our project (listed in order): o Fernando Flores – Director of the Wage and Hour Enforcement Litigation Program at the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center in San Francisco o Rhina Ramos – Co-Coordinator of ROC the Bay (Restaurant Opportunities Center) o Laura E. López – Executive Director of Street Level Health Project o Gabriela Galicia – Community Engagement Program Manager of Street Level Health Project o Rashidah Grinage – Executive Director of PUEBLO (People United For A Better Life In Oakland) 9. Throughout the process, we input our survey findings into SurveyMonkey to compile our statistics. We analyzed our final findings after interviewing 71 workers. 10. While we interviewed day laborers, each member of the project also wrote blogs on our website, maintained a Facebook “like” page and a Twitter page. 11. We finalized our recommendations. 12. We spoke to Oakland City Councilmember Noel Gallo (District 5) via a phone conference about our findings and policy proposals. 13. We conducted a presentation at Street Level Health Project’s Oakland Workers’ Collective. 14. We wrote the “Through the Day Laborer’s Eyes” report.
Left: PUEBLO Executive Director Rashidah Grinage gives her advice on effective policy proposals to the group on August 18, 2013. Right: The Wage Fairness Project speaks to Fernando Flores, Director of the Wage and Hour Enforcement Litigation at the Legal-Aid Society, Employment Law Center on 5
OAKLAND RESIDENCY, PRIMARY LANGUAGE All of our surveys were administered in Spanish or Mam. The respondents remained anonymous. Over the course of six weeks, the Wage Fairness project youth visited eight different work sites around East Oakland to interview day laborers. We also conducted a handful of phone interviews of workers who were interested in participating after our member, Jazmin GarcĂa, presented to the Street Level Workerâ€™s Collective. Day laborers were asked to answer the questions they felt comfortable answering and given the option to skip those they did not. We found that all but one respondent interviewed lived in Oakland (however, this respondent traveled to Oakland to search for work in day labor).
TYPES OF DAY LABOR
Landscaping/ Gardening/ Jardinería
Construction/ Carpentry Construcciíon/ Carpintería
Of the 33 workers who answered “other”, their responses are recorded below:
Janitor/ Maintenance/ House Cleaning/ Limpiador de casas/ mantenimiento
Number of Respondents
A little bit of everything/multiple jobs *Very common response – not everyone who answered this is accounted for in this table (many respondents narrowed this down into multiple categories provided). Moving
Reclycing/Cleaning city streets
Working on yards
Other (please specify)/ Otro (por favor especifique)
RATE OF PAY
Employer offers you a pay rate/El empleador le ofrece un sueldo. You give an estimate for the proposed job/ Usted le da una estimaci贸n para el trabajo. You and the employer negotiate the pay/ Usted y el empleador hacen un acuedo sobre su sueldo.
EXPERIENCE WITH WAGE THEFT #1
a. Paid less for labor than agreed on or not at all for work completed b. Paid late
c. Paid with bad currency
d. Increased workload beyond what you had agreed on e. Charged for something that was not agreed upon such as transportation or food
Translations for answers to Question #11: • Su jefe le ha pagado menos por su trabajo de lo que habían acordado o no le pagó por el trabajo complete. • Su jefe le ha pagado tarde • Su jefe le ha pagado con un cheque falso o dinero falso • Su jefe ha aumentado su trabajo más de lo que habían acordado • Su jefe le ha reducido algo de su sueldo, como el costo de transportación o comida, sin su consentimiento
EXPERIENCE WITH WAGE THEFT #2
For the purpose of this survey, we defined waged theft as being paid less than the employer and the employee originally agreed on, being paid late, or not being paid at all. For a more accurate number of respondents who experienced wage theft, refer to question #11.
EXPERIENCE WITH WAGE THEFT #3
Warned other workers about the employer/Le ha advertido a otros trabajadores acerca de ese jefe
Confronted the employer verbally/ Confrontó a su jefe verbalmente
Reported to authorities / Lo reportó a las autoridades
No action/ No tomó acción
Other, including reported to an organization (please specify)/ Otro, incluye si lo reportó a una organización
Out of the 61 workers who answered this question, only one reported his experience with wage theft to an organization. Of the workers who answered “other,” they responded the following: • Reported to lawyers next to Guadalajara Restaurant • He told the employer to pay him • In shock (1) • He talked to the employer but he or she refused to pay him (1) • Not applicable (5)
EXPERIENCE WITH WAGE THEFT #4 Q18 If you took action, what were the results of your efforts? Si tom贸 acci贸n, 驴cu谩les fueron los resultado de sus esfuerzos? Answered: 30
Number of Respondents
Did not get paid
Told others not to go to employers
Paid once, but other times did not get paid
Insulted by others for being Mexican/Hispanic
Threatened because he did not have papers
Threatened by employers
Employer would not return his phone calls
Only worked with employer who did not pay for one day
Employer told him he was not fast enough and did not do the job right He and three workers took an employer to court because he did not pay them (had to pay them triple original amount)
1 (3.33%) 1 (3.33%)
EXPERIENCE WITH WAGE THEFT #5
You were embarrassed There was a language barrier The wages were not worth the time Did not think acting would make a difference Scared of retaliation by the employer Undocumented and did not want to be in the system Did not believe you were covered by worker’s rights Other (please specify)
Translations for answers to Question #19: a) Tenía vergüenza b) Habían problemas de comunicacíon por el lenguaje c) El sueldo no valía la pena d) No pensó que tomando accíon haría una diferencia e) Tenía miedo que el jefe se vengara f) Es indocumentado y no quería entrar en el sistema g) No creía que estaba protegido por los derechos de trabajador h) Otro (por favor especifique)
EXPERIENCE WITH WAGE THEFT #6
Of the 24 workers who responded â€œother,â€? their responses are below: Response Does not apply Always takes action He was afraid the employer would not hire him again and afraid of the employer
Number of Respondents 13 (54.17%) 1 (4.16%) 1 (4.16%)
Did not want to any problems Because the employer had a car and the laborer was on foot
1 (4.16%) 1 (4.16%)
There wasn't anyone to help The employer was not going to pay him either way Employer did not want to pay Did not want to cause problems with the person and end up affected too. Did not even consider taking action.
1 (4.16%) 1 (4.16%) 1 (4.16%) 1 (4.16%)
New to the job Knew they would pay him
1 (4.16%) 1 (4.16%)
INTIMIDATION BY EMPLOYERS
Give you an increased workload? Not hire you again or tell other employers not to hire you? Threatened to call immigration authorities? Harassed or abused you verbally? Harassed or abused you physically? Told you you were not covered by worker’s rights? Threatened not to pay you at all? Threatened to call the police on you? Other (please specify)
The 19 workers who answered “other” responded in the following: • Does not apply (16) • One said he was beaten up by two African Americans 2 years ago for having cash and he no longer walks at night alone. (1) • Threatened to not pay for the extra hours worked. (1) • Exploitation (1)
Only myself/ Solo yo
My family in the U.S./ Mi familia en los Estados Unidos
My family outside the U.S. (reimittances)/ Mi familia fuera de los E.E.U.U.
Other (please specify)/Otro (por favor especifique)
AGE Q26 What is your age? / ¿Cuál es su edad? Answered: 70
17 17 18 19 19 19
20 21 22 22 22 23 23 24 25 25 25 27 27 28 28 28 29 29 29 29
30 30 30 31 31 31 31 (1982) 31 (1982) 32 32 33 34 35 35 36 37 37 37 37 37 37 37 38 38
40 40 41 42 42 42 42 43 44 45 45 45 47 48 48
50 54 59 85
Total: 6 (8.69%)
LEVEL OF EDUCATION
Less than high school, no GED (education before college)/ Menos que la preparatoria, sin GED (educaci贸n, antes del colegio)
High school diploma or GED/ Diploma de la preparatoria o GED
Some college/ Un poco de estudios universitarios
College diploma (Bachelors, Masters)/ Diploma de la universidad (licenciatura o Maestr铆a)
TIME LIVING IN THE U.S.
Q31 If you were born outside the U.S., in what year did you move to the U.S.? Si nació afuera de E.E.U.U., ¿en cuál año se mudó a E.E.U.U.? Answered: 53
POLICY SUGGESTIONS FROM WORKERS Q32 What kind of policies would you like to see implemented to help day laborers like you? ¿Qué leyes le gustaría que cambiaran para poder ayudar a los jornaleros? Answered: 48
Employment services (1 says having someone who speaks their language help them)
Increasing worker’s protections
Day laborer center/office space
Help in combating/preventing wage theft (1 says preventing reductions for the price of food to his pay)
Building trust and community among day laborers
Free legal assistance
Drug/alcohol abuse assistance
Protection from police
Assistance with rent
Places to stand/Acceptance from local businesses
Increasing “American jobs” (not exporting them to different countries)
FROM THE DAY LABORERS THEMSELVES: TESTIMONIES #1 When the Wage Fairness Project youth were out in the field interviewing day laborers, we came across many compelling stories about workers’ experiences with wage theft. We chose the following eight narratives we felt reflected the experiences of many day laborers in East Oakland and have included them in the hope that readers gain a clearer understanding of the major effect wage theft can have on day laborers in their everyday lives. In the interest of preserving their anonymity, we identify individual We interviewed day laborer #4 on High Street and International Blvd. His primary language is Spanish and like many other day laborers we interviewed, his proficiency in English was very limited. He told us he took odd jobs in gardening, construction, moving and carwashes. He is most often paid by the hour He recounted one of his experiences with wage theft: “One day, my employer gave me something to eat [on the job]. He gave me a whole chicken and a 2-liter soda and said he would return the next day to pay me. He never showed up.” Having learned from his past experience, on another occasion when an employer refused to pay him, day laborer #4 refused to get out of his employer’s truck until the man promised to pay him. His employer paid him the following day. He previously worked at a construction company before becoming a day laborer, where he reported working 10 hours straight each day without a break. “It was exploitation,” he said. When asked why he did not take action after having experienced wage theft twice, he said, “I didn’t think about it.” Day laborer #4 did not believe he was protected by worker’s rights.
“He said he would return the next day to pay me. He never showed up.” – Day Laborer #4
Day laborer #8 was interviewed at the High St. & International Blvd. worksite. He is a 50 year-old Latino male who works to supports his family in the U.S. He has lived in the U.S. for 23 years. He understands English, but he cannot speak it. Day laborer #8 has a seventh grade education; he has worked in construction, bricklaying, painting and has also worked as an industrial mechanic. He is paid in cash and is paid by the hour for his day labor. Sometimes, his employers pay him less than what he agreed to. His employers often expand his workload and make him work more hours than what he had agreed to, and sometimes he does not get paid for his extra work. He believes he has been a victim of wage theft more than five times. When an employer pays him less for his labor than agreed to, day laborer #8 confronted them verbally. His employers have responded by telling him he was not covered by workers’ rights, telling him they would not pay him at all for his labor, and threatening to call the police and immigration authorities on him. After being threatened, he did not take any further action. He first encountered wage theft when he was new to the day laborer occupation. When asked why he did not take further action, day laborer #8 said he does not believe the lost wages were worth the effort: “you waste time in court,” he said. He admits he is afraid of filing a complaint.
When he was underpaid, the employer told him he was not covered by worker’s rights and threatened to call immigration authorities.
FROM THE DAY LABORERS THEMSELVES: TESTIMONIES #2 Day laborer #21 was interviewed at International Blvd.
“There was a lady and High Street. Although he had a high school diploma from México, day laborer #21 had been working as a day who gave [me and laborer in the U.S. for five months, doing everything from and construction to maintenance. three co-workers] gardening When asked who decided his wage for a job (him or the he said, “We do not reach an agreement. They bad checks. They employer), [employers] make up excuses to not pay you what you both decided on and it’s only a verbal agreement.” were looking for He told us about a time when he and three other workers suffered from wage theft. “There was a lady who her at the bank. gave us a bad check. There were three of us and we went to try to cash our check but the bank told us it was fake. They This happens to were looking for her at the bank. This happens to many people - they [employers] don’t pay them.” many people – Although day laborer #21 sometimes worked more [employers] don’t hours than he and the employer agreed on, he was not always paid for the extra labor. He said he would warn pay them.” other workers about particular employers, saying, “I don’t want same thing to happen to them.” He reported having -Day Laborer #21 the employers who abused him verbally, threatened to not hire him Day laborer #46 was interviewed at 29th Ave. and East 12th St. His primary language is Spanish and his ability in English is very limited. He has been a day laborer for around 10 years and is paid hourly or by the day. His employers frequently pay him late and often increase his workload beyond what he had originally agreed on. Like Day Laborer #21, he often works more hours than he had agreed to do and is rarely paid more for the extra labor. Day laborer #46 has experienced wage theft more than five times as a day laborer and although he confronts his employers, he is not always successful in getting his pay. [His bosses] have abused him verbally and made fun of him by calling him an “illegal.” They have threatened to not hire him again. Wage theft has prevented him from providing for his family or paying his utilities on time. Day laborer #46 wished there was more work for people like him. On the streets, he sees a lot of violence and he wished the police protected day laborers.
His bosses have abused him verbally by calling him an “illegal.” Wage theft has prevented him from providing for his family.
FROM THE DAY LABORERS THEMSELVES: TESTIMONIES #3 Day Laborer #53, 30-year-old Guatemalan, was interviewed in the Home Depot parking lot, a popular worksite for day laborers. His main language is Mam. He has a high school education and he has been a day laborer for five years, working in gardening, construction, maintenance and painting. He has been paid late, paid less or not paid at all by past employers. He worked with a male employer for two months, who owes him $1,400 for three weeks of work. “I worked on a house. He paid me every week. He claimed he couldn’t pay me because the owner of the house had not paid him.” In response to the wage theft, Day Laborer #53 said: “I am not liking [this late pay]. He wanted me to keep working and I didn’t because he hadn’t paid me.” He usually works for eight hours a day, sometimes nine hours a day, but if he works more than eight hours, he not paid for the extra hour. “They [employers] give you what they told you and that’s it [even if you worked more hours].” He always confronts employers who do not pay him the wage he agreed to, but has often been unsuccessful in getting back wages. He is considering reporting employers to the authorities. He provides for his family in the U.S. He has gotten behind in paying the rent due to wage theft and has had to borrow money from relatives. He would like to see more worker protection and immigration reform.
He has gotten behind in paying the rent due to wage theft and has had to borrow money from relatives.
Day Laborer #54 is a 32-year-old Mexican male who worked as a day laborer for six years working in construction and carpentry. He has a high school diploma. He has encountered many forms of wage theft – he has been paid less than what he and his employer originally agreed on, not paid at all for his labor, paid late, paid with with a bad check or false currency, has had his employer increase his workload beyond what he agreed on, and has been charged him for something he did not agree to, such as transportation or food. “They promise to pay more [for working extra hours] but never do.” When he experienced wage theft, he did not take action because he was embarrassed - he was undocumented and fears the employer would retaliate. Once, Day Laborer #54 was not paid at all for his labor and his boss threatened he would get him deported if he talked. When he was a day laborer, he supported his
He did not take action when he experienced wage theft because he was undocumented and his boss threatened he would get him deported if he talked.
FROM THE DAY LABORERS THEMSELVES: TESTIMONIES #4 Day laborer #54A is a 41 year-old single male who has lived in the U.S. for four years. He has a fourth grade education and has been a day laborer for less than one year. During his time as a day laborer, he has performed jobs in construction. His employer decides his pay rate (he is paid in cash and per hour). Day Laborer #54A told us wage theft was not new to him – he has been paid less for labor than he agreed on, has not been paid at all, has been paid late, has had employers increase his workload beyond what he agreed on and has also been charged for something he did not agreed on such as transportation or food. He believes he received an “unfair pay.” “Our bosses do not really care for our sacrifice [when we work] extra hours [and are not paid].” He mentioned an incident where his boss offered to pay him if he sold drugs besides performing the labor he agreed to. The worker rejected his offer and as a result, he was fired and did not get paid for his labor. He did not take action because he feared the employer would retaliate and he felt embarrassed. He would like there to be more protection for workers.
His employer offered to pay him if he sold drugs besides performing the labor he agreed to. The worker rejected his offer and as a result he did not get paid for his labor.
Day Laborer #57 is a 45-year-old who has been performing day labor for twenty years. He recently moved up to Oakland from Los Angeles. He has a third grade education and has worked in gardening, construction/carpentry, maintenance and painting. He is usually paid $10 an hour. He has been a victim of wage theft. “There is a man who owes four workers and me. He was doing a trabajo chueco [an unusual job arrangement] – he [the employer] was part of a company in Santa Rosa. He owes me $3,000 and everyone else [the same amount]. It happened a year ago. We worked at Lake Tahoe and San Jose, all over this area. He wanted to hang on to my check that the company gave me that was $600.... He wanted to invite us [to work] again and I didn’t want to.” Day laborer #57 also recounted that he was owed $1,000 for two days of work when he worked in Los Angeles three years ago. “Employers [who owe me] do not return my phone calls.” He sends money to his family in Mexico. On average, he only works two to three days a week for eight
“There is a man who owes four workers and me $3,000 each.” -Day Laborer #57
FROM THE DAY LABORERS THEMSELVES: TESTIMONIES #5 Day Laborer #58 is a 48-year -old male who was interviewed at the East 12 St. worksite. He recently moved to Oakland from New York and has been a day laborer for two years. He has seven years of schooling and has performed jobs in gardening, construction/carpentry, maintenance and moving. He usually asks employers for a $15 per hour minimum, but finds that most employers offer $10 an hour instead. “Employers want to pay you only $10/hr... today there were a few people who came by [with that offer] but I ask for $15/hr, minimum.” He has had bosses that have paid less than what he agreed to, not paid him at all, paid him late (it has happened three times), paid him with a bad check or false currency (it has happened twice), has increased his workload more than what he agreed on, and has also had employers charge him for something he did not agree to, such as transportation or food. “Bosses change their address. They say they will come back the next day to pay you, but they don’t. That has happened to me twice. You call and they don’t answer, you get the machine or they change their number…Once, I worked in Orinda for two days and the guy [employer] only paid me $30. I didn’t do anything because I did not know I could.... I did not do anything because I did not know the place well and [needed a ride home].” When he stays past the working hours he agreed on, he is not paid extra. “If you stay or even half an hour more, they won’t pay you [for your time].” When he experienced wage theft, he confronted his employer and warned other workers about the boss, but he was not paid. “They offended me because I was Mexican...they ignored me.” He realizes being a day laborer does not make much money. “I only make enough for the rent and food. I don’t make enough to send to another country…. There are months when money is tight…. Some men have gone homeless when [they are victims of wage theft] and have a vice...they don’t have money for rent.” He would like help looking for work and filling out job applications online. He would also like more information on how to start a worker’s cooperative.
“I worked in Orinda for two days and the guy [employer] only paid me $30 total. I didn’t do anything because I did not know I could…I did not know the place well and I needed a ride home.” -Day Laborer #58
The Wage Fairness Project speaks to Rhina Ramos, Co-Director of the Restaurant Opportunities Center of the Bay (ROC the Bay), on August 9. Ramos informed about increasing penalties for employers who do not pay their employees promised wages in order to dissuade employers from withholding wages. 27
RECOMMENDATIONS Ø Create a booklet for day laborers to keep a timesheet (including start time, end time and breaks) and information on the employer (including their name, phone number, address, license plate). Through our research, we found that many day laborers had a limited formal education and illiteracy was widespread. Due to the nature of their work, day laborers do not have one sole employer – they are always changing employers and work locations. We believe it is necessary for workers to keep a good record of whom they work for. A simple booklet with boxes they can check off with their hours, place of employment, and their employers’ contact information is crucial. This booklet could be used as proof in court for day laborers if they are mistreated or underpaid during work. Ø Stronger penalties for employers who do not pay workers promised wages to deter employers from committing wage theft and incentivize workers to report instances of wage theft – make employers pay workers many times more the original amount they owed their employees. From Rhina Ramos at ROC United, we learned employers who purposefully do not pay their employees the full wage they promised can be taken to court by employees. In some states like Massachusetts, if employees win their cases, employers are obliged to pay them double or triple the amount they originally owed them. California does not have such a strong law. We believe increasing penalties would deter employers from not paying their employees because they would have more to lose if they were taken to court. Ø For organizations that work with day laborers to distribute a flyer to day laborers, which highlights their rights, offers tips on what to do to prevent wage theft, and describes resources they have at their disposal. A flyer in simple language detailing legal rights day laborers have when faced with wage theft is essential. Ideally, this flyer would be in Spanish and Mam and
Meeting with Gabriela Galicia and Laura López from Street Level Health Project on August 15, 2013.
give day laborer resources they could turn to for legal assistance as well as tips to keep themselves safe while working on the streets. Ø For Street Level Health Project to expand their model of an Oakland Worker’s Collective, where employers’ information is documented and workers receive a fair wage ($15 an hour). We were impressed by the collective’s reach and goals. Not only does this collective help workers build skills, the collective also has a system that filters potential employers, ensuring the safety and fair pay of workers ($15 an hour). When we presented our findings to the collective, we met thoughtful and eager workers who participated in this program. The city’s funding of the Worker’s Collective is a good step in the right direction. Ø Distribute our report to organizations that work with day laborers. Our study provides statistics and testimonies that can help organizations, government officials and everyday people better understand the needs of day laborers. This information can be used to implement policies to protect this vulnerable population.
ABOUT THE WAGE FAIRNESS TEAM #1 Project Leader Gloria “Jack” Mejía-Cuéllar is a sophomore at Yale University double-majoring in Political Science and Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies. She is 19 years old and also Kim’s twin sister! Mejía-Cuéllar wanted to take on this project to help her East Oakland community. She wants Latinos to have more representation in politics. Gloria “Jack” Mejía-Cuéllar esta en su Segundo año de studio en la Universidad de Yale. Ella esta estudiando la ciencia política y estudios de la mujer. Tiene 19 años de edad y ademas, ¡es la hermana gemela de Kim! Ella se involucró con este proyecto para ayudar a su comunidad del este de Oakland. Mejía-Cuéllar quiere que los Latinos tengan más representación en la política.
Project Leader Kim Mejía-Cuéllar is a sophomore at Yale University majoring in Ethnicity, Race & Migration. Mejía-Cuéllar was born and raised in Oakland. The 19 year old has been working to improve her community through her involvement with PUEBLO, which she finds very rewarding. Mejía-Cuéllar hopes to attend law school and be an advocate for and empower underserved communities. Kim Mejía-Cuéllar esta en su Segundo año de estudio en la Universidad de Yale – sus estudios se enfocan en la Identidad Étnica, la Raza y la Migración. Mejía-Cuéllar ha vivido en Oakland por toda su vida. Tiene 19 años de edad y ha trabajado para mejorar su comunidad, involucrándose con PUEBLO, lo que ella piensa es muy satisfactorio. Mejía-Cuéllar quisiera estudiar Derecho para defender y hacer más fuerte las comunidades marginadas.
ABOUT THE WAGE FAIRNESS TEAM #2 Team Member Jazmin García is a sophomore at the University of California, Berkeley majoring in Sociology. She hopes to one day attend law school to become an attorney and help her community. García is eighteen years old – she was born in México, but moved to California as a youth and has lived here ever since. García became involved in the Wage Fairness Project because she has a strong involvement in her community and wants to raise awareness about some of the negative conditions many day laborers face in Oakland. She also sought this opportunity to become exposed to a sociological field by gathering data, analyzing results and finding solutions to the problem at hand. Jazmin García está en su segundo año de studio en la Universidad de California, Berkeley estudiando Sociologia. Un día, quisiera estudiar Derecho para ser abogada y ayudar a su comunidad. García tiene 18 años de edad – nació en México, pero se mudó a California cuando era niña y ha vivido aquí desde entonces. García se involucró con el Proyecto para el Sueldo Justo porque esta muy involucrada con su comunidad y quisiera llamar atención a muchas condiciones negativas que los jornaleros enfrentan en Oakland. También tomó la oportunidad para estar expuesta a la area de sociología y la habilidad de recolectar información, analizar los resultados y encontrar soluciones a los problemas que enfrenta.
Team Member Sergio Pérez-Galindo is a freshman at Oakland Charter School. Someday, he hopes to go to college and major in Graphic Design or join the Army. Pérez-Galindo is 15 – he was born in Berkeley, but he was raised in Oakland. He chose to be part of this project because he’s seen this injustice happen to so many people. In his free time, Pérez-Galindo plays on the Bulldogs soccer team. Sergio Pérez-Galindo está en el novena grado en Oakland Charter School. Algún día, quisiera ir al colegio para estudiar el diseño gráfico o ser parte del ejército. Pérez-Galindo tiene 15 años de edad – nació en Berkeley pero creció en Oakland. Quiso tomar parte en este proyecto porque sabe que esta injusticia es muy común. En su tiempo libre, Pérez-Galindo juega en el equipo de fútbol los Bulldogs. 30
ABOUT THE WAGE FAIRNESS TEAM #3 Team Member Jhovana Araceli Pérez is in her third year at Laney College. Born in México City and raised in Oakland, 19 year-old Jhovana is working hard to transfer to San Francisco State University. She is planning on majoring in psychology to become a counselor, where she will be involved with low-income community members. She became a part of this project because she saw this as an opportunity to learn from her community and to be a part of the change that the Wage Fairness Project is going to make. Jhovana Araceli Pérez esta en su tercer año en Laney College. Nacida en la ciudad de México y criada en Oakland, Jhovana está trabajando para trasferirse a la Universidad de San Francisco State, para ahí estudiar psicología y ejercer una Carrera como consejera y involucrarse con personas de bajos recursos. Jhovana decidió ser parte de este proyecto porque lo vio como una oportunidad para aprender de su comunidad y para ser parte del cambio que el Proyecto Para el Sueldo just va a hacer.
Team Member Mónica Villa is a senior currently attending American Indian Public High School. Villa is 16 year old high school student who plants to go to college and major in Child Education or social work to help out those in need. Villa was born in México and moved to Oakland at the age of six. Villa became interested in this project because as a teenager living in Oakland, one is aware of the risks day laborers take in order to provide enough money to their families and often are not given the respect and treatment they deserve. Mónica Villa actualmente asiste a American Indian public High School y esta en el duodecimo grado. Villa tiene 16 años de edad y cuando salga de la preparatoria, ella dese air a la universidad. Quiere estudiar Educación Infantil o trabajo social para ayudar a las que estan en desventaja. Villa nació en México y se mudó a Oakland a la edad de seis años. Villa se interesó en este proyecto porque siendo una dolescente que vive en Oakland, uno es consciente del riesgo que los jornaleros tienen que tomar para mantener a sus familias y nota que a los jornaleros no se les da el respeto y el trato que ellos merecen. 31
A study of Wage theft among day laborers in Oakland. Sponsoring organization: PUEBLO (People United For A Better Life in Oakland). Funded by...