Using Jailed Migrants as a Pool of Cheap Labor

“As the federal government cracks down on immigrants in the country illegally and forbids businesses to hire them, it is relying on tens of thousands of those immigrants each year to provide essential labor — usually for $1 a day or less — at the detention centers where they are held when caught by the authorities.

“The federal authorities say the program is voluntary, legal and a cost-saver for taxpayers. But immigrant advocates question whether it is truly voluntary or lawful, and argue that the government and the private prison companies that run many of the detention centers are bending the rules to convert a captive population into a self-contained labor force.”

Read more from the NY Times here

More than 100 arrested: Protesters seeking higher pay for McDonald’s workers swarm fast-food chain’s corporate office near Chicago

“Police on Wednesday arrested more than 100 demonstrators seeking better pay for McDonald’s workers as protesters swarmed the fast-food chain’s corporate campus near Chicago to demand a minimum wage of $15 an hour and the right to unionize. The latest protest against McDonald’s Corp, the world’s biggest restaurant operator by revenue, came a day ahead of a shareholder vote on executive pay, including that of Chief Executive Don Thompson, who earned total compensation of $9.5 million in 2013.

Hundreds of protesters flooded the streets near the McDonald’s corporate headquarters in Oak Brook, Ill on Wednesday (BEV HORNE/AP)

Hundreds of protesters flooded the streets near the McDonald’s corporate headquarters in Oak Brook, Ill on Wednesday (BEV HORNE/AP)

“Frequent rallies by low-wage restaurant and retailer workers have helped fuel a national debate on pay inequality at a time when many middle- to low-income Americans are having trouble making ends meet.”

Read more here

Register now for SBA 8a Info Session

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The U.S. Small Business Administration will present an information session on 8(a) certification at GoodWork Network Wednesday, May 21st. The SBA created the 8(a) Program to help small, disadvantaged businesses compete in the marketplace.

Register here

 

Philadelphia joins roster of cities tackling low wages

“Last week, Mayor Nutter signed an executive order requiring that employees of subcontractors on city contracts must be paid at least the city’s so-called living wage of $10.88 an hour, a floor that will rise to $12 in January. Today, city voters are widely expected to put an exclamation point on Nutter’s move by approving a ballot measure – Question No. 1 – that would establish the living wage for city subcontractors as city law, making it difficult for one of Nutter’s successors in City Hall to easily reverse the pay gains.

Nikishia Watson, of West Philadelphia, waits for her train home after a shift cleaning terminals at Philadelphia International Airport. She earns $8.50 an hour to support herself and her daughter while also taking classes to finish a bachelor's degree. (Matthew Hall / Philly.com Staff Photographer)

Nikishia Watson, of West Philadelphia, waits for her train home after a shift cleaning terminals at Philadelphia International Airport. She earns $8.50 an hour to support herself and her daughter while also taking classes to finish a bachelor’s degree. (Matthew Hall / Philly.com Staff Photographer)

“A “yes” vote would put Philadelphia in the mix of major American cities that are looking for creative ways to boost living standards for low-wage workers, at a time when the U.S. Congress and many statehouses – including GOP-controlled Harrisburg – are balking at a higher minimum wage for all workers. Opponents claim that raising wages would increase unemployment as business owners look to protect their bottom line.”

Read more here

Janitorial Services Executive Speaks Out Against Worker Misclassification

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In April, Professional Janitorial Services Executive Don Dyer delivered testimony to the Texas House Business and Industry Committee, which is studying what more lawmakers might need to do to combat the problem of Misclassification and how prevalent this problem is in the janitorial industry.

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What is Employee Misclassification?

Certain corporations have chosen to cut corners and pad their profits by misclassifying their workers as “contractors” when they should have been classified as “employees”.  Employee misclassification is explicitly against the law, yet because of weak enforcement mechanisms there are virtually no tangible consequences for violating the law.  This oversight has opened the doors to a whole host of unethical practices including wage theft, tax evasion, and employee exploitation.

According to Dyer, negative impacts also include an unethical cost advantage of 30-40% by janitorial companies who misclassify their workers, the evasion of federal income taxes, Social Security payments, Medicare payments, and unemployment taxes, and the hiring of undocumented workers since they are the easiest to exploit and intimidate.

Read his full testimony here. 

The Minimum Wage Loophole for Waiters and Waitresses

“As it stands, only seven states require employers to pay tipped workers the same minimum wage as nontipped workers. The federal minimum wage for the latter is $7.25, but the federal minimum wage for tipped workers has remained stagnate at $2.13 since 1991, with no adjustment for inflation. Employers are supposed to make up the difference if tipped workers aren’t earning the regular minimum wage through their tips, but it doesn’t always happen. The Economic Policy Institute found in 2011 that tipped workers are more than twice as likely as other workers to fall under the federal poverty line.

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“The Minimum Wage Fairness Act, which Obama endorsed, would have gradually raised tipped workers’ minimum wage to 70 percent of the regular minimum wage. But the bill has faced steep opposition from Republicans and the restaurant lobby. According to Open Secrets, the National Restaurant Association, which opposed the minimum-wage hike, spent more than $2.2 million on lobbying last year.”

Read more here

Pay Violations Rampant in Low-Wage Industries

“For workers stuck on the bottom rung, living on poverty wages is hard enough. But many also are victims of wage theft, a catch-all term for payroll abuses that cheat workers of income they are supposedly guaranteed by law. Over the last few years employers ranging from baseball’s San Francisco Giants to Subway franchises to Farmers Insurance have been cited for wage violations. More often, though, wage abuses are not reported by victims or punished by authorities despite being routine in some low-wage industries.

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“‘If you steal from your employer, you’re going to be hauled out of the workplace in handcuffs,’ said Kim Bobo, a Chicago workers rights advocate and author. ‘But if your employer steals from you, you’ll be lucky to get your money back.’

 

“Victims typically are low wage, low-skilled workers desperate to hang on to their jobs. Frequently, they are immigrants—the most vulnerable and least apt to speak up. “They know that if they complain, there’s always someone else out there who is willing to take their job,” said Maria Echaveste, a former labor official during the Clinton administration who is now at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law.”

This story was reported by Myron Levin, Stuart Silverstein and Lilly Fowler, and written by Levin. Read the very comprehensive piece here.

Fast-food worker strike goes global

“Workers from dozens of countries on six continents are joining the push for higher pay and worker rights, it was announced Wednesday at a press conference outside a McDonald’s restaurant in Midtown Manhattan by Fast Food Forward, which represents U.S. fast-food workers.

“The group announced nationwide strike plans for May 15 — a date which mirrors the $15 per hour pay they are demanding. On that same date, workers from dozens of countries on six continents will hold protests at McDonald’s, Burger King and KFC outlets. It is not known how many workers will strike, but thousands of the nation’s estimated 4 million fast-food workers are expected to take part in the one-day strike.”

Read more here. Where will you be eating, or not eating, on May 15?

 

Massachusetts Domestic Workers Will Get Labor Rights

“On Thursday, the Massachusetts Senate unanimously passed the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, 39-0, including all Republicans who voted. Once it passes a procedural hurdle in the House and is signed by the governor, the state will be the fourth to pass a bill of rights.

“The bill will guarantee the state’s 67,000 domestic workers a day off each week, breaks for meals and rest, and job-protected, unpaid maternity leave. (The Family and Medical Leave act, which guarantees workers 12 weeks of unpaid family leave, only applies to employers with 50 or more workers.) They will also get better protections from discrimination and sexual harassment. And they will have better knowledge of all of these rights, as employers will be required to give them notice of the rights at the start of their employment. Those who work more than 16 hours a week will also be required to be given written contracts.”

Read more here

WTUL New Orleans 91.5FM Highlights Immigrants in New Orleans

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The Stone Center for Latin American Studies at Tulane University provides engaging opportunities for learning about Latin America through the New Orleans community with the semesterly Enlaces Américas Audio Podcast Series. The final series of the spring semester will be aired THIS Friday, May 9th between 8:00 am – 8:30 am on WTUL 91.5 FM or if you are at your computer, you can listen online: http://www.wtulneworleans.com/. This batch of podcasts focuses on New Orleans immigrants highlighting issues of access to healthcare, education, and small business ownership in New Orleans. Check it out Friday morning or later by clicking on the “MEDIA” tab on the Stone Center website where all podcasts are archived: http://stonecenter.tulane.edu/