Day Laborers at Workers Justice Project
Day laborers are women and men without full-time jobs who seek temporary work at street corners and wharves that functioned as open-air hiring halls as means to feed their families. In New York City, for instance, the historical ranks of day laborers have included 18th-century Irish immigrants, African American domestic workers hired in the Bronx during the Depression and Brooklyn’s Italian longshoremen.
To this date, the new hiring hot spots continue to be busy street corners where day laborers not only face racial and sexual harassment, even assault from police, merchants and anti-immigrant groups but are disproportionately engaged in dangerous work: nearly 70% fall victim to workplace injuries and fatalities. Furthermore, day laborers are cheated out of pay by unscrupulous employers and exposed to dangerous working conditions.
Worker’s Justice Project is committed to addresses the racial and economic disparity that day laborers face by developing socioeconomic alternatives and revolutionizing the day laborer center models.
Building Bridges Through Organizing
Remarkable things are happening in street corners all over New York City as a result of the organizing work of the Worker’s Justice Project (WJP). While waiting on those street corners for a cleaning or construction job, Latino and Latina day laborers and WJP leaders organize to keep the streets clean, forge relationships with the police and area businesses, and teach each other about their rights as workers and the laws that protect them.
Day Laborers from Bensonhurst, Brooklyn founded in 2002 a unique democratic day labor center model where day laborers negotiate the scope of work and fair wages with contractors with the purpose to achieve social and economic justice. Through the establishment of this first community day laborer center, WJP aims to achieve the following:
- Cultivate positive relations between immigrants and their communities in which they live and work
- Prevent labor and Civil Rights abuses, improve working conditions, and recover unpaid wages.
- Actively develop leaders among workers to take action on their own behalf for systematic changes in their community
- Provide education and job training opportunities to enhance the skills needed to acquire dignified employment.
Female Day Laborers from Williamsburg, Brooklyn organized to secure a street hiring site where every approximately 100 women gather every morning seeking means to feed their families. Unfortunately, the majority find themselves returning home each day without finding work. Instead of decent jobs with fair pay, they are faced with unsafe work conditions and rampant wage theft. In light of this situation, female day laborer leaders formed a worker-owned cooperative with a new model of job creation, job training, and social action that will create living wages jobs and provide skill-building trainings while supporting the social justice organizing efforts of WJP.
For further information on the local and national corner day labor phenomenon click on the following reports:
- Day Labor in New York: Findings from the NYDL Survey by Abel Valenzuela Jr and Edwin Melendez. 2003.
- On the Corner: Day Labor in the United States by the University Illinois at Chicago and the University of California at Los Angeles. 2006