Injuries to Day Laborers: Some Say it’s Abuse

By Neil Kalra

Several years ago, the first comprehensive nationwide study of day laborers found that any given day, over 117,000 people gathered at hiring sites across the U.S looking for work.

Though a small slice of the day labor workforce was polled, the study – in the interests of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLO), an advocacy group for such workers –, found that 43 percent were hired by construction contractors. They were mostly employed as general laborers, landscapers, painters, roofers and drywall installers. Their tasks mostly involved, heavy lifting, working from heights, exposure to dust or fumes, and repetitive motions. They earned a median income of $10 an hour – about $700 a month. Only a small fraction earned more than $15,000 a year according to the study.

"We were disturbed by the incredibly high incidence of wage violations," said one of the study's authors, Nik Theodore of the University of Illinois at Chicago. "We also found a very high level of injuries."

Another author from the University of California, Los Angeles, said: "This is a labor market that thrives on cheap wages and most of these workers are undocumented.” He added undocumented workers are, “extremely vulnerable, and employers take advantage of them."

A later subsequent survey of California day laborers in 2017 by UCLA reinforced virtually all the conclusions of the earlier NDLO results. So things haven’t changed very much for the day laborer over the years.

More Injuries to Construction Day Laborers Too

One-fifth of the surveyed day laborers said they had suffered injuries requiring medical attention in the past year. And 60 percent said they missed more than a week of work (without pay).

"Day laborers continue to endure unsafe working conditions, " the report said, “mainly because they fear that if they speak up, complain, or challenge these conditions, they will either be fired or not get paid.”

The biggest hope for these temp workers, the study said, are the numerous day labor centers that operate as hiring halls where workers and employers can meet. There are over 15 throughout the New York City area: usually partnerships with local government or community organizations. They usually require workers and employers to register which is helps reduce abuses in safety, injury compensation and employee status issues.

A few of those in New York include several Workforce1 Career Centers in: Jamaica, Queens and the other four boroughs; the Bay Parkway Community Job Center and the PeopleReady Center, also in Queens. For skilled immigrant laborers, the centers may introduce them to the appropriate union. All can be found using this simple Google search.

"The first thing to do to improve things for day laborers is to have more of these centers," said Pablo Alvarado, national coordinator of the NDLO. "The second thing is to have the government enforce the labor laws more consistently."

What Day Laborer’s Must do When They are Injured on a Construction Site

A day laborer may be able to get payment for a construction injury through:

  • Workers’ compensation: Though they may not be covered by the construction company’s workers’ comp insurance, they may be owed workers’ comp if an employment firm or temp agency provided the job.

  • New York’s Labor Laws. Employers have certain safety-related duties to every construction worker (employee or not) on a project in New York City. If the employer or construction site owner violated them, the worker maybe owed payment for the injuries caused by them; or even a third party – such as a a subcontractor – who was liable for causing the injury.

And when a day laborer doesn’t qualify for workers’ comp, he or she can still file a lawsuit against the person or company that caused the injury. Whether you were, or a family member was, injured due to a construction, car, commercial vehicle, or semi-truck accident; you may be entitled to full benefits and compensation. Know your rights and get the answers you are entitled to.

The attorneys at Kalra Law Firm are dedicated to getting construction accident victims the compensation they deserve. Call our office now to speak with one of our experienced construction accident lawyers to represent you in your case. We offer a free initial consultation and will not charge unless we win your case. If you have any questions about your construction accident, call our New York City and Queens Construction accident lawyers today at (718) 897-2211.

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© 2017 by Michael Chuda