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Seton Hall Law School Report Shows Immigrant Day Laborers Subjected to Workplace Abuse

Report reveals 96% of local immigrant day laborers have been victims of wage theft, 27% assaulted by employer, 80% not given safety equipment, 20% hurt on job

A new report issued by Seton Hall Law School’s Center for Social Justice finds that 96% of immigrant day laborers have been victims of wage theft in one form or another. The report, Ironbound Underground: Wage Theft and Workplace Violations Among Day Laborers in Newark’s East Ward, shows that

  1. Seventy-seven percent reported at least one instance in the last year of an employer paying them less money than originally promised, compared to 48% of day laborers nationally;
  2. Sixty-two percent reported at least one instance of not being paid at all, compared to 48% of day workers nationally; 
  3. Eighty-eight percent reported that employers had not paid them overtime for working over 40 hours a week, as required by state and federal laws; 
  4. Twenty-seven percent reported being assaulted by either their employer or his agent; 
  5. Eighty percent reported that employers rarely, if ever, provided safety equipment (safety goggles, hard hats, protective masks, etc.); 
  6. Nearly 20% reported being injured at work (out of work for more than 20 days as a result).

Seton Hall Law professor, immigration attorney and report co-author Bryan Lonegan said, “Wage theft and work place abuse affect more than just the individual workers who are victimized. All workers suffer as wages and safety standards decline overall. The theft and abuse also give an unfair advantage to unscrupulous employers over the honest ones. ”

The report offers three recommendations based upon successful action undertaken by other cities:

  1. The City of Newark establish a hiring hall for day laborers, as hiring halls have been shown to substantially decrease worker abuse in other cities. 
  2. The City of Newark enact an ordinance that specifically prohibits employers from engaging in wage theft and imposes strong monetary and criminal penalties for violations. Specific local ordinances provide day laborers with a direct avenue of recourse. 
  3. The New Jersey Department of Labor proactively assist day laborers in addressing wage theft violations.

Seton Hall Law Practitioner-in-Residence and report co-author Anjana Malhotra added, “The New Jersey Department of Labor, the U.S. Department of Justice, the Newark Police, and a number of local office holders have all expressed support for a hiring hall. Experience shows that hiring halls work. And specific local ordinances have been shown to be a major deterrent to these unconscionable exploitations. “

Report data was compiled by Rafael Perez and Nicholas Norcia, two recent graduates of Seton Hall Law who worked on the report during their final semester of law school. Students worked closely with Lonegan and Malhotra to interview over half of the day laborers looking for work at the Ironbound day laborer gathering site. Additionally, the students interviewed other community leaders from Newark’s police, labor institutions, religious institutions, and government agencies.

The report may be found at http://law.shu.edu/ProgramsCenters/PublicIntGovServ/CSJ/upload/csj-report-ironbound-underground-july2010.pdf

Seton Hall University School of Law, New Jersey’s only private law school, and a leading law school in the New York metropolitan area, is dedicated to preparing students for the practice of law through excellence in scholarship and teaching, with a strong focus on clinical education. The Center for Social Justice (CSJ) is one of the nation’s strongest pro bono and clinical programs, empowering students to gain critical, hands-on experience as it provides pro bono legal services for economically disadvantaged residents in the region. Seton Hall Law is located in Newark, NJ and offers both day and evening degree programs. For more information, visit http://law.shu.edu.