DC Day Laborers Step Up Efforts to Stop Wage Theft
Several members of the Union de Trabajadores de Washington, DC, a day laborer association, had been doing work on a DC public school building over the summer, and were paid less than promised. They reached out to DC Jobs with Justice and the DC Employment Justice Center, who quickly realized this public project entitled the workers to higher, "prevailing wages" for their work. After reaching out to other workers from the project and talking with several building trades unions to confirm the proper rate, DC JwJ and the DC EJC went to the Office of Public Education Facilities Modernization to discuss this violation of DC’s contracting laws. The Office collaborated in forcing the contractors to pay back wages, including proper overtime rates.
This victory not only secures justice for the workers involved, but sends an important message to contractors who believe they can hire immigrant workers and pay them lower rates. Current broken immigration laws invite such exploitation by creating a pool of undocumented workers who employers believe don’t have rights and can’t organize. But across the country, organized groups of day laborers have been successfully enforcing their own rights, and thwarting the "divide and conquer" tactics employers try to use to lower standards.
The Union de Trabajadores, with support from DC JwJ, the DC EJC, and the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, has been doing on-going rights education work among day laborers about wage and hour law, in addition to working to reform the DC Office of Wage and Hour.
This fall workers will hold an "Escuela de Derechos Laborales/Labor Rights School," to train worker leaders as "Defensores de Derechos Laborales/Workers Rights’ Defenders," who will both educate other workers and assist other workers in recovering stolen wages through filing claims or planning actions on their employer.