Tag archives for worker centers
When Mirella Nava began her new job at Rock Wool Manufacturing Company in Houston, Texas, she had no intentions of becoming an advocate for worker safety. But when she witnessed how fellow workers were being treated and the dangerous work conditions they faced on a daily basis, she felt compelled to speak up.
“Yes, you can use my name because it doesn’t matter. They have already done everything they can do to me.” Those are words from Eliceo, a former dairy farm worker in upstate New York. Earlier this year, Eliceo, 36, decided to speak up and share his story with local advocates who are tirelessly working to improve conditions on New York dairy farms and end persistent reports of workplace safety violations, preventable work-related injuries, wage theft, exploitation and in some cases, worker deaths.
This week, Houston became only the second major city in the U.S. South to pass a law to prevent and punish wage theft. It’s a major victory for all workers, but it’s especially significant for the city’s low-wage workers, who lose an estimated $753.2 million every year because of wage theft.
In their efforts to protect the most vulnerable workers from illegal workplace practices and conditions, worker centers have now attracted the million-dollar ire of formidable anti-union forces. And while advocates say it’s a sign of worker centers’ success, it’s still a worrisome trend that’s made it all the way to the halls of Congress.
Fair working standards for construction workers and financial profit for developers aren’t incompatible, according to a new report from Texas’ Workers Defense Project. In fact, consumers are actually willing to pay more to live in places built on principles of safety, economic justice and dignity.
Eric Rodriguez and his colleagues at the Latino Union of Chicago quite literally meet workers where they’re at — on the city’s street corners. Many of the day laborers who gather there are hired to work construction at residential housing sites. Work arrangements are hardly formal and day laborers are frequently subjected to unnecessary and illegal dangers on the job. Unfortunately, worker safety is often kicked to the curb in the street corner marketplace.
For Angel Nava, Chicago’s newly adopted wage theft ordinance is particularly personal. Until recently, Nava had worked at the same car wash business in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood for 14 years. The 55-year-old employee did it all — washing, detailing, buffing — for about 50 hours each week. Then, his boss decided to stop paying overtime.
While we’re on vacation, we’re re-posting some of our past content. Kim Krisberg’s series of posts on worker centers in Texas is well worth a second read.