Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Women Day Laborers Are Tired of Waiting for Work, and for Justice

In Brooklyn, a new study shows that women face an underground labor market fraught with hidden risks.

By Michelle Chen, The Nation
August 5, 2016

During the mid-20th century, black women lined up on sad corners of New York known as the Bronx Slave Market, waiting for white “madams” to pluck impoverished housemaids from the so-called “paper-bag brigade.” These desperate domestics would work virtually any job for a day, for any wage.

Today the image of the immigrant day laborer is often associated with Latino construction workers. But on some streets, women still gather, and like their forebears, they face an underground labor market fraught with hidden risks.

A new study by Brooklyn-based Worker’s Justice Project (WJP) and Cornell’s Worker Institue, reveals surprising details about the many overlooked women in day labor. Working marginal, casual jobs with little regulatory protection, they hustle from gig to gig, typically for as little pay or as many hours the boss wants.

Researchers surveyed a sample of about 80 women day laborers who congregate at a well-trafficked informal hiring site in Brooklyn. They generally work up to 20 about hours a week, earning on average less than $900 per month. Their wages fall well short of what the women require to cover basic needs, though most are primary income earners for their families.[...]

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