Federal government to day laborers: We're here to help

Federal government to day laborers: We're here to help

By Matt O'Brien
Contra Costa Times
Posted: 04/01/2010 02:13:52 PM PDT
Updated: 04/02/2010 06:22:55 AM PDT

Workers in pic listen to an investigator from the U.S. Department of Labor talk about labor rules .

CONCORD — A crew of federal officials wandering into a day labor hiring zone used to mean one thing: time to leave.

Not the case Thursday morning on Monument Boulevard. Armed with coffee, not handcuffs, investigators from the U.S. Department of Labor chatted warmly with Latino immigrant workers about how to find jobs without being exploited.

"We're the feds, but the good ones," said Paul Ramirez, speaking in Spanish inside the Michael Chavez Center, a gathering spot for day laborers. "We're here to help workers."

The unprecedented visit was part of a campaign to bring long-established workplace protections to the nation's most vulnerable and underpaid workers, including those who have no legal right to be living in the United States.

"Documented or not, the law is: If you work certain hours, you are owed certain money," Ramirez told the small crowd. Met at first with apprehension, the Brentwood native captivated his audience of men from Mexico and Central America as he told of tending tomatoes, onions, asparagus and cucumbers as a young California field hand. Now an enforcer of workplace rules, he advised what to do when contractors skirt the law.

"We already knew some of these things, but now we feel more comfortable, more support," said laborer Gilberto Villanueva, who came to the East Bay eight years ago from southern Mexico. "It's good that they came."

There was nothing new about the standards Ramirez mentioned:
minimum wage, overtime, sick leave. But none of the workers had heard this before from a federal agent. "We've always been very active in the community, but now we're becoming more vocal, more transparent," said Susana Rincon, Bay Area director of the labor agency's wage and hour division. "Other than that, the message is the same."

Ramirez made the same speech recently to workers who gather outside a Home Depot in Pittsburg. And it's not only a message for day laborers; it was delivered Thursday at the Chinese Newcomers Service Center in San Francisco.

The awareness campaign, called "We Can Help," is being led by Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, a former Southern California congresswoman who joined the Obama administration early last year.

Solis inaugurated the campaign Thursday in Chicago with a speech at the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum, a 19th century landmark of labor reform and social welfare movements. She said she has added more than 250 field investigators, bringing the total to nearly 1,000 nationwide, about the same as at the beginning of the Bush administration.

The investigators have no jurisdiction over homeowners who hire day laborers for temporary landscaping, moving and domestic work, but they do have authority over contractors who make at least a half-million dollars, Rincon said. If workers with a problem call investigators, usually the issues are resolved by phone within 24 hours, Rincon said. In rare cases, the investigators will visit work sites or take employers to court.

Day laborers "know laws are out there to protect them, but they don't always believe it, or know that it can be enforced," said Mike Van Hofwegen, director of the Concord work center. Van Hofwegen was as surprised as his clients when the labor department team called to say they wanted to visit.

"This is the first time we've had this kind of connection," he said. "Someone asked me, 'Is this an April Fools' thing?' "

Such a discussion between federal employees and workers who are, for the most part, illegal immigrants, is likely to engender controversy, but could also do everyone some good, he argued.

"It helps U.S. citizens because they're not being undermined by abusive labor practices in the community, because things are more competitive," Van Hofwegen said.

More From samD

12 Comments

5 years 2 weeks ago, 9:53 AM

HampsterW

HampsterW's picture

Rank:
Secretary of State
Points:
7723
Join Date:
Jan 2010
Location:
Cottonwood Heights, Utah, United States
I have an idea

lets strip the rights of all legal American citizens and give them
to the fucking illegals. We either need to fight this shit or pack
up and head for Canada (if they will have us).

Change you can truly believe in comes from the barrel of a gun---------------------------------------------------------------------------------Ron Paul 2012----Vote the bastards out!---------------------------------
5 years 2 weeks ago, 9:59 AM

daisycutter

daisycutter's picture

Rank:
General
Points:
5397
Join Date:
Jul 2009
Location:
Arkansas

the only normal place left.
The democraps know that by pandering to the wets they are adding democrap voters to the rolls. Our system of government was doomed from the start by the $$ handout loopholes.

iyaoyas
5 years 2 weeks ago, 10:06 AM

HampsterW

HampsterW's picture

Rank:
Secretary of State
Points:
7723
Join Date:
Jan 2010
Location:
Cottonwood Heights, Utah, United States

money IS the root of this evil, if we want to see change in our
system of Government we must take money out of the equation.

The wet's will vote for anyone who gives them a free ride.

Change you can truly believe in comes from the barrel of a gun---------------------------------------------------------------------------------Ron Paul 2012----Vote the bastards out!---------------------------------
5 years 2 weeks ago, 10:10 AM

HampsterW

HampsterW's picture

Rank:
Secretary of State
Points:
7723
Join Date:
Jan 2010
Location:
Cottonwood Heights, Utah, United States
Oh yeah

and who in the hell want's to live in Canada anyway? I came back from
a trip through Vancouver a couple years ago and was not impressed
to say the least.

Change you can truly believe in comes from the barrel of a gun---------------------------------------------------------------------------------Ron Paul 2012----Vote the bastards out!---------------------------------
5 years 2 weeks ago, 10:16 AM

daisycutter

daisycutter's picture

Rank:
General
Points:
5397
Join Date:
Jul 2009
Location:
Arkansas

a trip across mid-Canada and met lots of uninteresting and rude people.
They can keep it, eh? LOL

iyaoyas
5 years 2 weeks ago, 10:19 AM

daisycutter

daisycutter's picture

Rank:
General
Points:
5397
Join Date:
Jul 2009
Location:
Arkansas

both door & jam so gotta go find my chisels and router so I can get it done. BCNU !

iyaoyas
5 years 2 weeks ago, 10:24 AM

HampsterW

HampsterW's picture

Rank:
Secretary of State
Points:
7723
Join Date:
Jan 2010
Location:
Cottonwood Heights, Utah, United States
You got that right

DC, I grew up internationally (son of a Geologist) and I can honestly say
that I have never been treated like shit more than in Vancouver, I will
never go back to that shit hole.

Change you can truly believe in comes from the barrel of a gun---------------------------------------------------------------------------------Ron Paul 2012----Vote the bastards out!---------------------------------
5 years 2 weeks ago, 10:28 AM

HampsterW

HampsterW's picture

Rank:
Secretary of State
Points:
7723
Join Date:
Jan 2010
Location:
Cottonwood Heights, Utah, United States
Have fun DC

~

Change you can truly believe in comes from the barrel of a gun---------------------------------------------------------------------------------Ron Paul 2012----Vote the bastards out!---------------------------------
5 years 2 weeks ago, 11:55 AM

Bigshot Nobody

Bigshot Nobody's picture

Rank:
Lieutenant General
Points:
721
Join Date:
Oct 2009
The Next Worst Thing

Canada is going with the UN Resolution, the same as Japan and Australia, to disarm ALL their citizens

"We fight not for Glory nor for Honors; but only and alone we fight for Freedom, which no Good Man surrenders but with his life" - Robert the Bruce "Declaration of Arbroath"
5 years 2 weeks ago, 12:00 PM

HampsterW

HampsterW's picture

Rank:
Secretary of State
Points:
7723
Join Date:
Jan 2010
Location:
Cottonwood Heights, Utah, United States
I can't believe

the aussies went along with that, sad but true.

Change you can truly believe in comes from the barrel of a gun---------------------------------------------------------------------------------Ron Paul 2012----Vote the bastards out!---------------------------------
5 years 2 weeks ago, 12:07 PM

ecaman

ecaman's picture

Rank:
General
Points:
2613
Join Date:
Jul 2009
Location:
Payson, UT, United States
Things like this

make me so furious that I have a tough time getting my blood pressure and my breathing back down. They're ILLEGAL - that means CRIMINAL! I don't give a fuck what country they come from, what language they speak, how tough life is in their native country, or any of that shit. They're fucking criminals! And here are government employees seeking them out and offering them help. If you're an average American citizen, law abiding, tax paying, all that, and call Social Security or Medicare, good fucking luck trying to get a live human being to talk to, or avoiding a multi-hour wait going from one "option" to another. Try going into a DMV and expecting any courtesy. And yet, here are government employees going around looking for these fucking criminals to HELP them! Just makes my blood boil. The federal employees should be out arresting these bastards for transportation to a prison or forced labor camp, and shooting them dead if they resist arrest, not pandering to them. I never thought I'd see something like this, and I'm damned disgusted that I have.

If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and a man. (Mark Twain).
5 years 2 weeks ago, 6:40 AM

bakeman201

bakeman201's picture

Rank:
Major
Points:
41
Join Date:
Feb 2010
Location:
cape coral, fl, United States
wtf

send them all back. there are taking our jobs .sending all there money were they came from.i cant work for the shitty money they make. i don't have 20 people in my house paying bills.i have 4 kids to support.cant even find a job.they would rather hire 4 Mexicans for the price of me.i could go on all day. do something about it.

samD's picture
Posted by: samD
5 years 2 weeks ago
Views:
736
Comments:
12

Rating Overview

This text will be replaced

Recent Activity