Excluded Workers (Research)
Household workers work in the private homes of their employers, performing tasks such as in-home child, patient, and elder care, housework, and cooking. Mujeres Unidas y Activas and the Day Labor Program Women’s Collective of La Raza Centro Legal came together to analyze and to strategize to improve the household work industry. Because there is no accurate data available about the number of household workers or information about their work conditions in California, these Bay Area organizations of low-income immigrant Latina women, many of whom are household workers, joined with the DataCenter to create a participatory research project to assess the industry. The research shows that household workers are primarily female immigrants. While supporting their employers’ homes and families, findings show household workers are working in substandard and often exploitative conditions, earning poverty wages too low to support their own families, and lacking access to basic health care.
Three new reports on the wages and working conditions of restaurant workers in Los Angeles, Miami and Washington, DC, as well as a National Executive Summary, were released today, Monday, February 14, at city-wide summits organized by Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United. These reports represent the most comprehensive studies ever conducted on these local restaurant industries, and were carried out with primary research support from university professors in all three cities. Nationwide and in each of the eight regions studied – New York, Chicago, Metro Detroit, Los Angeles, Maine, Miami, New Orleans, and Washington, DC - the restaurant industry is vibrant, resilient, and growing. The industry includes approximately 10.3 million workers and 557,520 food service and drinking places nationwide that make significant contributions to the country’s tourism, hospitality and entertainment sectors and to its economy as a whole. In 2007, the restaurant industry garnered over $515 billion in sales revenue. Perhaps the industry’s most important contribution to the nation’s economy is the millions of job opportunities and career options it provides. Nationally, restaurant employment growth outpaced that of the economy overall, particularly in the last decade. The restaurant industry has proven very robust even during the recent economic recession. Nationally, restaurant employment lost jobs at approximately 40% the rate that the overall economy lost jobs. Moreover, while the job recovery has been slow for the overall economy in 2010, the restaurant industry has recovered at a faster pace. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Current Employment Statistics, by the end of 2010 the restaurant industry had almost arrived at pre-recession employment numbers.
Study Finds Significant Number of Workers Making Below Minimum Wage in SF Chinatown Restaurants
Chinatown restaurant workers in
conjunction with the Chinese Progressive Association (CPA) and key
research partners will release a study that exposes sweatshop conditions
in restaurant workers in the popular tourist district Chinatown. This
groundbreaking report examines health and working conditions in
Chinatown restaurants, with over 400 workers interviewed by their peers,
and lays out a vision for improving working conditions for a healthy
• 1 out of 2 workers (50%) receive less than minimum wage
• 1 out of 5 workers (20%) work more than 60 hours a week
• Nearly half (48%) of workers have experienced burn injury
• Only 3% of workers have employer provided health care
• 95% do not receive a living wage
Through this important study, Check, Please! Health and Working Conditions in San Francisco Chinatown Restaurants, Chinatown workers are exposing the sweatshop working conditions that they must endure.
At the end of the first decade of the 21st century, millions of workers in the United States are excluded from the most basic human right: the right to organize. Either by policy or by practice, millions of workers cannot organize without facing retaliation, cannot bargain, cannot transform their workplace conditions, and cannot access basic labor protections. In short: millions of workers are robbed of dignity. These workers include more than a million and a half farmworkers, nearly two million domestic workers, millions of public employees in eleven states and private employees in twenty-two states that have right-to-work laws, plus nearly three million tipped workers and hundreds of thousands of guestworkers and day laborers. The exclusion of these workers from the right to organize has had extraordinary consequences for all workers in the United States: over the last 40 years, as the floor has fallen from under the feet of these workers, wages for all workers have declined. The decline in wages, in turn, has contributed to a US economic recession. As it turns out, the cost of exclusion—once thought of as an issue of “the most vulnerable”—is high for all workers and every sector of US society.
Taxi drivers are often portrayed as the ultimate entrepreneurs, free of any fixed workplace, able to choose their own hours, and with a toehold in the American middle class. That stereotype may have been accurate in New York City decades ago (Hodges 2007, Mathews 2005), but in contemporary Los Angeles, taxi drivers spend long hours in “sweatshops on wheels,” their pay and working conditions controlled largely by company owners. Less than half of L.A. taxi drivers own their own cabs, and many of those who do have borrowed heavily to purchase them (Blasi and Leavitt 2006 49). In 2005, L.A. taxi drivers formed the Los Angeles Taxi Workers Alliance (LATWA) in order to improve working conditions, gain control over their jobs, and earn respect. This chapter documents LATWA’s efforts and accomplishments and assesses its future prospects. A critical focus of LATWA’s organizing is the status of the drivers. In the mid-1980s, the L.A. City Council acquiesced to a company owner's proposal to transform drivers from employees to independent contractors, which means that they are no longer covered by minimum wage laws or other labor protections. Subsequently, the City awarded franchises to several taxi “cooperatives” – a misleading term since an insider elite and owners of companies that provide essential services to the cooperatives continue to exercise a great deal of control over the drivers. One driver we interviewed called the industry a “monster,” evoking the imagery of a hydra with nine heads, alluding to the fact that 9 companies control all of L.A.’s 2,303 cabs, largely through a structure of cooperatives and private corporations few drivers understand.