Day Laborers and Wage Theft
Day laborers, which number in the hundreds in Washington DC, are among the most vulnerable and exploited groups of workers in our community. Because day laborers do not have formal work arrangements, they are subject to many labor rights violations, including not being paid the minimum wage, not being paid the full amount they are owed, and not being provided with the necessary health and safety protections. Workers who gather outside to seek daily jobs are unprotected from heat and cold and often face harassment from police and neighbors. Contractors and companies often take advantage of workers’ illegal status to violate wage and safety laws or otherwise exploit them. Workers are entitled to certain labor protections despite working without documents.
In 2008, a survey of DC day laborers found that an estimated 60% of these workers experienced non-payment or under-payment of wages. While the bulk of the cases involve less than $3,000 in back pay, TUWDC staff have received cases where workers were owed $5,000 or more. Quite frequently, several workers at one site are owed back wages. Workers organized TUWDC to fight back and create a viable alternative to these anti-labor and anti-immigrant practices.