Monday, September 14, 2009

Fractures in the Foundation: The Latino Worker's Experiene in an Era of Declining Job Quality

Section Title

Why NCLR wrote this report

Click below to download the report

Full Report

Executive Summary

Executive Summary-Spanish

Chapter 1 Today's Latino Workforce: Diverse and Growing

Chapter 2 Bedrock of the Economy, Bottom of the Labor Market

Chapter 3 Troubling Indicators of Job Quality

Chapter 4 The Erosion of Job Quality: An Historic Perspective

Chapter 5 Major Issues Affecting Job Quality for Latinos

Chapter 6 Rebuilding Job Quality for Latinos and All Workers

Telephonic Press Briefing (Transcript)

Latino Worker Deaths Sound the Alarm for Declining Standards in America's Workplaces, Says NCLR

Major findings of this report include the following:

The experience of Latino workers sounds the alarm for what is happening to the quality of American jobs.

  • Latino workers are more likely to die from an injury at work than White and Black workers. In 2007, 937 Latinos, the majority of them immigrants, were killed by an injury at work. The occupational fatality rate for Latinos has remained the highest in the nation for 15 years. The Latino death toll lays bare the state of decay in American workplace health and safety standards; in all, 5,657 workers died on the job in 2007.
  • Click here to see "Fatal Occupational Injury Rate by Race/Ethnicity, 1992–2007"
  • Two in five Latino workers do not earn sufficient wages to keep their families out of poverty. In 2007, 41.8% of Latino workers earned poverty-level wages, which were about $10.20 per hour, to sustain a family of four. By comparison, 21.9% of White workers and 34% of Black workers earned poverty-level wages.
  • While millions of Americans worry about losing their health insurance and retirement benefits, a significant portion of working Latinos is already living those fears. In 2007, just over half (52.3%) of employed Latinos had health insurance through their employers, compared to 72.6% of White and 67.1% of Black workers. An even smaller share of Latinos (34.6%) had access to a retirement plan through their employers.

Many employers evade their legal responsibility to pay their workers and keep their work sites safe.

  • For employers who break the law, the chances of getting caught are slim and the penalties are low. Employers who allow dangerous conditions to persist even after a worker becomes injured or is killed have little chance of facing penalties against them. Consequently, many employers have come to treat compliance with labor laws as optional and fines for noncompliance as merely a cost of doing business.
  • Some employers legally sidestep accountability for their workers' well-being. For instance, the IRS code provides a "safe harbor" from penalties for employers who misclassify workers as independent contractors as long as they can prove that the misclassification is a common practice in their industry, which is often the case in industries with high Latino representation. An estimated one-third of businesses misclassify workers, robbing them of the benefits, retirement security, and health and safety protections they deserve.
  • Employers who take advantage of vulnerable workers drive down standards for all workers. The enactment of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 made the workplace the frontier of immigration enforcement and shifted the balance of power heavily in favor of employers. Unscrupulous employers who cut corners and threaten workers with deportation if they complain are granted an unfair advantage over employers who follow the law.

Ongoing divestment and government inaction undermine basic labor standards and devalues the contributions of workers.

  • The enforcement capacity of the Department of Labor is severely constrained. A typical full-time Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) employee has four times the caseload that an OSHA employee had in 1975. Employers' active discouragement of worker complaints and other causes of underreporting often misdirect these limited resources away from high-risk workplaces.
  • Millions of workers are without legal protection. Millions of workers are excluded from basic protections simply based on the kind of work they do. Antiquated labor laws that exclude agricultural workers and domestic workers from coverage are especially damaging to Latinos, who represent 45.1% and 37.5% of these occupations, respectively. Additionally, since the 1970s, the shifting U.S. economy has crowded less-skilled workers—including many Latinos—out of high-quality manufacturing jobs and into lower-quality service jobs. Federal labor policies have lagged behind these changes, leaving wide segments of the workforce to labor in largely unregulated work arrangements, often for low pay and no benefits.
Click here to see "Latinos Employed in Nontraditional Work Arrangements, 2005"

NCLR recommends the following steps to restore basic worker protections:

Reassert the federal government's role as workplace watchdog.

  • Make the punishment fit the crime for employers who break the law. The penalties for employers who fail to uphold basic wage and safety standards must be sufficient deterrents against the tendency of unscrupulous employers to cut corners, which harms their workers and their competitors. Long-overdue increases in fines and elevated legal consequences for repeat and egregious violations—especially those resulting in a worker's death—are essential first steps.
  • Restore funding for government outreach and enforcement efforts, with emphasis on high-risk and emerging industries. In order to keep pace with an increasingly complex labor market, Congress must devote adequate federal funds to the Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division and OSHA. Targeted programs that reach low-wage workers, subcontractors, workers on multiple job sites, and limited-English-proficient workers should be prioritized.
  • Support community-based organizing structures for nonunionized and nontraditional workers. In addition to working to open union jobs to Latinos, who are currently underrepresented in unions, the Department of Labor should partner with community-based organizations to pilot models for disseminating culturally competent and linguistically appropriate training and "know your rights" information to immigrant and low-wage workers. Community-based organizations can also help identify high-risk workplaces that traditional enforcement entities may miss.

Empower workers to defend themselves against exploitation.

  • Correct historical inequities in wage and hour laws. The rampant exploitation of farmworkers and domestic workers could be significantly reduced by eliminating outdated legal exclusions in laws that set a floor on wages and a ceiling on hours.
  • Strengthen policies to protect workers in nontraditional arrangements. Hiring individuals as temporary help workers, day laborers, and independent contractors is a growing trend that has left millions of workers, especially Latinos, without basic labor protections. Congress should pass legislation to close tax loopholes and crack down on industry norms that allow employers to legally evade accountability for these workers.
  • Uphold the rights of all workers through comprehensive immigration reform. More than ten million American workers, 81% of whom are from Latin American countries, work without legal authorization because our immigration system does not offer sufficient legal channels for immigrants. The culture of fear that exists in many workplaces enables employers to escape punishment for actively subverting workers' complaints. As a result, job quality declines for all workers. The first step toward leveling the playing field in the labor market is to fix the nation's broken immigration system. Comprehensive immigration reform requires a plan to make immigration policy more responsive to labor market needs, unclog naturalization backlogs, and incorporate stronger workplace protections.

Education for Liberation! Venceremos Unidos!
Peter S. Lopez ~aka ~Peta-de-Aztlan~
Sacramento, California, Aztlan
Yahoo Email: 
Come Together! Join Up! Seize the Time!


No comments: