|Role of Day Labor Halls for Marginal Workers|
|Nation - Workplace|
|TS-Si News Service|
|Monday, 05 March 2012 03:00|
Cincinnati, OH, USA. Day labor halls can be grim, rule-bound, low-paid sources of work for the homeless, unemployed or underemployed workers, ex-convicts and others on the lowest rungs of America's socioeconomic ladder.
Day labor halls are privately run temp agencies that provide a form of daily employment where potential workers show up at pre-dawn hours in the hope of landing a day's work. What is even worse than the perceived undesirability of these jobs is their decreasing availability in many cities.
Day labor halls fill the unskilled labor needs of companies, consisting of jobs such as sorting recyclables, light manufacturing, cleaning stadiums and convention centers, construction and landscaping. The work by University of Cincinnati (UC) researchers consisted of 499 interviews of Greater Cincinnati day laborers at almost all of Cincinnati's day labor halls, some of which have since gone out of business or relocated due to the challenges posed by the current economy. Some are locally-owned independent agencies, and others are national chains that operate local agencies.
Day Labor Hall in Cincinnati
Researchers at the University of Cincinnati (UC) provided a snapshot of urban day laborers and their specific experiences at the recent 2012 Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers (AAG).
Colleen McTague, assistant professor of geography at the UC, presented the findings.Said Colleen McTague of UC, "Day labor halls as exploitive as some of their work rules are are often the only legal option for those at the lowest rungs of the economy. Already, some of the day labor halls we studied are out of business, victims of the recession. Some have moved from Ohio to Kentucky where minimum wage and tax rates are lower. While many businesses make use of such halls, they frequently give them little respect and are slow to pay up on the contracts. That puts a lot of economic pressure on the halls."
McTague says when the research team visited and studied these halls in 2008, the operators consistently said that business was down 30-50 percent, likely due to the beginning of the recession. The purpose of the survey was to determine how many day laborers there are in Cincinnati, how many seek jobs daily, weekly or monthly, why they seek those jobs, what are the challenges posed by those jobs and more.
More On Day Labor Halls
According to statistics from Dick Reavis of North Carolina State University (NC State), author of Dick J. Teavis: Catching Out: The Secret World of Day Laborers, nearly 1.5 million Americans regularly seek work through day labor agencies. Reavis theorizes that day labor halls that have survived thus far are probably experiencing an upturn.
"When economies begin to recover, companies often hire day laborers until they believe that a recovery will hold," added Reavis. "When the economy first fell, business declined, and a lot of mom and pop day labor halls closed. The survivors experienced a glut of applicants, both from the closed halls and the newly unemployed. A lot of them (day labor halls) quit taking on new workers. All of them 'improved' the quality of their workforce because jobless skilled and semi-skilled workers were available to fill any openings."
A Rule-Bound Workplace
In her study, McTague found that the supply of day labor hall workers exceeded demand. Thus, most reporting in and hoping for a day or a few days' work were turned away. Those who obtain temporary employment face abusive rules from their two employers (the hiring hall and the firm or person contracting with the hall). For instance:
Day labor workers are often marked at employment sites (i.e., a different color safety helmet). The day laborers are also required to rent any safety equipment they use, such as helmets, boots or gloves. This additional fee means that day laborers will often make less than minimum wage. Protesting a fee can result in a DNR.
Said McTague, "Many of the rules entering the day labor hall by the rear door are designed to make these laborers invisible to the larger society. Others like the wearing of specially colored safety helmets are designed to keep them under surveillance as though they were working within the prison system."
In looking at day labor halls, it's clear that felons seeking work and social re-entry by means of those halls can face a difficult challenge, according to McTague. The low wages paid to these workers make it difficult if not impossible to make ends meet. Many of these workers then must depend on social service agencies to fill in the economic gap.
|Last Updated on Sunday, 04 March 2012 19:32|