Justice for Job Seekers / Immigrant Consumer Justice Campaign

In “Dreams and Schemes in Queens, NY: Immigrant Struggles to Find Work and Obtain Status in the Face of Consumer Fraud,”  we found that employment agencies, most commonly used by domestic workers, give consumers a false sense of hope and extract fees from unsuspecting consumers without placing them into jobs.  We found that 81% of survey respondents in our research who did not find a job through the agency were still charged a fee, and that 94.4% of mystery shoppers were not told that their fee would be returned if they were not placed into a job as required by law.  Although employment agencies are prohibited from placing applicants into employment where the agency knows, or should have known, that the employer would violate state or federal minimum-wage or child-labor laws,  one-third of survey respondents were offered jobs paying below the state minimum wage (at the time) of $7.25 per hour.

New Yorkers are spending thousands of dollars to find jobs through employment agencies only to be scammed and exploited by those agencies. Job seekers are charged illegal fees, defrauded by unlicensed agencies, and refused reimbursement even when an agency fails to place a worker at a job. Job seekers are seldom told they can pay fees in installments, so they pay up-front and in full. Additionally, when a job seeker does find a job, he or she often finds that the job pays below the minimum wage, is unsafe, or is exploitative in other ways.

The campaign addresses a loophole in the state’s General Business Law which allows agencies to charge low-wage workers a fee before placement in a job (all other workers pay after placement). This “advance fee” is often abused by bad-acting and unlicensed agencies to defraud low-wage and immigrant workers. This effort will curtail employment agencies fraudulent behavior and protect immigrant job seekers rights.

Read more about the campaign here:

Responsible Contractor Licenses / Wage Theft Campaign

Day laborers are an important source of labor in the local construction industry, particularly on small residential and commercial projects. Yet, day laborers are frequently the victims of wage theft– they are often cheated out of the wages they earn when unscrupulous contractors simply don’t pay them for days or weeks of work.

In the most recent study of New York City day laborers, 60% of day laborers reported being underpaid by their employer and 49% reported not being paid at all. In addition to stealing wages from their workers, many contractors ignore legal proceedings and judgments for wage theft violations, apparently without concern that these violations will affect their city license or future business. City and state laws have failed thus far to keep unscrupulous construction contractors off day laborer street corners, where wage theft persists. 

The campaign seeks to address the rampant wage theft faced by the day laborer community by building the enforcement power of New York City to address this issue. Led by NICE members who are day laborers as well as a growing list of allies in other organization and in labor unions, the campaign will push New York City to implement changes whereby city agencies will consider prior wage theft judgments when making determinations about the issuance, renewal, suspension or revocation of certain licenses to construction contractors.

Read more about the campaign here:

Day Laborer Workforce Initiative Campaign

Between 8,000 and 10,000 day laborers, most of whom are recently arrived immigrants, live and work in New York City. As members of the city’s underground workforce, day laborers experience rampant wage theft, pervasive construction accidents, unchecked workplace hazards. On day laborer corners (paradas or esquinas), day laborers also lack access to workforce development training and access to shelter, water, bathrooms, and other basic infrastructure.

Day laborer centers provide a dignified, physical space for day laborers to congregate and seek work. Day laborer centers also reduce the risks of wage theft, workplace hazards, and workplace accidents by providing day laborers with job dispatching services, wage theft legal clinics, referral to critical services, and workforce development trainings.

Read more about the campaign here: