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OR Day Laborers Need Workers’ Rights, Too

May 5, 2008

Portland, OR – Non-profit day labor centers, like the one opening Tuesday in Portland, are springing up around the country to match day workers with employers and to help them look out for their rights as they fill in at landscaping, construction and moving companies.

Nik Theodore, a professor and institute director at the University of Illinois at Chicago, has been in Portland to offer advice to the new center. An expert on the day labor economy, he reports wages run $10 an hour and up, but getting the money can be tough.

"The real problem for day laborers, I think, is the extreme number of labor market violations. And we find a very high incidence of the nonpayment of wages or the underpayment of wages, which really is a hardship for day laborers and their families."

Portland's center has been controversial because some people believe day labor allows undocumented workers to stay in the U.S.

Theodore's research shows there are at least 117,000 day laborers in the U.S., and that they're a very diverse group, not all immigrants. He's just completed a new study of 60 day labor centers across the country, and says they play an important role in local economies.

"One of the main things that centers do is improve conditions in the day labor market – sort of putting a floor below which wages and working conditions will not fall. I think that's one of the major benefits for day laborers and for the communities."

The VOZ Workers' Rights Education Project will run the center. The only other Oregon community to have a day labor center right now is Cornelius. The new center is at 240 N.E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Portland. There's no phone on site yet so, for information, contact Romeo Sosa at VOZ, (503) 233-6787.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR