6/30/09 Fox 8 News – City Council Promises Help to Unpaid Day Laborers
June 30, 2009
City Council Promises Help to Unpaid Day Laborers
by Sandra Gonzalez, Fox 8 News
New Orleans – Dozens of day laborers, from several Spanish speaking countries say they’re doing the work and not getting paid. The city council heard their complaints today and vowed to help protect the workers.
“27 days, it’s an injustice,” said Santos Alvarado of Honduras.
He says one contractor didn’t pay him for 27 days of work. Alvarado says he is sick of being stiffed.
“We come here to support my fellow workers, against wage theft,” Alvarado said.
Alvarado is one of dozens of day laborers who filed into city hall.
Jose Zelaya of Mexico says not paying workers is an injustice, and violates human rights.
“It’s an epidemic. Day after day they rob, and no one can tell me why, and it’s bad that they can’t protect the worker.” Zelaya said.
While several men told horror stories to the council, Council President Arnie Fielkow told them he’s outraged.
“When those who prey on people that are the most vunerable they should be penalized to the full extent of the law,” Fielkow said.
New Orleans is working on an ordinance that would make it a crime for contractors who practice wage theft.
“That we will push for legislation creates equity, respect and safe conditions,” Councilwoman Cynthia Willard Lewis said.
Not only did workers complain that contractors hadn’t paid them, they say that some intimidated them and threw them in jail.
“The fact that they are thrown in jail when contractors are not paying them is unacceptable,” Fielkow said.
Workers can’t wait for a future law to offer them some protection. Fielkow says he hopes the proposed ordinance could be in place by the end of Summer.