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January 24, 2006
Study Finds Many Day Laborers Exploited

Nearly half of day laborers (49 percent) say that an employer has denied payment of wages for work they completed in the two months prior to a survey by researchers from UCLA, the University of Illinois at Chicago, and New York 's New School University.

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Forty-eight percent of day laborers said that an employer has underpaid them during the same time period.

The researchers surveyed 2,660 day laborers at 264 hiring sites in 20 states and the District of Columbia. The researchers estimate that the country has 117,600 day laborers. Just over three-quarters of day laborers are undocumented immigrants, according to the study.

Forty-four percent of day laborers said an employer denied them food, water, and breaks; Twenty-eight percent said that an employer insulted or threatened them.

"Coming into the study, we knew that the low-wage market is rife with violations of basic labor standards, but we still found the statistics shocking and disturbing," says Nik Theodore, an assistant professor in the Urban Planning and Policy Program at the University of Illinois , Chicago .

Twenty percent of day laborers said that they have been injured on the job. More than half of workers injured in the past year said they received no medical care for their injuries. Six percent of injured day laborers said their employer's workers' compensation insurance covered medical expenses.

Nearly three-quarters of day laborers said they considered their work dangerous.

More than two-thirds of day laborers reported that they were hired repeatedly by the same employers.

The median hourly wage for day laborers is $10, according to the study. Median monthly earnings for day laborers are $1,400 during peak periods and $500 during slow periods.


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