Tag Archives: workers’ rights

South Asians step up for workers’ rights

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy Desis Rising Up & Moving

Low-wage South Asian workers in the city are suffering from human rights violations at their workplaces through discrimination, according to a new study.

The report, which is the first ever to focus on Asian immigrant workers, is the result of about 200 surveys conducted by Desis Rising Up & Moving (DRUM) and the Community Development Project (CDP) at the Urban Justice Center.

The findings were released at a press conference in DRUM’s office in Jackson Heights on July 18, and found that employees are consistently underpaid, earn less that industry averages, and experience harassment while working in hazardous conditions.

“It is distressing to learn that in this day and age employers are still not paying workers or are paying them below minimum wage,” said Councilmember Daniel Dromm, who is chair of the Immigration Committee.

After the conference, workers went out to the streets to drum up support with postcard signatures.

“I categorically state that we will not tolerate these crimes,” Dromm said. “In all work there is dignity. Workers must be treated with respect.”

The report highlighted that more than half of all survey respondents make less than minimum wage, and respondents make, on average, $5.03 less — sometimes as high as $16.43 less ­­— than the average New Yorker in the same occupation.

Two-thirds of domestic workers surveyed said they are not allowed to take breaks, while 95 percent have no health insurance and 75 percent can’t take any paid sick days. Also, one in five survey respondents reported workplace harassment.

DRUM officials say one of the reasons for the discriminatory treatment is because many of the laborers are illegal immigrants.

“Sometimes the employers blackmail us because we do not have papers, saying ‘If you do something I will call immigration,’” said a Bangladeshi retail worker at the conference.

South Asians comprise approximately 23 percent of the undocumented immigrant population in the city. With the new research they are poised to step forward to fight for rights.

DRUM plans to use stats from this report to foster South Asian workers’ rights locally, nationally and globally. Later this year, the organization plans to launch the Global South Asian Migrant Workers Alliance to bring together undocumented laborers from around the globe.

“As one of the fastest growing communities and one of the most targeted after 9/11, South Asian immigrant workers are speaking out to join a growing call for respect for labor and human rights,” Maulik said.

Paid sick days get serious backing

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

A group of city councilmembers, community leaders and small business owners are “sick” of the lack of workers’ rights.

That is why many of them gathered in Jackson Heights to launch Conscious Consumer Initiative, which seeks to highlight and promote local businesses that provide paid sick days. Supporters are also calling on the city council to pass the Paid Sick Time bill (Int 0097-2012), which would ensure that New Yorkers without access to paid sick days are able to take time off when they or their families fall ill.

“I know how important it is to take time off when you are sick to prevent disease from spreading,” said Freddy Castiblanco, owner of Terraza 7 Live Music, where the March 13 event was held. “As a business owner I believe giving paid sick days is not only the right thing to do, it also builds a stronger business.”

In addition to the support of small businesses, the bill in question has 35 council sponsors and is supported by a diverse coalition of labor unions, women’s rights organizations, healthcare providers and community organizations.

Castiblanco and other members of Small Business United joined with Make the Road NY, which has over 4,000 Queens members, to announce the creation of a Conscious Consumer Card and a grassroots mobilization and education campaign to highlight and promote responsible businesses like Terraza 7.

Councilmember Julissa Ferraras, a sponsor of a city proposal to guarantee paid sick days, said that worker rights initiatives serve to strengthen small businesses and the communities they inhabit.

“Make the Road’s Conscious Consumer initiative is a great way to let the community know which businesses offer paid sick days to their workers,” said Ferreras. “Paid sick time is a small measure that can have an immediate, positive impact on business productivity, reduce unemployment and strengthen financial security for families who desperately need relief.”

Jackson Heights resident and Make the Road member Rocio Loyola said that thousands of workers in Jackson Heights and Corona have suffered as a result of not having paid sick days.

“Today we’re coming together to show the economic power we have as a community,” he said. “We’re here to educate consumers to support businesses that provide paid sick days with their dollars. That’s what this is all about.”