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At a Tuesday press call organized by day laborer rights organizations, a new report focusing on issues of wage theft and workplace safety in the recovery process post-Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Texas, concluded that 26 percent of workers have either had their pay stolen or have not been paid for their work.

“After the Storm: Houston’s Day Labor Markets in the Aftermath of Hurricane Harvey” also stated that “nearly two-thirds (64%) of the day laborers who identified themselves as being undocumented immigrants indicated that they do not feel safe asking for help from government officials” and that “more than one-third (34%) of workers reported having been injured while employed as a day laborer in Houston.”

“While day laborers perform the difficult and often dangerous work of demolition, clean up, and debris removal and rebuilding, their efforts and the hazards they face are rarely acknowledged. This report documents the employment and working conditions of day laborers in the weeks following hurricane Harvey and it reveals many troubling aspects of the recovery work in Houston,” said the study’s author, Professor Nik Theodore of the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Department of Urban Planning and Policy.

According to Theodore’s study, the “total amount of unpaid wages across this workforce in this short period exceeded $20,000″ for the 26% of workers who said they experienced wage theft.

“The reconstruction works campaign that emerged out of the Congreso de Jornaleros in New Orleans was in response to some of the issues immigrant workers, day laborers were facing during recovery work post-hurricane Katrina,” said Cal Soto, Workers Rights Coordinator for the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON). “The principle of the campaign was and has been that the workers who are contributing critical work, who are taking part in rebuilding the community are a lifeblood, they should be taken care of just like they are taking great care to rebuild our homes.”

Other findings from the study included:

  • “A major obstacle to the reduction of wage theft and the effective recovery of unpaid wages is that day laborers do not know where to report violations.”
  • “Nearly two-thirds (64%) of the day laborers who identified themselves as being undocumented immigrants indicated that they do not feel safe asking for help from government officials.”
  • “Second responders are not receiving the training they need to protect themselves from hazards during post-disaster recovery. Eighty five percent of day laborers who have worked in hurricane affected areas report that they have not received any training for the worksites they are entering.”
  • “More than one-third (34%) of workers reported having been injured while employed as a day laborer in Houston.”

Here is the full study: