[Hpn] Hearings on Day Labor Exploitation at Cleveland City Hall

Daniel Kerr drk9@po.cwru.edu
Wed, 05 Sep 2001 15:10:23 -0400

<font face="ARIAL" size=4><b>Temporary workers gain political support
</font></b><font face="ARIAL">09/05/01<br>
<b>Michael O'Malley<br>
</b>Plain Dealer Reporter<br>
A grassroots movement targeting temporary job agencies and their handling
of workers gained higher ground yesterday as public officials and labor
leaders pledged their support. <br>
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At a public hearing at Cleveland City Council chambers and a rally
beforehand, U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Cleveland, Cuyahoga County
Commissioner Jane Campbell, and State Rep. Ed Jerse of Euclid pledged
their support as did John Ryan, executive secretary of the Cleveland
AFL-CIO. <br>
The hearing, chaired by Councilman Joe Cimperman and attended by about
100 people, featured testimony from 19 day laborers, many of whom are
homeless, have no cars or bank accounts and have limited access to the
permanent job market. <br>
&quot;How long is it going to be legal for these day laborer agencies to
prostitute us workers?&quot; asked Willard Meeks. <br>
&quot;This is modern-day slavery,&quot; added Don Messitt, who lives in a
downtown homeless shelter. <br>
The newly formed Day Laborers Organizing Committee, made up of workers
and social activists, and backed by churches, labor unions and social
service organizations, is pushing for reforms. <br>
The workers' complaints include: <br>
Receiving poverty wages with no overtime or health-care benefits. <br>
Waiting long hours off-the-clock to be picked up after work by agency
vans. <br>
Paying transportation and paycheck-cashing fees to the agencies. <br>
Workers also claimed the agencies move workers from job to job,
discouraging companies from hiring them full time, and that white workers
generally receive better and higher-paying jobs than black workers.
Agencies named yesterday were: Ameritemps, Minute Men, Labor Ready, Lake
Land Employment and All American Staffing. All five were invited to the
hearing. Representatives from at least two of the agencies showed up, but
left early without publicly addressing the allegations.<br>
&quot;What's there to address?&quot; Greg Faschian, owner of All
American, said outside council chambers. &quot;It's me against all
them.&quot; <br>
Asked whether his agency engages in racial discrimination, Faschian said,
&quot;Never. We employ 90 percent black.&quot; <br>
Representatives from the agencies have previously denied exploiting
workers and have called the allegations overblown. <br>
The day laborers movement is trying to establish a nonprofit community
hiring hall that would compete against the for-profit job agencies. 
It would pay a &quot;living wage,&quot; which is about $9 an hour, and
provide health care benefits, free transportation and training for
permanent jobs. <br>
&quot;A community hiring hall would enable these workers to regain their
status as human beings,&quot; Kucinich said at the hearing, receiving a
standing ovation. <br>
&quot;These workers, who perform the hardest, dirtiest, most dangerous
jobs in the city, are seeking a change in their situation.&quot; <br>
Ryan also spoke in support of the hiring hall, though he cautioned that
it should not be used by companies to replace permanent workers. <br>
Dan Kerr, a primary organizer of the movement, presented Cimperman and
other council members with a 36-page report the committee prepared on the
exploitation and abuse of day laborers in Cleveland. <br>
The report is based on interviews with about 100 homeless workers. <br>
Kerr is hoping council will impose regulations on temporary job agencies
and support the community hiring hall. <br>
Cimperman pledged to work with the committee but added, &quot;This is
going to be a long road to fix this.&quot; <br>
At a rally outside City Hall before the hearing, Cimperman said,
&quot;The way it is right now, it can't go on. We've heard a lot of
things that, frankly, are very troubling.&quot; <br>
The rally was held next to City Hall at the Free Stamp sculpture, which
was papered with posters reading, &quot;Shut Down the Employment
Pimps,&quot; and &quot;Temp Agencies: The New Slave Drivers.&quot; <br>
&quot;This is our new journey,&quot; former temporary worker Hakeem Ali
told the rally. &quot;We're tired of being poor.&quot; <br>
Contact Michael O'Malley at: <br>
momalley@plaind.com, 216-999-4893 <br>