Labor & Employment


Unemployment and underemployment lie at the core of poverty. For the poor, labor is often the only asset they can use to improve their well-being. Hence the creation of productive employment opportunities is essential for achieving poverty reduction and sustainable economic and social development. It is crucial to provide decent jobs that both secure income and empowerment for the poor, especially women and younger people.

Rapid economic growth can potentially bring a high rate of expansion of productive and remunerative employment, which can lead to a reduction in poverty. Nevertheless, the contribution of the growth process to poverty reduction does not depend only on the rate of economic growth, but also on the ability of the poor to respond to the increasing demand for labor in the more productive categories of employment.

Given the importance of employment for poverty reduction, job-creation should occupy a central place in national poverty reduction strategies. Many employment strategies are often related to agricultural and rural development and include using labor-intensive agricultural technologies; developing small and medium-sized enterprises, and promoting micro projects in rural areas. Many strategies promote self-employment, non-farm employment in rural areas, targeted employment interventions, microfinance and credit as a means of employment generation, skill formation and training.

Such strategies, however, often address the quantity of employment while the qualitative dimensions, such as equity, security, dignity, and freedom are often absent or minimal. In general, national poverty reduction strategies including Poverty Reduction Strategies do not comment on employment programmes, social protection or rights at work. Neither do they offer an in-depth analysis of the effects of policies on poverty reduction.

A social perspective on development emphasizes the view that the best route to socio-economic development, poverty eradication and personal wellbeing is through decent work. Productive employment opportunities will contribute substantially to achieving the internationally agreed development goals, especially the Millennium Development Goal of halving extreme poverty by 2015.

There should be a focus on creating better and more productive jobs, particularly those that can absorb the high concentrations of working poor. Among the necessary elements for creating such jobs are investing in labor-intensive industries, especially agriculture, encouraging a shift in the structure of employment to higher productivity occupations and sectors, and upgrading job quality in the informal economy. In addition, there should also be a focus on providing poor people with the necessary skills and assets that will enable them to take full advantage of any expansion in employment potential.

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Project South, Apr. 17, 2018 – “A private prison company under contract with Stewart County to house individual’s detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is forcing detained immigrants at Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia to work for as little as $1 a day to clean, cook, and maintain the detention center in a scheme to maximize profits, according to a class-action lawsuit filed today against CoreCivic, Inc.

Detained immigrants who refuse to work are threatened with solitary confinement and the loss of access to basic necessities, like food, clothing, personal hygiene products and phone calls to loved ones in violation of federal anti-trafficking laws, according to the lawsuit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), Law Office of R. Andrew Free, Project South, and Burns Charest LLP. Similar lawsuits have been filed in California, Washington, Colorado and Texas challenging private prison companies’ work practices.

Azadeh Shahshahani, Legal and Advocacy Director for Project South, said, “The prison corporation Core Civic is exploiting the labor of detained immigrants to enrich itself– last year its revenues were nearly $1.8 billion. It must be stopped.”

“CoreCivic is placing profits above people by forcing detained immigrants to perform manual labor for next to nothing, saving millions of dollars that would otherwise provide jobs and stimulate the local economy,” said Meredith Stewart, senior attorney at the SPLC. “CoreCivic is padding its pockets by violating anti-trafficking laws.”

The “Dollar-a-Day” program creates a lucrative profit scenario for CoreCivic: Detained immigrants are forced to purchase basic necessities from CoreCivic’s commissary, and the primary way to fund their purchases is to participate in the work program that is necessary for the operation of the facility. These jobs include providing basic functions at the facility like cooking and cleaning, work for which CoreCivic would otherwise have to hire and pay outside employees.

Plaintiff Wilhen Hill Barrientos is an asylum seeker from Guatemala who has been detained for 33 months while his case is pending. When he arrived at Stewart Detention Center, he was faced with an impossible decision – either work for nearly nothing or lose access to basic necessities, safety, and privacy.

Refusing to work means that Barrientos would not have enough money to pay for costly phone calls to his family and that he would likely be moved from a two-person prison cell to an open dorm that has few bathrooms, round-the-clock lighting, frequent fights; or be placed into solitary confinement.

“When I arrived at Stewart I was faced with the impossible choice—either work for a few cents an hour or live without basic things like soap, shampoo, deodorant, and food,” said Barrientos. He chose to work to live with some privacy and maintain access to the commissary. “If I didn’t work, I would never be able to call my family,” said Barrientos, who works in the kitchen, cooking meals for up to 2,000 people each day.

For his work, Barrientos receives at most $4 to $5 per day for six to eight hours of work; approximately 50 cents per hour. Since Stewart has no paid kitchen staff, officers usually require Barrientos to work seven days a week, even when he is sick. Barrientos was sent to medical segregation for two months after he filed a grievance for being forced to work while he was sick.

“CoreCivic illegally enriches itself on the backs of a captive workforce to bolster their profits,” said Korey Nelson, a partner at Burns Charest, a law firm with offices in Dallas and New Orleans that specializes in complex class action suits.

“CoreCivic’s labor practices at Stewart are an affront to the human dignity of all confined there, and sad reminder of a not-so-distant past when the power to jail meant the opportunity to profit,” said Andrew Free, a Nashville-based immigration and civil rights attorney. “Neither our conscience as a nation nor our human trafficking laws permit this corporation’s conduct.”

In 2014, current and formerly detained immigrants who were forced to work at private detention centers began to file class-action lawsuits alleging violations of federal and state labor laws.”

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MALDEF, May 3, 2018 – “Bank of America illegally denies employment to qualified applicants based on their immigration status even though they are authorized to work in the United States, a lawsuit filed in federal court today charged.

MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund) and the law firm Elliot Morgan Parsonage PLLC of Winston-Salem, N.C., filed the suit on behalf of Daniel Marques, a 27-year-old native of Brazil who is a recipient of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

Marques is authorized to work by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, but he was abruptly disqualified from consideration for a job with Merrill Lynch Wealth Management, a division of Bank of America after he informed the company of his DACA grant, the lawsuit states.

Bank of America is accused of violating the federal Civil Rights Act of 1866, which prohibits intentional discrimination based on alienage.

“Any company, like Bank of America, with a significant Latino customer base and that seeks to build further business with the growing Latino community, would do well to avoid policies or practices that discriminate, irrationally, on the basis of immigration status,” said Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF president, and general counsel.

Marques submitted an application in March 2016 through Bank of America’s online job application portal for a position in New Jersey as a Practice Management Development Associate within the financial advisor program of Merrill Lynch Wealth Management. He received an email soon thereafter from Bank of America’s vice president, the executive recruiter for the mid-Atlantic market to schedule a March 30 telephone interview. The vice president informed Marques during the interview that as a non-citizen applicant, he was required to be eligible to work in the United States “without limitations.”

After the phone interview, the executive recruiter sent Marques an email the same day saying she would recommend further interviews. Marques responded with a request for further clarification of her statement that he would need work authorization “without limitations,” and attached a copy of his valid Employment Authorization Document, which is renewable every two years under DACA.

On April 4, 2016, the executive called Marques to say that he was disqualified from further consideration for the job because he is a DACA recipient. Marques sent follow-up emails seeking more specific information, but he did not receive any responses.

“We are determined to vindicate the full rights afforded to immigrants with federal work authorization,” said Burth López, MALDEF staff attorney, and counsel in the case. “Companies may not pick and choose among work-authorized job applicants based on the applicants’ immigration status.”

The lawsuit seeks class-action status on behalf of all non-citizens who were authorized to work in the United States, including other holders of deferred action, refugees, and visa holders, and who were denied employment by Bank of America after April 4, 2016, because of their immigration status.

“Elliot Morgan Parsonage PLLC is looking forward to working with MALDEF to fight employment discrimination against young people with DACA,” said co-counsel Helen L. Parsonage.

The lawsuit is the third filed by MALDEF in the past year challenging employment policies that discriminate against DACA recipients. Last July, MALDEF and co-counsel Outten & Golden LLP sued consumer product giant Procter & Gamble on behalf of a former college student who had been denied a paid internship based on his DACA status.

The case is Daniel Marques v. Bank of America Corporation, Case No. 3:18-cv-00228, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina, Charlotte Division.

Read the complaint here.”

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