In a recently released study conducted by the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, one in three day laborers in Las Vegas surveyed said they were victims of wage theft.
“They were owed anywhere between $40 and $2,000,” says Bliss Requa-Trautz, who works with the organization.
Regardless of their immigration status, these workers have labor rights. In order to make sure migrants workers and immigrants have an advocate in their corner, the National Day Laborer Organizing Network opened Arriba Las Vegas Workers Center, located at 1948 E. Charleston Blvd.
“This is a place they can come and get the support they need to be able to fight for their cases,” says Requa-Trautz, the director of the local center. “This is the first immigration worker center in Las Vegas.”
For many immigrants and day laborers, there hasn’t necessarily been a strong system for them to combat wage theft. The center will help them know their rights and walk them through the process of strengthening cases against employers.
“One of the most effective ways [to recover lost wages] is to put pressure on the employer,” Requa-Trautz adds.
The center has been operational since November and has seen about 250 day laborers as well as more than 250 recipients of temporary protective status. Its official grand opening was January 26.
Advocates say this center is especially needed with the amplified fear from immigrant communities in the current political climate.
“In the times of Trump, this workers center is a new vehicle to remove fear and challenge the abuses committed against immigrants and workers,” says Miguel Funes, volunteer at the Arriba Workers Center. “Many people want to create fear in our communities—a fear that will silence us—fear of government, fear of the police, fear of abusive employers. But there is no fear in our hearts today. There is only courage here, love for our community and honor in the work we do.”
To go along with the opening, the organization also released a study, “Day Labor in Las Vegas: Employer Indiscretions in Sin City,” in which it conducted 188 surveys from day laborers.
The study not only talked about the types of jobs workers are taking and the average payouts they receive, but it also described many of the injustices day laborers face and the various tactics employers deploy in order not to pay them.
One of the stories it highlighted was Rodolfo (a pseudonym give to him in the report to protect his identity), who was contracted for several days work to remove and replace tiling. The job was supposed to result in a $1,500 payday.
When it was time to collect, the contractor said Rodolfo should check with the homeowner yet the homeowner passed responsibility to the contractor. He adds the homeowner threatened to call the police when he tried to advocate for himself to get paid.
Photos by Krystal Ramirez
In addition to overseeing cases to help workers recover stolen wages, the center will also help assist with health and safety trainings, something laborers might not have access to.
“The study showed one in four [day laborers] had been injured and one in three had gotten sick last year because of working conditions,” Requa-Trautz says.
While the center is a step in the right direction, there is work that still needs to be done to strengthen labor laws in Nevada.
“We will be working with laborers, as well as policymakers and and legal resources, to develop legislation,” Requa-Trautz says. “We plan to introduce it at the next [legislative] session in Nevada.”
Photos from the grand opening of Arriba Las Vegas Workers Center