Alone and Exploited, Migrant Children Work Brutal Jobs Across the U.S.

Hannah Dreier, The New York Times, Alone and Exploited, Migrant Children Work Brutal Jobs Across the U.S. Arriving in record numbers, they’re ending up in dangerous jobs that violate child labor laws–including in factories that make products for well-know brands like Cheetos and Fruit of the Loom. Saturday, 25 February 2023: “Migrant children, who have been coming into the United States without their parents in record numbers, are ending up in some of the most punishing jobs in the country, a New York Times investigation found. This shadow work force extends across industries in every state, flouting child labor laws that have been in place for nearly a century. Twelve-year-old roofers in Florida and Tennessee. Underage slaughterhouse workers in Delaware, Mississippi and North Carolina. Children sawing planks of wood on overnight shifts in South Dakota. Largely from Central America, the children are driven by economic desperation that was worsened by the pandemic. This labor force has been slowly growing for almost a decade, but it has exploded since 2021, while the systems meant to protect children have broken down. The Times spoke with more than 100 migrant child workers in 20 states who described jobs that were grinding them into exhaustion, and fears that they had become trapped in circumstances they never could have imagined. The Times examination also drew on court and inspection records and interviews with hundreds of lawyers, social workers, educators and law enforcement officials.” See also, Hannah Dreier, The New York Times Magazine, The Kids on the Night Shift, Monday, 18 September 2023: “At 14, Marcos was maimed while working the overnight cleaning shift at a Perdue slaughterhouse in rural Virginia. He is one of thousands of migrant children living far from their parents and working dangerous jobs. In towns like Marcos’s, the practice is an open secret that everyone lives with.”

Trashed: Inside the Deadly World of Private Garbage Collection

Kiera Feldman, Trashed: Inside the Deadly World of Private Garbage Collection. ProPublica, Thursday, 4 January 2018. “There are two vastly different worlds of garbage in New York City: day and night. By day, 7,200 uniformed municipal workers from the city’s Department of Sanitation go door-to-door, collecting the residential trash. Like postal workers, they tend to follow compact routes. They work eight-hour days with time-and-a-half for overtime and snow removal and double-time for Sundays. With a median base pay of $69,000 plus health care, a pension, almost four weeks of paid vacation and unlimited sick days, the Department of Sanitation workforce is overwhelmingly full time and unionized. It’s also 55 percent white, and 91 percent male. But come nightfall, an army of private garbage trucks from more than 250 sanitation companies zigzag across town in ad hoc fashion, carting away the trash and recycling from every business — every bodega, restaurant and office building in the five boroughs. Those private carters remove more than half of the city’s total waste.”

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Hundreds allege Donald Trump doesn’t pay his bills

Steve Reilly, Hundreds allege Donald Trump doesn’t pay his bills. USA Today, 9 June 2016. “Donald Trump casts himself as a protector of workers and jobs, but a USA Today Network investigation found hundreds of people–carpenters, dishwashers, painters, even his own lawyers–who say he didn’t pay them for their work.”

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Insult to Injury: The Demolition of Workers’ Comp

Michael Grabell, ProPublica, Howard Berkes, NPR, Lena Groeger, ProPublica, Yue Qiu, ProPublica, and Sisi Wei, ProPublica, Insult to Injury: The Demolition of Workers’ Comp. ProPublica and NPR, 4 March 2016. “Over the past decade, states have slashed workers’ compensation benefits, denying injured workers help when they need it most and shifting the costs of workplace accidents to taxpayers.”

One of three winners of the 2016 IRE (Investigative Reporters & Editors) Award for Investigative Journalism. “Judges’ comments: This project masterfully details how states across the nation have dismantled their workers’ comp programs, cutting benefits and sticking taxpayers with a growing bill for injured workers. Tackling an often overlooked topic, the reporters built databases tracking legislative changes in each state over the past dozen years, obtained benefit plans from some of the country’s largest companies and combed through thousands of pages of depositions. They used heartbreaking stories and interactive tools to present complex material in an elegant way. Their work paid off in legislative changes in several states, investigations and a wider discussion about needed changes. We are awarding this project an IRE Medal for its wide impact and its fresh approach to showing how employers continue to benefit at the expense of workers.”

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Under cover of darkness, female janitors face rape and assault

Bernice Yeung, Under cover of darkness, female janitors face rape and assault. Reveal (from The Center for Investigative Reporting) and Frontline (PBS), 23 June 2015. Across the country, janitors at companies large and small say their employers have turned a blind eye to complaints of sexual assault, and attacked their credibility when they report abuse at the hands of supervisors or co-workers.” This story is part of Rape on the Night Shift, a collaboration between Reveal, FRONTLINE, the Investigative Reporting Program at UC Berkeley, Univision and KQED.

Update: Andrew Donohue, Largest janitorial company agrees to reform response to sexual abuse. The Center for Investigative Reporting, 10 December 2015. “The nation’s largest janitorial company has agreed to an outside review of rape claims made by its female janitors in California, adding a new layer of oversight for a company with a history of facing accusations that it failed to prevent sexual violence. ABM Industries Inc. made the pledge as part of a settlement announced Wednesday night with Maria Bojorquez, a former employee who said she was raped by a supervisor while cleaning San Francisco’s Ferry Building in 2004. ABM, and the Bojorquez case specifically, was featured prominently in Rape on the Night Shift, a recent investigation into sexual abuse in the janitorial industry by Reveal, the UC Berkeley Investigative Reporting Program, KQED, Univision and FRONTLINE.”

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The Price of Nice Nails: Manicurists are routinely underpaid and exploited

Sarah Maslin Nir, The Price of Nice Nails: Manicurists are routinely underpaid and exploited, and endure ethnic bias and other abuse. The New York Times, 7 May 2015. “UNVARNISHED: Articles in this [two-part] series [examine] the working conditions and potential health risks endured by nail salon workers.”

Update from the Public Editor of The New York Times: Margaret Sullivan, New Questions on Nail Salon Investigation, and a Times Response, The New York Times, 6 November 2015. “My take: The series and its author, Sarah Maslin Nir, had admirable intentions in speaking for underpaid or abused workers. And the investigation did reveal some practices in need of reform. But, in places, the two-part investigation went too far in generalizing about an entire industry. Its findings, and the language used to express them, should have been dialed back — in some instances substantially…. There is a legitimate and important subject here about low-paid work done by immigrants in New York City — not just in nail salons. It includes, for example, the food-delivery business and many other services that affluent New Yorkers take for granted. I’m always glad to see The Times take on situations in which the poor and voiceless are exploited. But, in doing so, it must protect its reputation for accuracy and rigor above all. My recommendation is that The Times write further follow-up stories, including some that re-examine its original findings and that take on the criticism from salon owners and others — not defensively but with an open mind.”

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Seafood From Slaves: AP Investigation

Robin McDowell, Margie Mason and Martha Mendoza, Seafood From Slaves. Associated Press Investigation, 25 March 2015. “An AP investigation helps free slaves in the 21st century. Over the course of 18 months, Associated Press journalists located men held in cages, tracked ships and stalked refrigerated trucks to expose the abusive practices of the fishing industry in Southeast Asia. The reporters’ dogged effort led to the release of more than 2,000 slaves and traced the seafood they caught to supermarkets and pet food providers across the U.S.”

Winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize in Public Service. The articles are presented here in their entirety.”

Winner of the 2016 Selden Ring Award for Investigative Reporting.

Winner of the 2015 IRE (Investigative Reporters & Editors) Medal for Investigative Reporting.

Winner of the 2015 George Polk Award for Foreign Reporting.

Winner of the 2015 Taylor Family Award for Fairness in Journalism.

Democracy Now!, Is the Seafood You Eat Caught by Slaves? Meet the Pulitzer Winners Who Broke Open a Global Scandal. 18 April 2016.

Joaquin Sapien, Captive Labor and the Reporters Who Exposed an International Scandal. ProPublica, 18 April 2016.

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Product of Mexico: Hardship on Mexico’s farms, a bounty for U.S. tables

Richard Marosi and Don Bartletti (Photography and Video), Product of Mexico. Los Angeles Times, 7-14 December 2014. Four-part series: “Los Angeles Times reporter Richard Marosi and photojournalist Don Bartletti traveled across nine Mexican states, observing conditions and interviewing workers at some of the mega-farms that have powered the country’s agricultural export boom.” Part 1, Harsh Harvest: Hardship on Mexico’s farms, a bounty for U.S. tables.A Times reporter and photographer find that thousands of laborers at Mexico’s mega-farms endure harsh conditions and exploitation while supplying produce for American consumers…. Farm exports to the U.S. from Mexico have tripled to $7.6 billion in the last decade, enriching agribusinesses, distributors and retailers. But for thousands of farm laborers south of the border, the boom is a story of exploitation and extreme hardship.” Part 2, No Way Out: Desperate workers on a Mexican mega-farm: ‘They treated us like slaves.’  “Scorpions and bedbugs. Constant hunger. No pay for months. Finally, a bold escape leads to a government raid, exposing deplorable conditions. But justice proves elusive…. A raid exposes brutal conditions at Bioparques, one of Mexico’s biggest tomato exporters, which was a Wal-Mart supplier. But the effort to hold the grower accountable is looking more like a tale of impunity.” Part 3, Company Stores: Company stores trap Mexican farmworkers in a cycle of debt. “The mom-and-pop monopolies sell to a captive clientele, post no prices and track purchases in dog-eared ledgers. At the end of the harvest, many workers head home owing money…. The company store is supposed to be a lifeline for migrant farm laborers. But inflated prices drive people deep into debt. Many go home penniless, obliged to work off their debts at the next harvest.” Part 4, Child Labor: Children harvest crops and sacrifice dreams in Mexico’s fields. “An estimated 100,000 Mexican children under 14 pick crops for pay. Alejandrina, 12, wanted to be a teacher. Instead, she became a nomadic laborer, following the pepper harvest from farm to farm…. [These] 100,000 children under 14 pick crops for pay at small- and mid-size farms across Mexico, where child labor is illegal. Some of the produce they harvest reaches American consumers, helping to power an export boom.”

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Techsploitation, Part Two: Federal contracts: Federal tech contracts awarded to job brokers with labor violations

Jennifer Gollan and Matt Smith, Techsploitation, Part Two: Federal tech contracts awarded to job brokers with labor violations. The Center for Investigative Reporting27 October 2014. This “yearlong probe by The Center for Investigative Reporting found that porous federal oversight allows these labor brokers to financially exploit workers with little fear of detection. It turns out that those that are caught can continue to survive and thrive–including on the taxpayers’ dime.” Published with The Guardian and NBC Bay Area. [Read more…]

Techsploitation, Part One: Modern-day indentured servants: Job brokers steal wages, entrap Indian tech workers in US

Matt Smith, Jennifer Gollan and Adithya Sambamurthy, Techsploitation, Part One: Job brokers steal wages, entrap Indian tech workers in US. The Center for Investigative Reporting, 27 October 2014. “Labor brokers providing Indian high-tech workers to American companies are gaming a professional visa program, creating a shadow world that can turn a worker’s dream of self-betterment into a financial nightmare.” This story was published with The Guardian and NBC Bay Area.

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