Day Laborers Create an App to Report Abuses

Sol Aramendi, from Project Luz, and day laborers Omar Trinidad and Humberto Yescas created the app. (Photo by Zaira Cortés via El Diario)

Sol Aramendi, from Project Luz, and day laborers Omar Trinidad and Humberto Yescas created the Wage Theft app. (Photo by Zaira Cortés via El Diario)

A smartphone application created by photographer Sol Aramendi and a group of day laborers brings together art, activism and the defense of labor rights. The app will report wage theft at the speed of one click.

Aramendi, creator of Project Luz, a series of photography workshops taught in Spanish, said that the Wage Theft app is the result of a joint effort between artists, day laborers, community organizers and lawyers.

“A digital network such as this one is more efficient than just whistling or hand signaling at each other when an abusive employer arrives,” said 34-year-old Omar Trinidad, a worker living on Staten Island, who actively participated in the design of the app.

The idea came up in 2013 at a forum on workplace safety hosted by the New Immigrant Community Empowerment (NICE) in the Jackson Heights neighborhood in Queens.

“Day laborers needed an effective tool to report bad contractors,” said Aramendi. “At the same time, organizations [advocating for workers’ rights] required substantial evidence for their claims to hold up in front of labor authorities or in court.”

In development

The Spanish-language platform for Android and iPhones came to be after five sessions in which day laborers gave ideas for a digital resource that would accommodate their needs. The app, which will cost $10,000 to design, will be developed by Cornell University and should be out in September.

Day laborers affiliated with NICE will use the app for one year as a pilot test. After its efficiency is verified and its outcome measured, it will be shared with 10 other organizations advocating for the rights of day laborers.

In total, the app will serve 11 day laborer centers affiliated with the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) in New York City, Long Island and Westchester County.

“If the app is successful, NDLON may make it available at a national level in the near future,” said Aramendi.

How it works

The app offers two options: One allows the user to send an alert when a bad contractor is making the rounds at a corner or stop. Day laborers will be able to describe the person or their vehicle in 140 characters or less, just like on Twitter. The alert will reach workers at all 11 participating centers.

Omar Trinidad, who has been a member of NICE for the past two years, said that it is common for bad contractors to try other stops when laborers at one location decline their work offers.

The second option will allow workers to report wage theft in five simple, easy steps, including entering the address where the incident occurred and a description of the vehicle and the fraudulent employer on the “infamous wall,” uploading pictures of license plates and the company’s name, and a comment ‒ 140 characters-long or less ‒ on the event.

The anonymous complaint will reach day laborer centers, and will be logged into a public database. Although the app will be free, the day laborer will have to belong to one of the 11 participating organizations to use it. Their agency will provide the workers with a password to access the app.

Aramendi said that the app will provide workers with the support of their organization if they choose to make a formal claim in court or the Department of Labor.

“Ideally, we would negotiate with a bad contractor based on the photographic evidence,” said Humberto Yescas, a day laborer in Queens. “If they refuse to pay, the next step is taking legal action.”

Users will receive education in technology and legal terminology so that they are able to make clear claims that don’t cross the line into defamation.

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  1. Pingback: Wage Theft App for Day Laborers Unveiled This Week

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