Smartphone App Created for Day Laborers to Anonymously Report Employers
Sacramento, CA - The New York Times reports that after three years of planning, an immigrant rights group is set to start a smartphone app for day laborers, a new digital tool with many uses: Workers will be able to rate employers (think Yelp or Uber), log their hours and wages, take pictures of job sites and help identify, down to the color and make of a car, employers with a history of withholding wages. They will also be able to send instant alerts to other workers. The advocacy group will safeguard the information and work with lawyers to negotiate payment. Not mentioned in the story is the opportunity for workers' compensation carriers to recover lost premium.
"It will change my life and my colleagues' lives a good deal," Omar Trinidad, a Mexican immigrant, said in Spanish through an interpreter. Mr. Trinidad is the lead organizer who helped develop the app. "Presently, there is a lot of wage theft," he said. "There has always been wage theft, and the truth is we're going to put a stop to that." Mr. Trinidad, suggested the name for the app - Jornalero, which means day laborer in Spanish.
The app had its soft launch on Tuesday night, with beta testing to be held later this month at the Jackson Heights section of New York City day laborer stop that stretches for a mile along 69th Street. Day laborer centers in Brooklyn and on Staten Island will also be testing the product, which is available in Spanish and English.
The plan is for the app to spread to all 70 of the city's day laborer stops, and then to workers in all kinds of jobs across the country. The Jornalero app began as a project of New Immigrant Community Empowerment, known as NICE, in Jackson Heights, and then expanded in scope when the group's parent organization, the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, based in Los Angeles, secured more funding.
"It's going to be a gift that the day laborers are going to give to the working class in America," said Pablo Alvarado, the executive director of the national day laborer group.
The project has been a collaboration of workers, artists, organizers, lawyers, unions and academics. Sol Aramendi, a photographer based in Queens and an activist with NICE, first joined Hana Georg, a local electrician, to propose the idea to construction laborers, who were immediately enthusiastic. The Worker Institute, a program within the School of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University, ran forums for workers across New York City to see what they most needed in an app. The workers wanted an easy way to track payments, record details about unsafe work sites and share pictures to identify employers. Most of all, they wanted to do it all anonymously.
Alyx Baldwin, a designer who had established a mesh network that kept the Red Hook section of Brooklyn connected to the Internet after Hurricane Sandy, began the design work with those priorities in mind.
A San Francisco group, Rebel Idealist, took over the design at the beginning of this year, after the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades pledged $25,000 to support the app. Mr. Alvarado said his organization also received $15,000 from the Ford Foundation.
The app has workers record their hours and wages, which are then saved in a profile. That profile, which lists a phone number but no name, is linked to the organization's database. If a worker reports not being paid or being underpaid, NICE will contact the employer. If necessary, lawyers from the Urban Justice Center, who conduct monthly clinics at NICE, will help recover lost wages. It is not hard to imagine how the app can help worker's compensation carriers recover lost premium, and for authorities to discover and prosecute employers who commit workers' compensation premium fraud. Read More...