Targeting Employment Agency Scam

Job-Scams_crop380w Montreal It was exciting to meet with the organizers and volunteers of the Immigrant Workers Center in Montreal and hear about their developing campaigns to finally bring aggressive statutory and regulatory reform to temporary employment agency scams and the companies that use them.

The IWC has identified a number of gaps in the Quebec provincial labor code which effectively have created a sophisticated dodge for workers, particularly immigrant workers often desperate for work and trying to navigate new and confusing systems.  Wage theft and escaping liabilities for injuries and negligence are the two most common complaints, and when the workers or their advocates, like IWC, go after the agency we heard that they are constantly confronted with a shell game in which the agency denies they are the employer and points to the company, and when the company is confronted, they point back to the agency, while both combine to do everything they can to delay the process, sit on their hands, and hope it all goes away.  The IWC legislative proposition, which is garnering strong support throughout the province from labor and other groups, would place the liability clearly on the backs of the agency.

One problem we brainstormed about at some length was whether the agencies would then become little more than folding chairs, disappearing immediately upon the assessment of the liability for the workers, going out of business as they too frequently do anyway, and resurfacing with the same scam another day in another way.  In the United States where in some states we have won legislation to regulate employment agencies (ACORN won this in Arkansas in 1972-73 for example), we have also spent a lot of time trying to establish co-employer status, essentially proving that both the contractor and the company, business and the agency are both responsible for labor practices.  The most effective, though dauntingly difficult route has been through the National Labor Relations Board.  The victory won by SEIU first in Pittsburgh in the 1980’s proving that a building property owner and its cleaning contractor were co-employers of the janitors created the underpinning of much of the strategy and success of the Justice for Janitors organizing campaign which targeted property owners in major cities for organization.

Local 100 had a similar experience in trying to establish co-employer status between sanitation contractors and the temporary, casual employers that provided the laborers on the back, business end of the garbage trucks.  Though we did not win in the initial labor board hearing, the de factor reality of the situation propelled us in bargaining for decades of path breaking contracts.   In these situations we were directly unionizing temporary, casual workers under the long settled standard qualifying such workers under jurisdiction if they averaged 16 hours per week over a three month period.   We found ourselves encouraging our friends at the IWC to move directly with the workers in this way to fuel support for their legislative effort simultaneously.

Common sense has to eventually win out here, and IWC is right to push for clarity in Quebec.  Everyone knows that the owner/contractor is calling the shots and the agency, subcontractors, and certainly workers are just dancing to the tune, but the loopholes in too many of these “business-friendly” laws are allowing both to walk away when the music stops, leaving the worker holding the bag without the wages or relief they need.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Remittance Rip-offs

NRemittancesew Orleans Remittances are a huge part of the Gross National Product (GNP) of many countries around the developing world.  In fact some countries like Mexico, the Philippines, and others seem to be surviving largely because they are exporting workers who are sending back money to support families.  Remittances are the life blood and often the life line for migrant workers and immigrant families when globalism is often characterized by economic refugees.

Remittances are also a free fire zone for predatory pricing and practices.

ACORN International is in the last stages of pulling together a dynamite report on remittances between the developed world and the countries where we work thanks to our ace Toronto based intern army and voluntary researchers in Baltimore, Little Rock, and the countries where we organize.  Seeing the pieces come together what is amazing is the size of the total pie and the huge slice that sticks to the financiers!

Even in the recession the numbers are huge.  The World Bank estimates that the total level of remittances between countries is around $443 Billion USD, which is a breathtaking amount of money, and likely understated because it may not reflect fully the level of informal transfers and gifts between families.  The World Bank also estimates that the “average” cost of remittances – stay tuned for our report in the next two weeks on this! – is about 10%.  The math is easy to follow and it puts the transaction cost for remittances to the bankers and transfer companies like MoneyGram and Western Union at over $44 Billion USD!

This is obviously a blatant teaser for the upcoming ACORN International report and its release before Christmas when remittances spike upwards, but mentally start making a list of the differences 30 or 40 billion USD might make in poverty reduction and community development for lower income families if they were allowed to see more of the money in their hands as opposed to fleeced along the way.

It ought to be a crime!  We will look as well at why it’s not only not a crime but instead such predation is allowed to be practiced with impunity in an anarchy of no regulation or questionable regulation and ignorance in many countries.

Think about it.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail