Larry Tung, Gotham Gazette, October 2005
Jian Quo Shen left his native Shanghai, China, five years ago to come to work in America so his aging parents can have a better life in their final years. Often working as $75-a-day laborer, he slept on a bunk bed in a tiny room in Chinatown.
But on July 7, 2004 in a construction site in Elmhurst, Queens a concrete wall collapsed and crushed him. He was the 14th day laborer killed since 1999. This accident came just two weeks after the death of Angel Segovia, a native of Ecuador, who fell from a third-story balcony roof in Brooklyn.
In an effort to prevent more such tragedies, the City Council passed a bill to establish a commission to look into how more job centers could be developed across the city to serve its estimated 8,000 day laborers who struggle to find employment each day are often subjected to low pay, long hours, and hazardous working conditions.
The bill, Intro 592-A, was passed by a vote of 43 to 2. According to the bill, A recent survey of day laborers in New York City found that almost 85 percent of those surveyed have experienced some type of abuse in the industry: 50 percent experienced non-payment of wages, and 56 percent were paid less than the agreed upon wage.
The temporary commission will consist of 20 members, appointed by the Council Speaker and the Mayor. At least 12 of them will be immigrant day laborers or representatives of groups with experience working on issues affecting immigrant day laborers. Officials from the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, the Department of Small Business Services, and the Police Department will also be on the commission.
But Councilmember Peter Vallone, Jr. from Astoria objected to language in the legislation that would grant 12 of the 20 seats on the commission to immigrant day laborers or representatives of groups working with laborers.
“This is giving the official sanction . . . to illegal aliens,” said Vallone, Jr. “We are a body that makes the law. We should not be sanctioning breaking the law.”