It took Hugo Barreno Rodriguez 25 days to migrate from his home outside of Guatemala City to Florida in early 2010. He mostly traveled by bus through Guatemala and Mexico but made the dangerous journey on foot through the desert to cross into the United States. “It took me seven days to walk through the desert, but I made it,” he recalls. It also cost him $4,500 to make the trip.
Once he arrived in Florida he thought his life was set, especially because he soon found a job at a local waste management company. But that, he says, is when his nightmare began—one that, according to Department of Labor documents obtained by Colorlines—included extortion and witness tampering, and ultimately ended in his deportation.
Barreno, who is now 23, almost immediately got a job in Ft. Pierce, Florida, at Waste Pro, a corporation with some 75 offices in eight states in the South. The company deploys thousands of trucks to homes and offices, and picks up trash from bins. The work is long and hard on drivers but especially difficult for helpers who have to haul heavy bins—sometimes close to oncoming traffic.
In order to get the job as a truck helper at Waste Pro, the Labor Department documents say, Barreno had to pay a $1,000 fee to an employee named Dionis Calix. Barreno says he was instructed to use his brother’s name, Juan Barreno, on his timecard, despite the fact that he wanted to use his own.
According to the Labor Department reports, Barreno was one of a dozen undocumented workers who had to pay fees just to begin work. The money was initially paid to Calix, who is a Honduran national, and then distributed in varying amounts between Calix, Ft. Pierce human services manager Mike Allen, and another manager named Tom McMahon.
But the work initiation fee—which is illegal—wasn’t the only way that Waste Pro was profiting off of undocumented workers. For years, the corporation ran different schemes to steal workers’ wages. Barreno, for example, was made to work about 55 to 60 hours per week but was never paid any overtime. In fact, the Labor Department’s investigation indicates he was only paid $95 a day.
The documents also detail how Waste Pro workers were sometimes made to work two weeks on the job and two weeks off, and were also instructed to sign time cards for one another, cash the checks, and then surrender that money to Calix, who would then hand it over to Rosie Demelo, a Waste Pro human resources clerk. (Calix’s, Allen’s, McMahon’s, and Demelo’s whereabouts are unknown to Colorlines.)
The Department of Labor documents indicate that this practice was changed and that workers were made to attend meetings every two weeks. They were required to pay Demelo between $50 to $100, which accounted for more than 10% of some workers’ already meager salaries. Some workers were fired for taking a sick day and to come back to the job they would have to pay initiation fees again.
Reading through the Department of Labor’s explanations of Waste Pro’s criminal acts, it’s clear that the Ft. Pierce’s branch’s exploitation of its employees wasn’t the work of one bad apple, but instead, a structural practice implemented and maintained by various managers and supervisors. Undocumented workers were berated and constantly threatened with deportation if they didn’t pay the kickbacks demanded of them. But the abuse wasn’t only economic and psychological.
Nearly a year after he first came on the job, Barreno was struck by flying debris. “I fell to the ground,” remembers Barreno. “And I thought for sure that an ambulance was going to come for me.”
An ambulance never came, however. Instead, he was left to suffer on the ground until a supervisor Barreno only knows as Mike—but not Mike Allen—arrived. “He offered me a bottle of water and asked me if I was alright, but all I could see in front of me was blood in front of my eyes.”
As is indicated in Labor Department documents, instead of calling an ambulance or rushing him to a hospital, Mike took Barreno to Waste Pro’s offices. He remembers that Demelo and McMahon spoke very seriously to him as Calix translated. He was instructed to go home and change out of his uniform before seeking medical assistance. Barreno says that as Demelo rubbed some kind of cream on his forehead and placed a bandage on it, Demelo made clear that he was not to tell any nurse or doctor that he worked for Waste Pro. If he did, he would be fired and turned over to immigration authorities.
According to Barreno, Mike then dropped him off at home.
Barreno says he changed out of his Waste Pro uniform and asked a friend to drive him to a hospital because the bleeding only grew worse. The massive gash on his head required 18 stitches. He says he told emergency room doctors that he fell off a roof while he was doing repairs at home. Hospital workers didn’t believe him and called the police. He stuck to his story out of fear of losing his job and the new place he called home in Ft. Pierce. He says that he returned to work the next day to explain that he would need to rest. After being questioned by Waste Pro managers, he says he was told that he could take one day off—without pay—but that he would have to return one day later or lose his job.
Stories of serious and perhaps life-threatening injuries litter the Department of Labor documents. They also indicate that workers were never informed of their right to compensation under the law, and were instead warned not to report their on-the-job injuries.
The Labor Department’s documents indicate a terrifying work environment, rife with threats and blackmail. The department hasn’t yet made public its findings and officials would not speak to Colorlines, but letters sent to Barreno and several other workers, signed by the department’s acting regional administrator, Thomas Markey, do indicate a widespread pattern of abuse. Waste Pro, however, doesn’t appear to think there’s any cause for alarm.
“It’s my understanding that [the Labor Department’s] only discrepancy is that we calculated overtime pay, but according to their rules, we should have done it another way,” says Ron Pecora, Waste Pro’s marketing manager. “We’re expecting something like a $4,000 fine.”
Pecora says some of the managers at the Ft. Pierce office were fired but he would not provide their names. He claims he didn’t know about the systematic abuse against undocumented workers.
Accusations of Fraud
Although undocumented workers were warned not to file workers’ compensation claims, it turns out that Waste Pro’s managers were filing fraudulent ones on their behalf, according to the Labor Department documents. But it took Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Labor Department a while to figure it out.
Waste Pro’s Pecora says that it all started as the result of a routine insurance audit. “[Our insurance carrier] became aware that individuals had used false identification to gain jobs,” he says. “When that was reported to us, we were required to report that to [ICE], and that’s what we did.”
After being contacted by Waste Pro, immigration authorities teamed up with local law enforcement and raided the workers on July 18, 2012—a day Barreno remembers vividly. He was called over by his bosses only to find out that he was being arrested and would likely be deported.
“It’s bad enough that they abuse you,” says Barreno. “But to then make good on those threats and call the authorities when you’ve done and paid for everything they’ve asked? That’s just too much.”
Barreno says the Ft. Pierce branch managers who extorted him never called immigration authorities on him in particular, although, the Labor Department documents do suggest that they did so on other undocumented workers. The call for Barreno and 11 others, however, came from the Waste Pro corporate office.
But the effect was the same: Barreno toiled under excruciating conditions, was made to surrender large sums of his pay, and was constantly threatened because of his immigration status. He says he never provided false documentation or identification to his employers. Waste Pro’s insurance carrier’s investigation failed to recognize the rampant abuse and extortion committed against a large group of vulnerable employees, but it did erroneously suggest that they were committing fraud. It was because of Waste Pro that Barreno and his co-workers were turned over to immigration authorities, regardless.
Barreno spent the next 11 months trying to fight his case behind bars. The federal government accused him of workers’ compensation fraud, which he says he never actually committed. He was deported on June 18, 2013.
Detention, Deportation and a Return
ICE processed 12 Waste Pro workers in its 2012 raid—and at least six have been deported so far. Barreno joined a group of eight others and hired a lawyer, but the group also had support on the inside.
As it turns out, an organizer from the National Immigrant Youth Alliance, José Torres-Don, had infiltrated and was being held at the Broward Transitional Center, an immigration detention center in South Florida where the Waste Pro employees were also being held. Torres-Don connected with the workers and soon began feeding the information to fellow organizers in the group which is commonly known as the NIYA.
Claudia Muñoz, one of several members of the NIYA who decided to take up the cases, began to put pressure on local lawmakers, but she soon turned her attention to the Labor Department. It remains unclear how the department first became involved with the cases but Muñoz knew that she wanted it to investigate the illegal practices at the Ft. Pierce Waste Pro and secure the safety of the workers. She and two NIYA members staged a sit-in at the Department of Labor office in Houston.
“Nobody had ever done a protest there with the Department of Labor, and no one thinks to hold the department accountable,” she says.
Their direct action ended with two NIYA members, Orlando Lara and Samantha Magdaleno, being briefly detained and ticketed before being let go. But the NIYA continued to call and write letters to the department. Muñoz says that companies are used to getting away with abusing workers because they think the Labor Department will dismiss the workers’ allegations.
Barreno and six other workers had already been deported. But three more from his group were released following the NIYA’s pressure on labor and immigration authorities. All nine are now processing their visa applications, which they’re eligible to do because the Department of Labor has found that they were victimized and were the targets of extortion and witness tampering by Waste Pro.
Barreno has been back in Guatemala for nearly seven months. Citing new evidence, the Department of Labor has responded favorably to his request for a U visa certification which is reserved for immigrants who have been victims of serious crime. Just two weeks ago, Barreno submitted his fingerprints, but he knows that the process can take a long time. Despite his ordeal, he wants to return to the United States. “I’m innocent of the fraud they’ve accused me of,” he says. “It doesn’t matter that I’m just a worker—there should be justice for someone like me.”
Perhaps there will be.
Label Me Latina/o (www.labelmelatinao.com) is an online, refereed international e-journal that focuses on Latino Literary Production in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The journal invites scholarly essays focusing on these writers for its biannual publication. Label Me Latina/o also publishes creative literary pieces whose authors self-define as Latina or Latino regardless of thematic content. Interviews of Latino authors will also be considered. The Co-Directors will publish creative works and interviews in English, Spanish or Spanglish whereas analytical essays should be written in English or Spanish.
Scholarly submissions should be between 12-30 pages in length and should follow the MLA Style Manual. Please use End Notes rather than Footnotes and place page numbers in the upper right hand corner. Original, unpublished submissions in Microsoft Word (PC compatible format) should be sent electronically to both of the co-directors: Kathryn Quinn-Sánchez email@example.com and Michele Shaul firstname.lastname@example.org
Creative poetry, essays and short fiction should not exceed 30 pages, 12 point font, double-spaced.
We do accept simultaneous submissions of creative works. Scholarly articles under consideration should not be submitted elsewhere.
Deadline for the Fall 2014 issue: June 30, 2014.
Please include the following information in the body of the email:
• Full name
• Institutional Affiliation
• Telephone number
• Email address
• Regular mail address
• Title of the submission
• A brief biography to be included with publication should your submission be selected.
Please make sure that the actual manuscript bears no reference to the author’s name or institution.
Label Me Latina/o is an academic journal and as such follows the parameters of definitions set by the academic community. In that community when we refer to Latina/o Literature, we are referring to writers of Latin American heritage that live and write in the United States. These can be first generation Latino or fifth but they live and work here in the U.S. Some of these writers write in Spanish, others write in Spanglish like the Nuyorican poets and many of them write in English with a little Spanish thrown in (or not). Scholarly essays should address the work of these writers. The authors of these scholarly essays may be of any ethnicity or nationality. Creative works should be authored by writers who self-define as Latino and live and write in the United States.
Label Me Latina/o is indexed by the MLA International Bibliography and is listed in the MLA Directory of Periodicals. ISSN 2333-4584
Even if you don’t have anything to submit you should still check it out. Unlike a lot of other online e-journals this one seems to not require academic affiliation in order to log in and read its contents. It seems accessible for all :)
Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at how talented and formerly homeless 20-year-old singer Lesedi caught the ear of a renowned record producer. His debut album, “Street Faces,” centers on the plight of homeless youth and hits stores on March 11.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday against Eureka City Schools, alleging pervasive and systemic racism and sexism in the district.
The suit, which the ACLU filed in conjunction with the National Center for Youth Law, is being brought on behalf of four local teenagers against the district, Superintendent Fred Van Vleck, Eureka City School Board members and a host of other district administrators. The ACLU and the center also filed a complaint Wednesday with the United States Department of Education requesting it launch an investigation into the Loleta Union School District based on a host of allegations, including rampant racism toward Native American students and that Superintendent and Principal Sally Hadden has made racially insensitive statements to students, physically hit students and failed in her duties as a mandated reporter.
The lawsuit and complaint include dozens of specific allegations, including that administrators have turned a deaf ear to complaints of racial taunting and bullying, that minority students are disproportionately disciplined, that the districts fail to comply with federal laws protecting students with disabilities and that numerous employees of the districts made racially and sexually insensitive comments.
The lawsuit is seeking monetary damages for the plaintiffs and administrative remedies, including a monitoring program.
Michael Harris, a senior attorney with the National Center for Youth Law who spent months investigating both districts, said the situation amounts to a “culture of lawlessness” that almost encourages bullying.
”This culture has bred this belief among some students that they can target other students and nothing will happen to them, and they are pretty much right,” Harris said.
Eureka City Schools issued a statement Wednesday afternoon stating that, at this time, the district is not aware of evidence to support the lawsuit’s allegations.
”We do not tolerate harassment or discrimination, and we believe every student is entitled to a to a safe school environment free from discrimination, harassment, intimidation and bullying,” the statement reads. “As a district, we take the allegations seriously and we are actively investigating the charges to determine the facts.”
As of deadline Wednesday, Hadden had not responded to two phone messages and an email seeking comment for this story.
The four plaintiffs are referred to by pseudonyms in the lawsuit against Eureka City Schools, but include 15- and 13-year-old black female students, a 14-year-old black male student and a 16-year-old Native American student. Collectively, the plaintiffs attended Alice Birney Elementary, Zane Middle School, Winship Middle School, Eureka High School and the Eureka Community School Educational Resource Center.
”Plaintiffs have experienced years of intentional discrimination by district staff based on their race, sex and disability status,” the suit states. “Defendants have and continue to intentionally discriminate against plaintiffs by perpetuating a racially and sexually hostile environment in district schools, and by failing to provide students with disabilities equal and meaningful access to education.”
The lawsuit includes scores of incendiary allegations, including that the black plaintiffs have had racial slurs directed at them from scores of classmates, with one saying students have called him “ni**er,” made monkey noises at him, spit on him, thrown food at him and physically assaulted him since grade school. Another student alleges she and her mother brought allegations of racial bullying to administrators on about 30 occasions but little if anything was done by school and district officials to curb the harassment.
The lawsuit also includes allegations of systemic racism, with anecdotes about inappropriate remarks from teachers, administrators and staff. One student alleges that one of her white teachers proclaimed in front of her class that “black people get bored easily”, and that a school monitor once told her, “Don’t give me your black attitude.”
The lawsuit also alleges Eureka City Schools’ curriculum is insensitive, pointing toward teachers’ practice of using films or books containing racial slurs without discussing “the offensiveness and the historical context of the terms.”
The Native American plaintiff alleges that the educational environment has also been hostile to Native Americans, their cultures and traditions. The student points to an instance at Eureka High School in the spring of 2013, when a history teacher asked students to raise their hands if they were Native Americans and then called upon a Yurok tribal member to explain to the class the Indian Island Massacre carried out on the Wiyot Tribe. Another teacher, according to the suit, asked students to make up different Native American tribes and then had them pretend to fight each other to “teach her students that this was how Native Americans traditionally resolved conflict between their communities.”
In the suit, the Native American plaintiff also alleges that the district repeatedly refused to excuse her absences to attend tribal cultural activities.
The lawsuit also alleges the district has suspended and disciplined minority students at disproportionate rates, and includes anecdotes about minority students being suspended for lashing out in the face of racial bullying while their tormentors went unpunished by the district. The district has also failed to adequately diagnose students with learning disabilities, the suit alleges, and consequently has not given them services to which they are entitled.
Sexism is also a problem in the district, the suit alleges, claiming district staff has witnessed, implicitly condoned and even participated in the “weekly traditions” of “titty-twisting Tuesdays” and “slap-ass Fridays,” during which female students have their nipples, breasts and buttocks grabbed, hit and groped on school grounds. The suit also contains allegations of teachers and staff making inappropriate comments to female students.
The complaint the two groups filed in conjunction with California Indian Legal Services against the Loleta school district also alleges school staff has acted inappropriately and created a culture of hostility.
In the complaint, the groups allege that school officials have made a host of remarks denigrating Native Americans, including Hadden’s allegedly grabbing a Native American student by the ear and saying, “See how red it gets?”; a staff member openly referring to Native American students as “goats” and “sheep” in a school board meeting; a district secretary saying the “kids are acting like a bunch of wild Indians”; and Hadden’s allegedly referring to a Native American student as “saltine” because he “looked white.”
The complaint also alleges that Hadden has hit students over the head with a clipboard hard enough to make a loud “crack” sound, and that she has kicked students in the buttocks.
Hadden, the complaint alleges, also has engaged in a pattern of discriminatory discipline, regularly sending Native American students home from school or expelling them for minor infractions. The superintendent and principal, the complaint alleges, has also denied students due process, and put up barriers to disability and special needs assessments. According to the complaint, Hadden has also punished students by sending them to “the hole,” a small, windowless room where they receive neither instruction nor oversight.
County Superintendent of Schools Garry Eagles said on Wednesday that he was shocked to learn of the lawsuit and its allegations.
”I have been county superintendent for 11 years, and with the county office here for 30, and I’ve never had a student, a parent or an advocacy group come to me with allegations like this concerning any of our schools,” he said. “So this came as a complete surprise.”
Eagles said neither the ACLU nor the National Center for Youth Law contacted him to discuss the allegations or their intent to file a lawsuit or a formal complaint.
Harris and ACLU managing attorney Jory Steele both said their investigation didn’t have time to look at all 32 of Humboldt County’s school districts, and instead focused on the two they felt the most egregious allegations were coming from.
”I’d be confident to say these aren’t the only two districts in the county with issues,” Steele said.
UMW United Stance, focuses on the intersectionality that comes with having multiple Identities. This…
We have a ton of bloggers contributing to this blog already and if you want to get involved just let me know. But check it out^^^^^^^^^
A new study says that about 50 percent of low-wage service workers in NYC barely earn $27,000 a year, which pays for about two-thirds of their basic needs, reports El Diario-La Prensa.
By Christopher Bonastia
The now-popular idea of offering public education dollars to private entrepreneurs has historical roots in white resistance to school desegregation after Brown v. Board of Education (1954). The desired outcome was few or, better yet, no black students in white schools. In Prince Edward County, Virginia, one of the five cases decided in Brown, segregationist whites sought to outwit integration by directing taxpayer funds to segregated private schools.
There are many, many blogs for and/or by scholars on the margins of academia.Â Below, you will find a general list of blogs, followed by those of particular social locations (e.g., women of color)….
A long list of lovely blogs maintained by scholars on the margins of academia.
Tensions are flaring over San Francisco’s tech-driven gentrification. Monday morning, protesters calling for an end to the increasing number of evictions, blocked a Google bus from leaving the city and shuttling its workers to the company’s headquarters in Mountain View, California. One Google worker inside the bus named Alejandro Villarreal, captured the scene and shared it on Instagram (pictured above).
The privately-owned Google buses (and their counterparts at companies like Facebook and Apple) have long been symbols of the city’s gentrification (a hidden map of their routes was published last January). Earlier this year, San Francisco native Rebecca Solnit published a piece in the London Review of Books on the impact of the buses. Solnit wrote:
The Google Bus means so many things. It means that the minions of the non-petroleum company most bent on world domination can live in San Francisco but work in Silicon Valley without going through a hair-raising commute by car - I overheard someone note recently that the buses shortened her daily commute to 3.5 hours from 4.5. It means that unlike gigantic employers in other times and places, the corporations of Silicon Valley aren’t much interested in improving public transport, and in fact, the many corporations providing private transport are undermining the financial basis for the commuter train. It means that San Francisco, capital of the west from the Gold Rush to some point in the 20th century when Los Angeles overshadowed it, is now a bedroom community for the tech capital of the world at the other end of the peninsula.
Read Solnit’s essay in full over at the London Review of Books. As well-paid tech workers have moved into the city, many working class residents have been forced out as both rents and evictions have increased in recent years, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
The protest was organized in part by a group called Heart of the City, which wrote on its website that “the city needs to declare a state of emergency, stop all no-fault evictions, and prevent tech companies from running buses in residential neighborhoods, which is driving up rents (up to 20% along their route)”
Police chief Matthew Boyd of the Miami Gardens Police Department resigned yesterday amid charges that officers racially profiled both customers and employees at a local convenience store. According to the Miami New Times, one employee was arrested 419 times for trespassing in the past 5 years.
The Florida chapter of the NAACP 2 days ago called on the Department of Justice to investigate “a systemic pattern and practice of intimidation by officers … against African American residents…”.
Miami Gardens, with a population of about 100,000, is a suburb of Miami made up mostly of Black people.