Occupational Health of Day Laborers

Published on
February 23, 2013

I am honored to be participating in the 2013 California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowship. I am also looking forward to spending time in LA. Mexicans say that you do not know Mexico until you go to LA.

For my project I will produce three related feature radio reports on the occupational health of day labor workers. I will initially focus on local issues in the Puget Sound metropolitan area. While I am interested in reporting data collected by institutions and federal, state and local government agencies, my goal is to humanize the health problems day laborers face. Whenever possible, I will collect first hand information related by the workers themselves and take advantage of the intimate story telling that distinguishes radio as a medium to convey information.

The main angle of the story is to report on the incidence of work related accidents that result in permanent or chronic health conditions of the workers, their experience when they access the medical services available to them, if any, and how they face the reduced or lost income resulting from their injuries.

Day laborers are informal, marginalized workers in high hazard industries with few legal protections. Day laborers constitute a population that is highly susceptible to abuse, with many people having limited employment options due to outsourcing, plant closures, discrimination in the workplace, and immigration status.

According to the United States National Day Labor Survey, the first scientific study of this sector, 75% of day laborers in the United States are undocumented immigrants. There is a constant fear of deportation, giving supervisors and employers a “certain means of control that can sustain exploitation” and intimidate “desperately poor workers into accepting many forms of abuse."

If appropriate and possible, I would like to compare data in California and other states with high concentration of immigrant day labor workers.

Image by David Jones via Flickr