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Grapevine Whine - Day Laborers Get the FOX Treatment

Reported by Nancy - January 24, 2006 -

Monday night (1/23) on Special Report, anchor Brit Hume used one of the "pickings": on his Grapevine segment to echo the official Bush administration line about "undocumented" workers & illegal immigrants. As usual, with this kind of report, Hume had to cherrypick only certain reactionary-friendly findings of a "new nationwide study" & completely ignore what other sources & the study itself described as its major findings.

Here's "picking" #3:

A new nationwide study sheds light on the lives of the country's day laborers -- countering public perception that they're usually transient & disconnected from society. Researchers who interviewed over 2,600 workers in 20 states & the District of Columbia found that over half of day laborers attend church regularly, nearly 1/4 of them are involved in local sports leagues & over 1/4 participate in community centers; 36% are married & nearly 2/3 have children. And even though a significant number of day laborers still stand on street corners waiting for work, nearly half of them have steady jobs doing home improvement for private citizens.

Comments: Hume didn't give details about the study (e.g., who performed it, where it was published) but it was fairly easy to find because it's gotten some media coverage. The AP report, for example, which was picked up by many sources, such as the Chicago Sun-Times (Study shows day laborers with deeper roots here than expected ) also emphasized the "deep roots" theme in its headline, but noted in its opening paragraphs some of the less-than-rosy findings:

The immigrant day laborers who wait for work on street corners across the United States have families and attend church regularly, and the people who hire them are more likely to be individual homeowners than construction contractors.
The first nationwide study of day laborers also found that one in five has been injured on the job and nearly half have been cheated out of pay.

More typical was this report, Study: Day Laborers Often Injured On Job, Stiffed By Employers byNBC4-TV News in Los Angeles:

Day laborers across the nation face abusive employers, dangerous jobs and poor or withheld wages, a study released on Monday showed. "On the Corner: Day Labor in the United States" focused on the nation's 117,600 day laborers, who often look for work on street corners outside home improvement stores. The study was conducted by social scientists from UCLA, the University of Illinois at Chicago and New York's New School University. The researchers say that the prevalence of abuse proved to be the most defining characteristic of the market. In the two months leading up to the survey, 44 percent of day laborers were denied food, water and breaks; 32 percent worked more hours than initially agreed to with the employer; 28 percent were insulted or threatened by the employer; and 27 percent were abandoned at the worksite by an employer.

Kudos to the only 2 groups I found who managed to come up with neutral headlines: DCist (Study Reveals Information on Day Laborers) & the Oakland Tribune (Nationwide study sheds light on day laborers.

One of the study's authors is at UCLA, & UCLA issued a press release about the study. But Hume chose NOT to use that press release First Nationwide Study of Day Laborers Exposes Abuse, Injuries, even though he's done so in the past when it served his purpose. Let's look at what that press release said, which (surprise!) reveals what Hume might not have wanted his viewers to hear:

They attend church, raise children and participate in community activities and institutions. Yet, when America's day laborers go to work, they have experiences that would shock any other upstanding community member: police harassment, violence at the hands of employers, withheld wages and conditions so dangerous that is not unusual for them to be sidelined for more than a month with work-related injuries or to work for weeks on end in pain.

After some background info about the authors & the methodology of the study, the PR release continues:
Three years in the making, the report includes the first-ever national count of U.S. day laborers, little-known characteristics of these workers' backgrounds and troubling aspects of their working conditions across five U.S. regions: the West, Midwest, Southwest, South and East.

Among the findings highlighted in the release:
*Day labor is a nationwide phenomenon, spilling into small & rural towns throughout America, including the South & Midwest.
*The total count of these workers is actually 1/10 to 1/20 the size "bandied about" by anti-immigration forces.
*Wage theft is the most common abuse suffered by day laborers, with nearly half having been denied pay in the 2 months prior to the survey.
*Just over 3/4 of day laborers are undocumented immigrants; the number of US citizens working in day labor is much higher than commonly supposed.
*Day laborers account for only a small fraction of the estimated 7- to 11-million undocumented immigrants in America today.


Here are the paragraphs that other news outlets focussed on:

The researchers say that the prevalence of abuse proved to be the most defining characteristic of the market. In the two months leading up to the survey, 44 percent of day laborers were denied food, water and breaks; 32 percent worked more hours than initially agreed to with the employer; 28 percent were insulted or threatened by the employer; and 27 percent were abandoned at the worksite by an employer. ...
Day laborers suffered violence at the hands of employers, fellow day laborers and bands of youths who see easy marks in the workers who are paid in cash for a day's work. ...
Injuries were also common. In the year leading up to the study, 20 percent of day laborers were injured on the job, and of those two-thirds missed work as a result. In fact, accidents sidelined injured workers for an average of 33 days and caused them to work in pain for an average of 20 days. More than half did not receive the medical care they needed for the injury, either because the worker could not afford health care or the employer refused to cover the worker under the company's workers' compensation insurance.
The Midwest displayed the highest rates of abuse in almost every category. Also with the highest overall injury rate, the region's laborers were the most likely to face physical risk. A whopping 92 percent said they considered their work to be dangerous.

Here's what Hume blithely described as "steady jobs doing home improvement for private citizens" (yes, he actually used the phrase "steady jobs"):
Anti-immigration forces have portrayed illegal immigration as the driving force behind day labor. But the researchers found a market fueled by a growing zeal for home improvement and by employers under pressure to cut wages and benefits. The report characterizes the market as "employer-driven" with more than two-thirds of day laborers hired repeatedly by the same employers, including contractors in the building and landscaping trades.

And here's a paragraph that would choke any Foxian:

The researchers call for greater worker protections, better monitoring of safety conditions and increased access to legal services to adjudicate workers' rights violations.

For those who are interested in more detail, the study itself, "On the Corner: Day Labor in the United States" can be found here.


If you'd like to complain to Fox about this, email: special@foxnews.com

NOTE TO READERS: Please stay on topic (this particular "picking" or Hume's spin on it; the issue of day laborers or "undocumented" workers in general). O/T comments will be deleted. Thanks.