Although Hurricane Sandy will end up costing the city untold sums, some people have seen their skills become more valuable in a post-storm economy. Day laborers are in high demand, and they are using their new found scarcity to rally for better pay and conditions. Street corners and parking lots where day laborers traditionally gather have also become important places for workers to talk about organizing and advancing their cause.
Day laborers had little protection from predatory employers until recently. They had little recourse if they went unpaid and had no control over their working conditions. As workers begin to organize, this is starting to change. Wages have been unofficially standardized and some immigrants are finding pathways by which to go after employers who cheat them. Although the situation is improving, there are still many problems. Many day laborers are in the United States illegally, so becoming more visible means risking deportation.
New York lacks tough, state-specific immigration laws, keeping with the city’s immigrant tradition. There are currently no bills making their way through the New York Legislature designed to discourage illegal immigrants. In fact, the opposite is true, with a law making its way through the legislature designed to expand certain social services to families here illegally.