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Study finds some immigrant women in Tucson are overworked, underpaid and abused

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Monday, Sept. 29, 2014

By Yahaira Yaquez


JAMIE WARREN/CRONKITE NEWS: In Tucson, working immigrant women say they are overworked, underpaid and sometimes abused.

That’s according to a study by the Bacon Immigration Law and Policy Program at the University of Arizona Law School.

Yahaira Jacquez joins us with more details from the study.

YAHAIRA JACQUEZ/CRONKITE NEWS: Of 90 immigrant women were surveyed, 59 didn’t know the current minimum wage, 30 reported verbal or physical abuse by an employer in the last year and six said they had felt sexually harassed.

ADELINA LOPEZ/VICTIM: Does this mean that you’re not gonna pay me or what? And she said, “Oh no, no, I am going to pay you. I’m going to let you go for two weeks. Just rest two weeks and then you’ll get your money.”

YAHAIRA JACQUEZ/CRONKITE NEWS: That money never came – until Adelina Lopez decided to take action.

ADELINA LOPEZ/VICTIM: That’s when I went to the law clinic at the UA, and that’s where they educated me about the minimum wage.

YAHAIRA JACQUEZ/CRONKITE NEWS: Adelina’s employer paid her for the month of work and an extra 35 cents to meet the minimum wage for every hour.

ADELINA LOPEZ/VICTIM: So that was more than $900 that she owed me, so it came out to $1,200.

SHAYNA KESSLER/RESEARCHER, OUT OF THE SHADOWS REPORT: What we have found is that many of our clients who are all immigrant workers, have a great deal of problems that are very similar.

YAHAIRA JACQUEZ/CRONKITE NEWS: Working with these women researcher Shayna Kessler says they’re unaware and afraid.

SHAYNA KESSLER/RESEARCHER, OUT OF THE SHADOWS REPORT: There’s a great deal of fear about communicating about conditions on the job among immigrant women in general and particularly among undocumented women.

YAHAIRA JACQUEZ/CRONKITE NEWS: But the results of them speaking out were startling.

Hotel workers said they were given only 15 minutes to clean an entire room.

And tortilla factory workers were required to complete 18 trays an hour. That’s 1,134 tortillas.

The report addressed the problems but it also provided solutions.

SHAYNA KESSLER/RESEARCHER, OUT OF THE SHADOWS REPORT: Ensuring that the protection and the coverage of the laws affects a broader range of workplaces, employers and employees would benefit the workforce as a whole.

YAHAIRA JACQUEZ/CRONKITE NEWS: Adelina said she hopes the community listens and her fellow workers speak up.

Adelina now works in fast food and volunteers at the UA workers clinic.

Live in downtown Phoenix, Yahaira Jacquez. Cronkite News.