Temp Agencies and ‘Raiteros’ Take Advantage Of Latino Immigrants

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/29/taken-for-a-ride-temp-age_n_3180996.html?ir=Latino%20Voices&utm_campaign=043013&utm_medium=email&utm_source=Alert-latino-voices&utm_content=Title

CHICAGO — Ty Inc. became one of the world’s largest manufacturers of stuffed animals thanks to the Beanie Babies craze in the 1990s.

But it has stayed on top partly by using an underworld of labor brokers known as raiteros, who pick up workers from Chicago’s street corners and shuttle them to Ty’s warehouse on behalf of one of the nation’s largest temp agencies.

The system provides just-in-time labor at the lowest possible cost to large companies — but also effectively pushes workers’ pay far below the minimum wage.

Temp agencies use similar van networks in other labor markets. But in Chicago’s Little Village, the largest Mexican community in the Midwest, the raiteros have melded with temp agencies and their corporate clients in a way that might be unparalleled anywhere in America — and could violate Illinois’ wage laws.

The raiteros don’t just transport workers. They also recruit them, decide who works and who doesn’t, and distribute paychecks.

And it’s the low-wage workers — not the temp agencies or their clients, corporate giants like Ty — who bear the cost. Officially, the raiteros’ fee, usually $8 a day, is for transportation. But, workers say, anyone who doesn’t pay doesn’t get work.

From this crowded barrio, raiteros ferry as many as 1,000 workers a day to warehouses and factories in Chicago and its suburbs. Many of these workers end up making about $6 an hour, well below Illinois’ minimum wage of $8.25 an hour, because of the fees and unpaid waiting time.

"If you complain too much, they won’t take you to work anymore," said Maria Castro, a Mexican immigrant who has worked on and off for Ty.

Like other workers, Castro said she has never been to Select Remedy, the temp agency that officially employs her. She knows Ty only as los peluches, Spanish for "the stuffed animals."

To Castro, her employer is Rigo, a raitero whose full name is Rigoberto Aguilar. He tells her and other workers whether they have a job and picks them up in a school bus in an alley at 4:30 a.m.

Ty is among a long list of brand-name companies that benefit from the raitero system. Workers report packing products for Sony, Frito Lay, Pampered Chef, Smirnoff, Marlboro and Fresh Express, a subsidiary of Chiquita Brands where workers cut vegetables for bagged salads and fast-food restaurants like Burger King and McDonald’s.

The word raitero is a Spanglish invention that roughly means "a person who gives rides." In fact, the raiteros are effectively agents for Select Remedy and other temp agencies, which have grown steadily since the 1990s and are approaching new heights after the recent recession. While not a household name, the Select Family of Staffing Companies, which controls Select Remedy, posted $1.8 billion in revenue last year and employs nearly 100,000 people every week — about as many as Starbucks.

Select and other temp agencies maintain that the raiteros are merely van drivers hired by the workers. They say they have no contract or connection to the temp agency.

Yet the agencies provide applications so the raiteros can recruit workers. They call raiteros with the number of workers needed at each worksite. At the end of the week, the raiteros pick up the workers’ paychecks from the temp agencies and bring them to check-cashing stores, where workers are charged $3 to $4 to cash them. In some cases, the raiteros say, the temp firms even provide the vans they use to drive workers to their jobs, or lend them money to buy the vans.

"Where there have occurred instances in which our well-established policies and protocols were not being followed, the appropriate corrective action was taken," Select Remedy wrote in a response to questions. "For some time now, we have instructed the managers who work at our branch offices that they are not to have direct contact with private van drivers, to reaffirm our policy that Select Remedy is to have no involvement in how our associates decide to get to work each day."

The company says it provides a valuable service to employers and employees: "In Illinois, Select Remedy puts thousands of people to work every year, and we are proud of that accomplishment."

Using raiteros, temp agencies and host companies like Ty can get the right number of workers to the right place at the right time. With such certainty, Ty can limit overtime as well as avoid paying benefits and the other costs of employing workers full time.

After dropping off about 50 workers, Aguilar leaves his big yellow bus in Ty’s lot all day until he drives them back home.

Tania Lundeen, Ty’s vice president of sales, said, "We typically don’t do any kind of interviews." No one from Ty responded to a list of questions.

Wage Theft?

Key parts of the raitero system, especially the transportation fee, may run afoul of Illinois’ temp labor law. But, ironically, that very law helped create the current system.

When he first started as a raitero, Aguilar said, he was employed directly by a now-defunct temp agency, Prime Staffing, which paid him $350 a week. In many cases, temp agencies recouped this cost by charging the workers, deducting ride fees from their paychecks.

Illinois changed its law in 2006, making it illegal for temp agencies to charge workers for transportation or to refer them to van drivers who did. The law already outlawed temp agencies from forcing a worker to pay a fee for cashing a paycheck.

As a result, temp agency managers say, most staffing firms did away with official, paid relationships with drivers. Instead, they developed informal arrangements with the raiteros, which insulated the temp agencies from responsibility.

In other parts of the country, the van systems have clearer ties to the temp agencies and the fees are legal, with some restrictions.

Throughout New Jersey, vans show up every morning right in front of the temp agencies. When hired, workers sign a waiver authorizing the agency to deduct the ride fee from their checks.

In Boston, vans sent by temp agencies pick up workers from street corners and shuttle them to fisheries and recycling plants throughout eastern Massachusetts. A new law that went into effect in January limits transportation fees to 3 percent of a worker’s daily wages and mandates that the fees can’t reduce pay below the state’s hourly minimum.

According to labor and employment lawyers, whether Select Remedy and other temp agencies have violated Illinois law depends on how free the workers are to choose their own transportation and check-cashing store and whether the rides and long hours of waiting are for the benefit of the worker or the company.

Miguel del Valle, the former state legislator who sponsored the day and temp labor act in Illinois, said that in his view the new transportation system still violates the law.

"We didn’t want to allow temp agencies to gouge people and take big chunks of money out of their paychecks," he said. "They’re doing something that we tried to prohibit them from doing," he added. "It’s abusive."

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House Finance Chair Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas Goes on Ski Vacation with Wall Street

http://www.propublica.org/article/house-finance-chair-goes-on-ski-vacation-with-wall-street

In January, Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, ascended to the powerful chairmanship of the House Financial Services Committee. Six weeks later, campaign finance filings and interviews show, Hensarling was joined by representatives of the banking industry for a ski vacation fundraiser at a posh Park City, Utah, resort.

The congressman’s political action committee held the fundraiser at the St. Regis Deer Valley, the “Ritz-Carlton of ski resortsknown for its “white-glove service” and for its restaurant by superstar chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten.

There’s no evidence the fundraiser broke any campaign finance rules. But a ski getaway with Hensarling, whose committee oversees both Wall Street and its regulators, is an invaluable opportunity for industry lobbyists.

Among those attending the weekend getaway was an official from the American Securitization Forum, a Wall Street industry group, a spokesman confirmed. It gave $2,500 in February to Hensarling’s political action committee, the Jobs, Economy, and Budget (JEB) Fund.

Len Wolfson, a lobbyist for the Mortgage Bankers Association, which gave the JEB Fund $5,000 that month, posted a picture on Instagram from the weekend of the fundraiser of the funicular at the St. Regis. (It was labeled, “Putting the #fun in #funicular. #stregis #deervalley #utah.”) Wolfson did not respond to requests for comment. (UPDATE 1 p.m. Wolfson has now set his account to private.)

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Jon Stewart Unloads: ‘Congress Doesn’t Care About Meals On Wheels Unless It Is Rolling Down An Aisle’ @speakerboehner @gop

http://www.businessinsider.com/jon-stewart-flight-delay-faa-bill-daily-show-april-30-2013-4?nr_email_referer=1&utm_source=Triggermail&utm_medium=email&utm_term=Politics%20Select&utm_campaign=Politics%20Select%202013-04-30&utm_content=emailshare

"The Daily Show’s" Jon Stewart ripped into Congress on Monday for the bill pushed through both houses last week that fixed mounting flight delays, suggesting that Congress will only fix what affects them.

Congress failed to avert the across-the-board budget cuts known as the sequester earlier this year, which have led to a variety of painful consequences — from furloughs to air traffic controllers to indiscriminate cuts to programs like Meals on Wheels.

But Stewart noted that when faced with the personal problem of flight delays, Congress crafted a bill that was so quickly formed that parts of it were hand-written.

"Congress doesn’t care about meals-on-wheels unless it is rolling down an aisle," Stewart quipped.

Stewart mocked the lawmakers hailing the bipartisanship that led to the bill being quickly passed through both houses of Congress. He coined the term "congratsturbating" — which, he said, was "creating a problem that affects millions of people, then congratulating oneself for fixing only the small part of the problem that affects you and then [expletive]."

Watch the clips below, courtesy of Comedy Central:

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Obama’s Judicial Nominees Blocked On All Sides By Senate Republicans @gop @speakerboehner

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/29/obama-judicial-nominees_n_3156050.html?ir=Politics&utm_campaign=043013&utm_medium=email&utm_source=Alert-politics&utm_content=Title

WASHINGTON — It’s bad enough that there are 82 vacant federal judge slots around the country, a level so high that many observers have deemed it a crisis situation.

But perhaps even more startling is the fact that of those 82 vacant slots, 61 of them don’t even have a nominee.

On its face, the absence of nominees would appear to be a sign that President Barack Obama is slacking. After all, he is responsible for nominating judges, and he did put forward fewer nominees at the end of his first term than his two predecessors. But a closer look at data on judicial nominees, and conversations with people involved in the nomination process, reveals the bigger problem is Republican senators quietly refusing to recommend potential judges in the first place.

The process for moving judicial nominees is simple enough. A president takes the lead on circuit court nominees, while, per longstanding tradition, a senator kickstarts the process for district court nominees, which make up the bulk of the federal court system. Senators make recommendations from their home states, and the president works with them to get at least some of the nominees confirmed — the idea being that senators, regardless of party, are motivated to advocate for nominees from their states. The White House may look at other nominees on its own, but typically won’t move forward without input from the corresponding senators. Once a nominee is submitted to the Senate, he or she receives a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee. If approved, the nomination heads to the Senate floor for a full vote.

It’s hardly news that the judicial nomination process is gummed up. Democrats regularly blast Republicans for blocking Obama’s nominees after they clear the Senate Judiciary Committee with broad support, making them wait an average of 116 days for a confirmation vote. That’s three times longer than the average wait for President George W. Bush’s nominees. But these obstacles come at the end of the nomination process. It’s now clear that there’s a serious problem at the beginning, too.

It turns out that since Obama took office, senators from some states

Super-Rich Stashing Up To $32 Trillion Offshore, Masking True Scale Of Inequality

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/29/wealthy-stashing-offshore_n_3179139.html?ir=Business&utm_campaign=043013&utm_medium=email&utm_source=Alert-business&utm_content=Title

The global super-rich are stashing trillions of dollars offshore with the help of some of the world’s biggest banks, putting billions of dollars out of the taxman’s reach and masking wealth inequality’s true heights.

Wealthy people were hiding between $21 and $32 trillion in offshore jurisdictions around the world as of 2012, according to a 2012 study from the Tax Justice Network, an organization which aims to promote tax transparency. The study, highlighted by a recent Bloomberg News report, found that more than $12 trillion of that money was managed by 50 international banks, many of which received bailouts during the financial crisis, according to James Henry, the study’s author.

“There’s a lot more missing wealth in the world than we had known about from previous estimates,” Henry told The Huffington Post. “The real scandal is not all these individual scandals but the fact that world’s policy makers who know about this stuff, have basically done nothing.”

The issue of wealthy individuals hiding their money offshore has come into sharp focus in recent months as reports, including those of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, have noted the broad scope of the issue.

The study’s findings also reveal that the true levels of global income inequality remain unknown, as current estimates do not incorporate the offshore stashes and hence underestimate its true levels. the study found.

The G20 only recently made a push for its member countries to automatically exchange financial information about possible tax evaders. Under such an agreement, the U.S. would alert Mexican officials if it suspected a wealthy Mexican resident of stashing cash in an American bank account.

According to Henry, it’s not increasing tax rates that are driving the wealthy to move their cash offshore; it’s simply the growth in the offshore money industry.

“This offshore wealth industry has been exploding even in a period in which we have been cutting taxes,” he said. “It’s been growing at something like 15 to 16 percent a year in nominal terms.”

Many of the nations around the world being subjected to austerity in the face of major debt problems could use some of the tax revenue from all that money stashed offshore to address their woes. Overall, the world’s tax authorities are losing $200 to $300 billion in taxes because of offshore wealth issues, the study found.

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PBS: is you pay 2% fees on 7% annual return, wall street will eat 2/3 of your 401k. Obscene. #p2 #tcot

http://wallstreetonparade.com/2013/04/pbs-drops-another-bombshell-wall-street-is-gobbling-up-two-thirds-of-your-401k/

If you work for 50 years and receive the typical long-term return of 7 percent on your 401(k) plan and your fees are 2 percent, almost two-thirds of your account will go to Wall Street. This was the bombshell dropped by Frontline’s Martin Smith in this Tuesday evening’s PBS program, The Retirement Gamble.

This is not so much a gamble as a certainty: under a 2 percent 401(k) fee structure, almost two-thirds of your working life will go toward paying obscene compensation to Wall Street; a little over one-third will benefit your family – and that’s before paying taxes on withdrawals to Uncle Sam.

To put it another way – you work for Wall Street. You are their slave, their lackey and as long as their toadies dominate in Congress, nothing is going to change on the legislative front to stop the looting. Wall Street seized millions of homes through illegal foreclosures and stripped the equity from the owners. They got away with it. Some Wall Street firms further enriched themselves making bets that the housing market would collapse, using their inside knowledge of the bogus loans they had made. They got away with that also. Now Wall Street is busy asset stripping the retirement plans of the working class in America while President Obama proposes to cut Social Security benefits through a discredited calculation called Chained CPI – conveniently causing people to save more in their 401(k) plans to make up for the potential loss. But the more you save, the more Wall Street asset strips.

The Retirement Gamble was written by the outstanding team of Martin Smith and Marcela Gaviria, who exposed in January that when it came to Wall Street, the U.S. Justice Department had “no investigations going on. There were no subpoenas, no document reviews, no wiretaps.” The head of the criminal division of the Justice Department, Lanny Breuer, announced he was stepping down one day after that program aired. He returned to Covington & Burling, the corporate law firm representing Wall Street firms.

The revelation of the two-thirds wealth transfer machinery was delivered by none other than John Bogle, the legendary founder of The Vanguard Group, a low-load mutual fund firm, who served as its Chairman and CEO from 1974 to 1996. Bogle is no slouch. He’s one of the most highly respected men in finance and graduated magna cum laude from Princeton University with a degree in Economics.

This is the relevant portion of the transcript from the program:

rest at http://wallstreetonparade.com/2013/04/pbs-drops-another-bombshell-wall-street-is-gobbling-up-two-thirds-of-your-401k/