Marano Fellows Class of 2014
Name: Ligia Guallpa

Executive Director


Worker’s Justice Project (WJP)

Location: New York City
Industry Sector: Construction

Organizational Background & Mission: The Worker’s Justice Project (WJP) is a worker center committed to promote justice and opportunity for low-wage immigrant workers in New York City by pushing for systematic enforcement and expansion of workplace protections, including labor and occupational health and safety standards; advocating for industry-specific efforts to improve working conditions; and educating immigrant communities about their rights in the workplace and how to exercise those rights.

WJP operates the Bay Parkway Community Job Center and runs the Women’s Economic Justice Initiative to support our goal of advancing economic and workplace justice for low-wage immigrant workers in New York City. Through the center, workers have established a dignified system for contract negotiation and transparent hiring processes which provide accountability to employers and workers. As a result, the center has raised wages to $22.50 from $8 per hour, the highest wages set by a day labor center in the region. The Center has also cut down on wage theft, improved health and safety conditions and fosters good community relations in Brooklyn. In addition to helping to curb workplace abuse, the center has become an outstanding vehicle for effective workforce development; offering job skills development, health and safety training and needed certifications for workers.

Interest in Sector Work: WJP initiated its work as a response to the exploitative labor practices committed against Latino immigrant construction workers. These workers operate in the city’s underground economy as day laborers and construction workers and do not receive the protections other workers might receive from traditional labor unions. Our members work in residential construction, an industry that is poorly regulated, not unionized and have a large number of contractors and subcontractors who lack knowledge of health and safety requirements. Many immigrant construction laborers describe contractors who urge them to hurry through tasks without regard to safety, respond to workers’ concerns with threats and other forms of intimidation, and who fail to pay the promised hourly rate—or sometimes fail to pay at all. OSHA enforcement is complicated by the agency’s limited capacity, large number of worksites, and rapidly changing tasks, hazards, and contractors.

While the conditions faced by day laborers and immigrant construction workers are dangerous and precarious, the WJP is seeking to change the working conditions in this abusive and exploitative industry.