Employment and Equality
- Labor Contracts
- Minimum Wage
- Minimum Payment & Crew Leader Problems
- Harassment by Law Enforcement
- Hate Crimes
- Racial Profiling
Food. Shelter. Clothing. These are the basic needs that most of us take for granted.
For migrants, these basic necessities are directly connected to their ever-changing jobs and revolving employers. By definition, a migrant worker is most often a farm worker who travels to Michigan to live and work during the harvest season, whereas seasonal workers reside in the state year-round. The Michigan Department of Human Services reported 28,188 migrant and seasonal farm workers, and over 90,000 when including family members.
Though the Michigan economy relies heavily on these available, skilled, willing and economical workers, life for migrant families is a hard one. Many families live in unsafe housing, working 15 hour days in the hot sun with little or no access to bathrooms or fresh water for drinking and washing. Missing one paycheck or one hour of work, a delay in starting work, or a drop in hours can upset the stability and certainty of their basic human needs. With an annual income averaging $12,000, most families struggle to meet these needs. They experience difficulty in overcoming language barriers, and have a hard time dealing with the isolation of farming communities and transitory employment.
Few of these workers fully understand their rights to a healthy work environment, fair wages, safe housing, public benefits, or immigration law.
Migrant Legal Aid helps to explain and enforce these rights, such as The Fair Labor Standards Act. It was created to help migrants maintain the little income they earn by protecting the standards of minimum wage, overtime pay, record-keeping, and youth employment. These standards apply for all workers, even those who earn their wages by piece rate–a fact that many migrant workers do not realize. As a result, workers can end up making less than one dollar an hour.
For migrant families, Migrant Legal Aid is often the only life line they have for equal treatment under federal and state law. Our advocates review the work history and explain their right to minimum wage. Likewise, Migrant Legal Aid helps enforce the Migrant and Seasonal Worker Protection Act, which requires that families have bathroom facilities while working in the fields; that they have potable drinking water; hand-washing facilities; and that they be given the terms and conditions of their work in writing.
These laws are designed to ensure that families are getting paid appropriately for the work they perform and that hazards in their work environment are minimal.
Minimum Wage in Michigan
On May 27, 2014, the Michigan legislature enacted the Workforce Opportunity Wage Act, replacing the Michigan Minimum Wage Law. The WOWA raise the minimum wage on September 1, 2014, to $8.15 per hour. That will remain the minimum wage until January 1, 2016, when it will raise again to $8.50 per hour. From that date forward, the minimum wage will increase each January, to $8.90 per hour in 2017, $9.35 per hour in 2018, and thereafter increases shall correspond with increases to the Consumer Price Index, unless the unemployment rate is 8.5% or greater.