“Stand Up to Clean Up” Guide to Help Keep Female Day Laborers Safe in Williamsburg

by Rebecca Peterson

“Stand Up to Clean Up,” is a new illustrated guide, put out by The Worker’s Justice Project, and the Center for Urban Pedagogy, to empower female day-laborers who are often exploited and taken advantage without much recourse due to language barriers. 

Gothamist reported on the guide earlier this week, and interviewed Carmen Fajardo, an Ecuadorian house cleaner, who described the safety hazards and risks she took for work. 

“I remember that the cleaning products were very toxic and I didn’t have any protective equipment like gloves, or a mask,” she said. “There were also few hours of work and it was really hard work, but it was poorly paid … unfortunately because I feared losing my job and didn’t know how to negotiate in English, and not really knowing my rights, I decided to accept those conditions.”

A video released in February interviewed some of the women who are most vulnerable to the situation. They describe the toll it takes to stand outside in the predominately Hassidic neighborhood of Williamsburg, waiting for potential employers to offer them cleaning jobs. The women describe unacceptable conditions, from being shorted their negotiated wage to being sexually harassed. One woman said she left a cleaning job unpaid when her employer asked her for a massage while crawling into his bed. 


The New York Times also covered The Worker’s Justice Project in October, exploring the way Hurricane Sandy led to the exploitation of a primarily-male work force, often given grueling tasks without any protective gear or supplies.   

Images via Shayla Love at Gothamist

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