In a 2012 report co-authored by NICE and the Community Development Project of the Urban Justice Center, titled Dreams and Schemes in Queens New York: Immigrant Struggles to Find Work and Obtain Status in the Face of Consumer Fraud, NICE members documented the extent of the fraudulent, predatory and substandard practices utilized by employment agencies and by businesses providing immigration services in our community. Key in our findings where deceptive advertising practices, and the lack of contracts, disclosures and refunds for consumers.
In the years preceding the release, members of NICE had reported negative experiences with service providers such as employment agencies. While the most predominant issue that came up was stolen wages, we found that not only were new immigrants having their wages stolen while working, at times below minimum wage, but also when they were spending their money in their own communities. Upon investigation along Roosevelt Avenue, data analysis revealed some astonishing information.
- Only low wage worker and manual wage workers were required to pay an advanced fee before they are placed, no other class of worker pays a fee upfront
- 81% of survey respondents who did not find a job through an agency were still charged a fee (average, $122).
- One third of survey respondents were offered jobs by agencies paying below the state minimum wage of $7.25, a violation of New York Labor Law and the General Business Law.
- 1 in 4 agencies did not have a Department of Consumer Affairs license visibly posted.
We know there are 300 licensed agencies in NYC, but from advocates and coalition members we believe thousands of agencies are operating and believe this problem also affects thousands. These agencies were and are currently targeting the immigrant community in the form of immigrant services (legal and non-legal), employment agencies, multiservice agencies, real estate, etc. These agencies are not providing the adequate services, but offering services that are sometimes fraudulent.
The coalition around the #J4JS campaign started under the umbrella of the Immigrant Consumer Justice Campaign (2010) at NICE with purpose of public awareness, and draw attention to fraudulent, substandard and abusive predatory practices on the part of service providers which are targeting the immigrant community. We found out that this was not only happening in Queens but in other communities. Advocates, organizers, and NICE members realized that we could make substantial changes at the state level and decided to come around this issues and create the Justice for Job seekers campaign.