Thursday, January 22, 2009

A Housekeeping Sweatshop

Reprinted From A San Fransisco Newspaper -

Q: Our longtime housekeeper (a foreign-born legal resident) has grown her business, hiring a Mexican woman (here illegally) to clean houses. Of the $80 I pay the housekeeper, between $10 and $15 goes to the woman who actually cleans. She speaks no English and probably couldn't have gotten the job on her own. If we offered her $60 directly, she'd be paid more fairly and we'd save $20, but our original housekeeper would lose. Should we do it?

A: "Grown her business" — yes, much like Pharaoh grew his pyramid-building operation. By subcontracting her work at $2 to $3 an hour (assuming five hours to clean a house), your housekeeper has breached ethics, the minimum-wage law and ordinary human decency. For you to benefit from this exploitation is thoroughly discreditable. You must provide the actual worker a fair wage. Talk to her with the help of a translator and seek a way to pay her directly without imperiling her other jobs. You might also consider calling the cops to shut down the sweatshop your longtime housekeeper is running.

Nothing is wrong with subcontracting if a boss provides a legitimate service, including finding work for employees and not simply skimming their paychecks, offers a living wage and decent benefits and heeds relevant laws such as those governing Social Security, insurance and licensing. But if you paid the Simon Legree housekeeper $80, why not pay the honest worker the same? The well-off should not try to save a buck at the expense of the poorest and most vulnerable. You might also consult a lawyer about legalizing your employee's immigration status (or abandon all hope of running for the Senate).

From Two Maids & A Mop -

Even when you know you're breaking the law.... Cheap keeps on selling!!

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