New York—Approximately three out of four Korean immigrant workers do not receive legally-mandated overtime pay if they are entitled to it, according to survey results released today by the Korean Workers Project. The study, entitled Forgotten Workers, is a first-of-its-kind survey examining the conditions and challenges faced by low-wage, first-generation Korean immigrant workers in the New York City area.
The Korean Workers Project is a joint project of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) and YKASECEmpowering the Korean American Community. The Korean Workers Project survey examined the working conditions of Korean immigrant workers employed in various industries, including restaurants, groceries and delis, dry cleaners, hair and nail salons, construction, and garment manufacturing. Approximately 28% of the surveys respondents were undocumented immigrants.
Other key findings include:
- Nearly all (94%) of the workers were limited English proficient.
- Close to half (47%) of the workers worked 60 hours or more per week, and almost two-thirds (64%) of workers work more than 50 hours per week. The average number of hours worked per week was more than 55 hours.
- 15% reported that they had health problems or have gotten injured as a result of their job, but 64% of all respondents did not know about their right to workers compensation.
- More than half (55%) did not know about unemployment insurance, and only 11% of workers had ever applied for it.
- Close to a quarter (24%) of all workers believe they will lose their jobs if they complain to management.
- 91% of workers said they were not part of a union or any other organization to protect them.
- Nearly one-third (31%) currently hold more than one job to support themselves.
AALDEF Korean Workers Project Director Steven Choi said, The survey provides an important window into the working conditions and educational needs of the Korean immigrant community, both for Korean Americans and policymakers. Whats clear is that we need to work toward better protections for Korean workers in a wide variety of industries, especially by providing in-language know-your-rights information.
Said YKASEC Program Associate Kathy Chae, With more than 15,000 Korean Americans living below the poverty level in New York City, we believe that this data promotes greater awareness around the needs of an underserved community. Korean workers who are not getting paid a living wage or feel caught in a unsafe work environment are not alone, and should know they can reach out to community organizations or government agencies for help.”
The groundbreaking survey collected responses from 184 low-wage Korean workers in the metropolitan area through churches, community organizations, and event tabling over the course of a one-year period. A copy of the study, including key charts and graphs, is available at here.