Rebecca Galemba is an Assistant Professor at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies.
After moving to Denver in 2012, she started to become involved in the immigrant community through collaborations with the day labor center, El Centro Humanitario. As she and her students heard workers discuss the various indignities they suffered on the job including the lack of safety equipment, injuries, insults, and wage theft (including both under-payment and non-payment for work completed), she partnered with lawyer, Raja Raghunath, to better understand what workers were experiencing, as well as efforts and policies underway to assist them.
The labor conditions of low-wage day laborers working in the construction industry, the vast majority of whom are Latino immigrant workers, contrasted sharply with the new high-rises, townhomes, and cranes increasingly taking over the Denver landscape. The DU Just Wages project was begun to help bring wider public and policy attention to the experiences of the many hidden workers contributing to Denver’s construction and population growth.
The project has combined qualitative research, legal partnerships, street outreach to workers, community partnerships, policy collaborations, and a survey of 400 day laborers. Professor Galemba has also integrated students throughout the project to build their skills as researchers, outreach workers, and future leaders, activists, and practitioners. For many students, their exposure to the project informed their views of their own positions and consumer habits as new residents of a rapidly growing city. For others, it helped them give back to, and contribute to a more systematic understanding of, the Latino community in which they grew up.
Supporting this project funds dissemination of our research to the wider community and policymakers, the involvement of student researchers, and advocacy efforts to assist workers reclaim unpaid wages and become community leaders in the fight against wage theft.