How Contractors with ‘Ghost’ Workers Give Big Companies a Buffer Against Immigration Officials

Seven days a week, Martha Lopez arrived before dawn at the Target in Brentwood, Tenn., to make sure the store in the Nashville suburb gleamed for shoppers. For about two years, Lopez said, she emptied trash, scrubbed the toilets and polished the white floors to maintain the “wet look” the retailer demands. The pay wasn’t bad, but payday gave her pause.

Twice a month, her wages — $11.50 an hour — were loaded onto an electronic pay card she’d been given. The card was stamped with somebody else’s name: “M Hernandez Cleme.”

Lopez didn’t ask questions. As an immigrant who had entered the United States illegally, she had learned long ago to accept all kinds of oddities and indignities at work. Then, this year, the pay card stopped working. She complained to her boss and eventually got a new card. This one had no name. Lopez lost several weeks’ pay in the transition, she said, but her boss told her she could gripe all she wanted — no one would listen. She’d been working under the name of a person who’d left long ago, she recalled him saying, so there would never be any record that she’d even picked up a broom on this job.

“They always told me I didn’t exist on their system,” Lopez said. “Como una fantasma.” Like a ghost.

Lopez wasn’t working directly for Target but rather for a company called Diversified Maintenance Systems, which has had contracts to clean Target Corp. stores across the country since 2003. The company has faced serious allegations of labor violations in lawsuits and regulatory actions previously — including claims that it put undocumented immigrants to work under assumed names, as Lopez describes.

Amid the searing debate over President Trump’s immigration crackdown, Diversified and other contractors have provided a way for some of America’s biggest employers — including Target and Walmart Inc. — to effectively benefit from cheap, undocumented labor without fear of meaningful penalties. Diversified, Walmart and Target all say they don’t hire undocumented workers.

By Michael Smith for LOS ANGELES TIMES
Read Full Article HERE

Share this post

Post Comment