skip to main content


Title: A Framework to Develop Interventions to Address Labor Exploitation and Trafficking: Integration of Behavioral and Decision Science within a Case Study of Day Laborers
This paper describes a process that integrates behavioral and decision science methods to design and evaluate interventions to disrupt illicit behaviors. We developed this process by extending a framework used to study systems with uncertain outcomes, where only partial information is observable, and wherein there are multiple participating parties with competing goals. The extended framework that we propose builds from artefactual data collection, thematic analysis, and descriptive analysis, toward predictive modeling and agent-based modeling. We use agent-based modeling to characterize and predict interactions between system participants for the purpose of improving our understanding of interventional targets in a virtual environment before piloting them in the field. We apply our extended framework to an exploratory case study that examines the potential of worker centers as a venue for deploying interventions to address labor exploitation and human trafficking. This case study focuses on reducing wage theft, the most prevalent form of exploitation experienced by day laborers and applies the first three steps of the extended framework. Specifically, the case study makes a preliminary assessment of two types of social interventions designed to disrupt exploitative processes and improve the experiences of day laborers, namely: (1) advocates training day laborers about their workers’ rights and options that they have for addressing wage theft and (2) media campaigns designed to disseminate similar educational messages about workers’ rights and options to address wage theft through broadcast channels. Applying the extended framework to this case study of day laborers at a worker center demonstrates how digital technology could be used to monitor, evaluate, and support collaborations between worker center staff and day laborers. Ideally, these collaborations could be improved to mitigate the risks and costs of wage theft, build trust between worker center stakeholders, and address communication challenges between day laborers and employers, in the context of temporary work. Based on the application of the extended framework to this case study of worker center day laborers, we discuss how next steps in the research framework should prioritize understanding how and why employers make decisions to participate in wage theft and the potential for restorative justice and equity matching as a relationship model for employers and laborers in a well-being economy.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
2039983
NSF-PAR ID:
10463281
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ;
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Societies
Volume:
13
Issue:
4
ISSN:
2075-4698
Page Range / eLocation ID:
96
Format(s):
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract Immigrant day laborers routinely experience exploitative behaviors as part of their employment. These day laborers perceive the exploitation they experience in the context of their immigration histories and in the context of their long-term goals for better working and living conditions. Using mixed methods, over three data collection periods in 2016, 2019 and 2020, we analyze the work experiences of immigrant day laborers in Houston and Austin, Texas. We report how workers evaluate precarious jobs and respond to labor exploitation in an informal labor market. We also discuss data from a worker rights training intervention conducted through a city-sponsored worker center. We discuss the potential for worker centers to be a convening and remediation space for workers and employers. Worker centers offer a potential space for informal intervention into wage theft and work safety violations by regulating the hiring context where day laborers meet employers. 
    more » « less
  2. Why do social computing projects aimed at alleviating social inequality fail? This paper investigates this question through a qualitative interview study with 25 individuals working to address the problem of wage theft in the United States (US) context. Our analyses uncover failures at three levels or scales of interaction: one, failures at the individual level of technology adoption; two, relational failures (i.e., the anti-labor worker/employer dynamic in the US); and three, institutional or macro-level failures. Taken together, these various failings point to larger, structural forces that negatively fate pro-labor projects’ trajectories – i.e., capitalism. Capitalism's incarnations in the US play a significant and at times harsh grip in steering the path of social computing design projects. In this paper, we untangle the relationship between capitalism and social computing, providing an analytic framework to tease apart this complex relationship, the lessons learned from our empirical data, as well as ways forward for future, pro-labor, social computing projects. 
    more » « less
  3. BACKGROUND: With the COVID-19 pandemic, organizations embraced Work From Home (WFH). An important component of transitioning to WFH is the effect on workers, particularly related to their productivity and work experience. OBJECTIVES: The objective of this study is to examine how worker-, workspace-, and work-related factors affected productivity and time spent at a workstation on a typical WFH day during the pandemic. METHODS: An online questionnaire was designed and administered to collect the necessary information. Data from 988 respondents were included in the analyses. RESULTS: Overall perception of productivity level among workers did not change relative to their in-office productivity before the pandemic. Female, older, and high-income workers were likely to report increased productivity. Productivity was positively influenced by better mental and physical health statuses, having a teenager, increased communication with coworkers and having a dedicated room for work. Number of hours spent at a workstation increased by approximately 1.5 hours during a typical WFH day. Longer hours were reported by individuals who had school age children, owned an office desk or an adjustable chair, and had adjusted their work hours. CONCLUSION: The findings highlight key factors for employers and employees to consider for improving the WFH experience. 
    more » « less
  4. null (Ed.)
    Social media has become an effective recruitment tool for higher-waged and white-collar professionals. Yet, past studies have questioned its effectiveness for the recruitment of lower-waged workers. It is also unclear whether or how employers leverage social media in their recruitment of low-wage job seekers, and how social media could better support the needs of both stakeholders. Therefore, we conducted 15 semi-structured interviews with employers of low-wage workers in the U.S. We found that employers: use social media, primarily Facebook, to access large pools of active low-wage job seekers; and recognize indirect signals about low-wage job seekers’ commitment and job readiness. Our work suggests that there remains a visible, yet unaddressed power imbalance between low-wage workers and employers in the use of social media, which risks further destabilizing the precarious labor market. 
    more » « less
  5. null (Ed.)
    Ethics and social responsibility have frequently been identified as important areas of practice for professional engineers. Thus, measuring engineering ethics and social responsibility is critical to assessing the abilities of engineering students, understanding how those abilities change over time, and exploring the impacts of certain ethical interventions, such as coursework or participation in extracurricular activities. However, measurement of these constructs is difficult, as they are complex and multi-faceted. Much prior research has been carried out to develop and assess ethical interventions in engineering education, but the findings have been mixed, in part because of these measurement challenges. To address this variation in prior work, we have designed and carried out a five year, longitudinal, mixed-methods study to explore students’ perceptions of ethics and social responsibility. This study relies on both repeated use of quantitative measures related to ethics and repeated qualitative interviews to explore how students’ perceptions of these issues change across time, between institutions, and in response to participation in certain experiences. This paper focuses on the thematic analysis and preliminary results of the 33 pairs of interviews that were gathered from participants at three different universities in Year 1 and Year 4 of their undergraduate studies. Given the multifaceted and complex nature of ethics, measuring and assessing how students’ perceive its various aspects (e.g. those related to ethical climate, moral awareness, moral disengagement etc.) has proven challenging. Furthermore, investigating how students’ perceptions of these concepts vary over time adds another layer of complexity for analyzing our longitudinal data. For example, a student might show increased understanding in one aspect of ethics over time and consistency in another, making it difficult to identify patterns or the impacts of specific influences. Due to this large variation in student experiences and perspectives, we used single case analysis to analyze the longitudinal interviews of a single participant, Corvin. From this analysis, three themes emerged in the student's responses: a shift in his views of engineering ethics and social responsibility from idealism to pragmatism; an adjustment in how he thinks engineers should balance their responsibilities to the public and to their employers; and the characteristics he identifies for ethical engineers. This paper will be beneficial for engineering educators and researchers who are interested in measuring and developing ethical capabilities among engineering students. 
    more » « less