Engaged Opportunity Grants

Day Laborer Application Pilot Program

Training workers from low-income and immigrant communities to use a mobile app to prevent wage theft and increase awareness about labor standards and workplace safety. This project was made possible with the support of The Engaged Opportunity Grant.

Conceived together with the support, research, and dynamic collaboration of immigrant day laborers, organizers, developers, lawyers, and artist Sol Aramendi, The Jornalero Wage Theft App links the struggle for immigrant workers’ rights to the concept of community accountability. The smartphone-based app will fight wage theft and restore power to the worker by allowing users to safely share their experiences and report abusive and neglectful employers, effectively inserting transparency into a previously exploitative and alienating system.



The Worker Institute’s Director of Labor and Policy Research Maria Figueroa and Research Specialist Legna Cabrera played a critical role in convening and facilitating forums that brought together workers, researchers, advocates and organizers. Figueroa serves as co-chair of the Precarious Workforce Initiative.

“Every day we hop in a car, not knowing if we are going to get paid.” – Felix Guzman, Day Laborer Organizer

In addition to providing a valuable tool to workers, organizers and advocates, the app will serve as a tool to gather data on a group of workers that can be challenging to study due to the diverse geographies and populations in the day labor industry.

The project was recently featured in the New York Times:

Just past sunrise on 69th Street, near the No. 7 subway station in Jackson Heights, Queens, men in backpacks and work boots gather in groups, many on their cellphones.

They are workers at one of the largest day laborer stops in New York City, hoping to be hired. Most are undocumented immigrants who have reported being cheated by employers. In the fight against wage theft, their phones could soon become their biggest allies.

After three years of planning, an immigrant rights group in Jackson Heights is set to start a smartphone app for day laborers, a new digital tool with many uses: Workers will be able to rate employers (think Yelp or Uber), log their hours and wages, take pictures of job sites and help identify, down to the color and make of a car, employers with a history of withholding wages. They will also be able to send instant alerts to other workers. The advocacy group will safeguard the information and work with lawyers to negotiate payment.

The Team

  • Maria C. Figueroa
    Labor and Policy Research, School of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University
  • Legna J. Cabrera
    The Worker Institute, School of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University
  • New Immigrant Community Empowerment
    Organization dedicated to advancing the rights of immigrant workers in New York, Cornell Community Partner

In the News


DECEMBER 8, 2016 
This Artist-Designed App Helps Day Laborers Fight Wage Theft

NOVEMBER 29, 2016
Day Laborers Can Fight Wage Theft With This New Organizing App
– Fast Company

NOVEMBER 22, 2016
Phone app helps laborers report abuse, fight wage theft
 Cornell Chronicle 

JUNE 30, 2016
Immigrant laborers have a new tool to fight back against rampant wage theft in the US

MARCH 1, 2016
New Weapon in Day Laborers’ Fight Against Wage Theft: A Smartphone App
– The New York Times

MARCH 1, 2016 

New Smartphone App Helps Day Laborers Report Abuse & Fight Wage Theft
The Worker Institute 



Engaged Opportunity Grants

Supporting a wide range of community-engaged projects, from student leadership programs and partnership building to events and conference travel. Open to all faculty and staff.

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