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PODCAST: Behind the reporting of our special investigation on 'raiteros'

In this special podcast, we go behind the scenes with ProPublica’s Michael Grabell and Marketplace's Jeff Tyler to hear the backstory of their reporting in Chicago’s Little Village, the largest Mexican community in the Midwest.  In Little Village, a network of so-called "raiteros" find and hire immigrants, many undocumented, but often charge those workers fees that push their pay below minimum wage.

Marketplace and ProPublica’s joint investigation, Taken for a Ride: Temp Agencies and 'Raiteros' in Immigrant Chicago, examines how some of America's best known companies are benefitting from this underworld of labor brokers.


FEATURE: Going for a ride with Chicago's 'raiteros'
In Chicago some of America’s best-known companies and largest temp agencies benefit from an underworld of labor brokers, known as "raiteros." Those raiteros charge workers fees, pushing their pay below minimum wage. Marketplace's Jeff Tyler Reports. Read more


"The biggest surprise was seeing the big well-known brand-name companies that were benefiting from this system," Grabell says in our 15-minute podcast interview. "We heard workers going to Ty Inc., the people who make Beanie Baby stuffed animals. We saw people going to work and cut vegetables for Fresh Express. We heard from workers who said they were packing products with labels for Frito Lay, Sony, on behalf WalMart."

"These are big-name companies," he added. "This wasn't fly-by-night temp agencies. It wasn’t your small, mom-and-pop factory that was doing this. These are the companies that really represent the American economy."

ProPublica and Marketplace contacted all of the companies identified in the investigation. None responded with comments.

On the challenges of finding sources for the story

After dozens of interviews and months of reporting, ProPublica approached Marketplace to help tell the story on the radio.

"I got involved in this story when ProPublica and Michael came to us and asked to collaborate with us," Tyler says. "Michael had already done a ton of research."

But telling the story on radio came with some unexpected challenges in Chicago, he says.

"For one thing, people get a lot more shy when they see a big microphone come out and a lot of people got skittish," Tyler says. "So even though I had lined up some interviews with people that Michael had already spoken to, a lot of those folks decided that they didn’t want to do another interview with a radio reporter." 

"I ended up working with a local person from the Chicago Workers Collaborative, and we went out in the Little Village neighborhood … and we just went up and down the street asking everybody that we saw ‘hey have you ever worked with these guys, do you know anybody who has and would like to speak with us’ and we found a number of good sources that way."

To hear more from Grabell and Tyler about their interviews and reporting on the ground in Chicago, click to listen.


Read the investigative report from ProPublica's Michael Grabell, and explore more features and background from his reporting on ProPublica.org. Read more from this investigation.

About the author

Jeff Tyler is a reporter for Marketplace’s Los Angeles bureau, where he reports on issues related to immigration and Latin America.
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And being one of many, many UN-EMPLOYED Honorably Discharged VETERANS , when I tried to contact our local, state and congressionally elected officials and news media organizatins about the " SILENT HORRIFIC-NESS " : everybody made it seem like I was just complaining, for no reason.
then the local government used improvements from STIMULUS Projects to increase my only home address I've ever had's PERSONAL PROPERTY REAL ESTATE TAXES, with 'OVER EXAGGERATED APPRAISALS" and everything they could to force me into HOMELESSNESS.

Worst when I've tried to collaborate with news media and my congressional delegations' staffs to try and get them to support a new 21st century W.P.A. ( WORKING PROGRESS ADMINSTRAITON ), to help chronically UNEMPLOYED VETERANS and American Citizens who are merely existing at a very fringe / thin line of survival. Hardly any takers, except my U.S. Senator Pat Robert's email response: but no in the U.S. HOUSE of REPRESENATIVES has a bill introduced to go to, the senate-
And virtually no news media, no national organizational structure and in the meanwhile local government and state officials are allowing VETERANs to be forced into HOMELESS due to "Over-Exaggerated Appraisals" from STIMULUS Project dollars that will NOT hire VETERANs, nor hire - or even interview chronically UNEMPLOYED American Citizens.
ALL we / I can do- is call the 24 hour per day: 7 day a week PRAYER-LINES and hope, with the greate of CONFIDENCE' that GOD continues to hear our PRAYERS.
AND all this in this reporters' article in the taped inter-view I have done this type of work, but any more I am the wrong race/
So I am very grateful, extremely apprecaitive to hear, that someONE is reporting what is being done that causes the secondary impacts of chronicaly UNEMPLOYED and EXTREME Poverty of VETERANS and American Citizens !!! The federal government, nor local or state government is not even making companies comply with SECTION 3 of H.U.D. regulations: meanwhile the VETERANs ADMININSTRATIOn adn other governmental entities who have their O.I.G. ( Offices of the INSPECTOR GENERALS ) pretty much DO noTHING to help VETERaNS when we do file complaints or submit INTERROGATIVES. So when your organizations carries a story like like this, it feels like GOD is answering my PRAYERS through and in-depth investigative new report, and I could NOT be more grateful and APPRECIATIVE !!! Tahnk you so, much-

Marvin S. Robinson, II
Quindaro Ruins / Underground Railroad- Exercise 2013

For a moment I thought Michael was talking about Juarez or Tijuana or any of the many border towns in Mexico. Those I have met personally in Mexico often work all day for nothing in the interior rancheros and move to the borders towns to work in the factories for better wages. The lucky ones get to come to the US. I guess not much different here. We should all be ashamed at how we treat our fellow human beings. To say " I am not aware of the practice" is like saying I didn't know it was against the law to discriminate. I mean really.

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