Little Village on Chicago's west side in the early morning hours of Jan. 18, 2013. Workers board a yellow school bus owned by the raitero Rigo.
Little Village on Chicago's west side in the early morning hours of Jan. 18, 2013. Workers board a yellow school bus owned by the raitero Rigo. - 

CHICAGO — Ty Inc. became one of the world’s largest manufacturers of stuffed animals thanks to the Beanie Babies craze in the 1990s.

But it has stayed on top partly by using an underworld of labor brokers known as raiteros, who pick up workers from Chicago’s street corners and shuttle them to Ty’s warehouse on behalf of one of the nation’s largest temp agencies.

The system provides just-in-time labor at the lowest possible cost to large companies — but also effectively pushes workers’ pay far below the minimum wage.

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RELATED: Marketplace teamed up with ProPublica for a special joint investigation to examine the active "raitero" system in Chicago’s Little Village, the largest Mexican community in the Midwest. Follow more coverage in our series Taken for a Ride: Temp Agencies and ‘Raiteros’ in Immigrant Chicago.

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

LISTEN: The Backstory
Marketplace reporter Jeff Tyler and ProPublica's Michael Grabell answer questions about their investigation, finding sources and reporting in this special Marketplace podcast. Listen

Nickel and dimed
Imagine paying a fee to work. Paying a fee to get your paycheck cashed. In one neighborhood in Chicago, workers face financial hurdles because of a system of labor brokers. Marketplace’s Jeff Tyler reports. Read more

The business risks of subcontracting (coming Tuesday)
Subcontracting is nothing new in the economy. In Chicago, some companies contract with temp firms, which then subcontract with underground labor brokers to recruit workers. How do these middlemen save money for their employers? Marketplace's Jeff Tyler reports.

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