Asian Pacific American worker hearing hailed as labor milestone

Published on People’s World, by Susan Webb, November 17, 2009.

… After learning about their rights from representatives of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), Lau and three co-workers quit and joined the union. With the IBEW’s help, the four workers are suing the company for back wages in a class-action lawsuit. The company was also recently charged by the Alameda County District Attorney’s office with 48 felony counts, including massive wage theft, insurance fraud, forgery and perjury, involving millions of dollars. (See “Immigrant workers demand back wages from NBC Contractors.”)

“Our case highlights how immigrant workers, who may not speak English or know their rights, can be victimized by unscrupulous employers who cheat workers by not paying the proper wage,” Lau told the hearing. “It also shows how unions, in this case the IBEW, can and must play an instrumental role to assist immigrant workers in asserting our basic rights.” 

Ho said although he has worked for more than 20 years at the HEI Le Meridien Hotel in San Francisco, he will retire with no benefits and very little savings. He said he is fighting to form a union with Unite Here “so the next generation of hotel workers will be able to retire with dignity.”

John Delloro, APALA’s president, said, “Contrary to misperceptions about Asian Pacific Americans, segments of this workforce still experience a litany of abuses in their jobs and worksites, including wage theft, union suppression and immigrant worker exploitation.”

Asian American and Pacific Islander workers are “likely targets of labor violations in the workplace” because they are often isolated immigrants who may be unfamiliar with labor laws, do not speak English and fear the government, said Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif.

Other panelists included Jobs with Justice Executive Director Sarita Gupta, University of Maryland Asian American Studies Director Larry Shinagawa and United States Student Association President Greg Cendana … (full text).

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