The Labor Justice Committee held its first annual meeting on September 11, 2010 at Sacred Heart Church in El Paso. More than 30 people attended the meeting to discuss what we have accomplished through the past year and ways in which we hope to strengthen and expand our efforts in the upcoming year.
Members shared their own testimonies of how being a Committee member has helped them. One member, Rosalina, was working as a domestic worker in her employer’s home when her employer failed to pay her. As she said during the meeting, she tried to contact her employer on her own for eight months, but her employer never answered the telephone. “With the help of the committee, I was able to come to an agreement with my former employer and finally recovered my wages.” Rosalina said.
As we talked through everything we’ve accomplished, we realized we’ve had a very busy first year! Since it started in September, 2009, the Committee has held 51 weekly meetings and 52 people have joined our membership. We have successfully resolved 18 cases, and have recovered over $6,000 in unpaid wages only using the power of the Committee without any attorneys involved. We’ve held 16 silent vigils in support of aggrieved workers and have sent seven delegations to the homes or businesses of employers, all with the goal of helping employees negotiate the payment of their unpaid wages.
As you may know, in addition to recovering unpaid wages, we also want to make sure members of the community know their labor rights. To that end, Committee members have given 75 labor rights presentations to the community during the past year. We have also met with both media outlets and local officials regarding the problem of wage theft. Finally, Committee members have started a surveying campaign in collaboration with professors at the University of Texas at El Paso and the Border Network for Human Rights to interview low-wage workers about their experience with wage-theft.
When talking about the hopes and goals of the Committee in its second year, member Jose Luis stated, “We hope to publicize our stories to gain more power in our fight for justice in the workplace. We also want to work more closely with other grassroots organizations in El Paso like La Mujer Obrera, Border Network for Human Rights, and the Border Farmworker Union to work in solidarity with all workers in the region to better our working conditions. All workers should be paid justly for their work!”
As always, if you’re interested in getting involved, please contact us! We hold weekly meetings that are open to any community member who has a wage claim, and/or is otherwise interested in labor rights. During these meetings, committee members provide basic information on labor rights and work with new members to resolve their problems. Please don’t hesitate to call, email, or just show up at our Tuesday meetings if you want to join this important fight!