Demanding Justice for Susaki Workers

May 4, 2012
en español

As we mentioned both here and on our Facebook page, we recently took action against Susaki Lounge for their alleged pattern of unpaid wages.  As we hope is clear, the Labor Justice Committee is committed to fighting for worker justice in the El Paso area.  As I’m sure you all have seen, Susaki Lounge owes money to at least two members of the Labor Justice Committee.  We have seen very strong evidence that makes us believe he owes many Susaki workers and former workers.  If this is true, we believe this pattern of wage theft, along with other issues, is worthy of police attention.  We have already submitted one member’s case to the police for criminal prosecution.  But we need help. We need more Susaki workers to come forward.  The only way we can make sure Susaki owner Jose Fernandez faces justice is if workers are willing to talk.  Without your voices, without your stories, Susaki Lounge can continue stealing money from workers.  If you are owed money by Susaki Lounge, please contact us at 915-209-2551 or via email at shalini@justicialaboral.org.

(For the original article in Spanish,  click here.)

Protesting a Japanese Restaurant for Labor Abuse

Francisco Alarcon
El Diario de El Paso | 27-04-2012 | 00:21

Approximately 20 people met yesterday close to Japanese restaurant Susaki Lounge, on the east side, to protest the business’ alleged “appalling and criminal” practices against their workers, specifically lack of wages.

At the protest, Maya Sanchez, Susaki ex-manager, said she would submit a police report asking for her unpaid wages.  Around her, members of the Labor Justice Committee stood near Lee Trevino Street and showed their support for Maya with signs asking for a boycott against the Japanese restaurant.

“When I was there, I saw almost all the servers and bartenders get paid less than promised, every single week.  The owner, “Joe,” always said he was short on cash and that he would pay them later,” she said.  “He has been getting away with this for too long and I know if I sued him or just protested, he would ignore me.  That’s why I’m going to the police.  They are the only ones who I think he’ll listen to,” she added.

Regarding this, a representative of the Labor Justice Committee said that as of September, the police have said that they will be accepting wage theft cases for criminal prosecution.  “We believe this is a strong criminal case.  By failing to pay his workers, we believe he’s showing a clear intent to violate the law,” said Lidia Cruz.

In fact, according to research done by the committee, this case is not the first of its kind for the business owner, as, they say, there are multiple judgments against him for unpaid debts.

Sanchez said that she faced indifference when she asked for the wages she was owed.  “He didn’t pay attention to me when I went in to ask for my wages, but hopefully this publicity will pressure him to pay me and change the way he runs his business,” she said.

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Convenio Estatal de Trabajadores

February 6, 2012

Last weekend we had an amazing experience in Austin with Workers Defense Project and Interfaith Worker Justice!  Committee members Lidia Cruz and Shalini Thomas, along with Paso del Norte Civil Rights Project (PCRP) Economic Justice Advocate Tom Power spent the day in Austin for the first (hopefully annual!) meeting of Texas worker centers.  We got to hear from the other worker centers regarding their leadership development courses, the strategies they use to fight for worker justice in their own towns, and some of their recent victories.  We also had a great discussion that will help us all plan how we want to focus our energies and campaigns in the coming months.

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A HUGE thank you to Emily Timm and the rest of the PDL staff for a great day!

In other news, we have a new Mesa Directiva (Executive Committee).  As you may know, the Committee holds elections every 6 months to determine who will be our First and Second Representatives, Secretary, and Treasurer.  The Committee thought that the last Mesa Directiva was doing such a fantastic job that we voted almost unanimously to re-elect the current members.  Unfortunately, our Secretary, Rosa Chavez, had to decline the honor, so the Committee elected Omar Uribe to the position of Secretary.  Congratulations Omar and the rest of the Mesa Directiva!

From left to right, Treasurer Gerardo Hernandez, Secretary Omar Uribe, Second Representative Josefina Torres, and First Representative Lidia Cruz

Finally, we just wanted to throw up the rest of the press we generated surrounding the recent announcement that Wage Theft will now be prosecuted criminally.
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El Paso City Council Supports a Resolution Against Wage Theft!

December 2, 2011

A BIG thank you to the Coalition against Wage Theft and all of its supports and allies.  Thanks to our hard work, the El Paso City Council unanimously passed a resolution on Tuesday recognizing the severity of the wage theft epidemic in El Paso and committing to finding a local solution to fight this problem.  Of course, while it is a HUGE victory, we will keep pushing the City Council until we finally have an ordinance and workers in El Paso have somewhere to turn to recover their stolen wages.

The Coalition against Wage Theft includes:

Annunciation House
Asociación de Trabajadores Fronterizos
Border Network for Human Rights
Catholic Diocese of El Paso
El Paso Building and Construction Trades Council
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers LU 583
Labor Justice Committee
Laborers International Union of North America
Paso del Norte Civil Rights Project
Sheet Metal Workers Local 49

The Campaign’s supporters include:

Black El Paso Democrats
Border Agricultural Workers Project
Diocesan Migrant and Refugee Service
East Side Democrats
El Paso Grassroots
El Paso Stonewall Young Democrats
El Paso Young Democrats
Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Project
LionStar Blog

For pictures and our press release, see our facebook page!

Also, in case you missed it, here’s a roundup of the press coverage!

The City Takes its First Step against Wage Theft

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

One in every 8 El Paso workers has been the victim of wage theft, and one in every 5 workers is paid less than what the law says, which is why the City took its first step to control this epidemic that hits new victims every day.

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Protesting Good Coffee Mexican Restaurant

May 19, 2011

DOZENS OF WORKERS PROTEST LOCAL LUNCH SPOT TO RECOVER UNPAID WAGES AND TO DENOUNCE RETALIATION

Over twenty people protested in front of Good Coffee Mexican Restaurant, located at 1730 Montana Avenue, demanding payment of unpaid overtime compensation for workers of the restaurant.  The Labor Justice Committee and Border Network for Human Rights (BNHR) rallied behind a former employee who is attempting to recover thousands of dollars in unpaid wages for several years of work.

In connection with the rally, Paso del Norte Civil Rights Project filed a lawsuit on behalf of Teresa Avila, a former employee of the restaurant, demanding thousands of dollars in unpaid overtime pay and damages for retaliatory actions taken by the employer to silence Ms. Avila.  Dominguez & Coyle, PLLC is also representing the Plaintiff.

“I worked for Good Coffee for several years and often worked over forty hours per week.  My employer never paid me my overtime wages and even failed to pay me at all in the last week of my employment,” said Ms. Avila. “When I tried to recover my wages, my employer automatically threatened to sue me for defamation unless I backed down.  But I’m not going to back down.  He owes me these wages and we will recover them.”

Restaurant employees must receive at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour and overtime pay for all hours worked over 40 hours per week.  Overtime pay is time and a half of the promised hourly rate.

“We want all workers to be paid the legal wage.  But we also wholeheartedly denounce the efforts of employers to silence workers who are only trying to recover their just wage,” said Abelardo Lopez, First Representative of the Labor Justice Committee, as he held up a sign that read “We Support Workers’ Rights to Overtime.”

Members of the Labor Justice Committee, Border Network for Human Rights, and Paso del Norte Civil Rights Project, after the protest

(For the original article in Spanish,  click here.)

Community Protests Workers Unpaid Wages

Staff
El Diario de El Paso | 13-05-2011 | 00:00

Over twenty people held a protest outside “Good Coffee Mexican Restaurant,” located at Montana and Williams in Central El Paso, to protest unpaid overtime wages owed to an employee that worked for the company for three years. Supported by the Labor Justice Committee, Teresa Ávila demanded that the owners pay her unpaid overtime wages for the hours she worked as a cook. 

“I am here to exercise my rights as a worker. I worked for this man for three years. He didn’t pay me time and a half for the overtime hours I worked. I want my stolen salary,” said the ex-employee of the restaurant, while carrying a sign that said, “Work Completed, Work Paid.”

Foto:Juan Torres/El Diario de El Paso, Obreros en protesta

The victim, who is 52 years old and a mother of two children, said that she had attempted to negotiate wages with her ex-employer to reach an agreement, but she only received threats. For this reason, she decided to ask for help in demanding her labor rights.

Shalini Thomas, representative of the Labor Justice Committee, explained that the protest in support of Ávila was organized to pressure the owners to comply with the law. A lawsuit was also filed on behalf of Ms. Ávila by Paso del Norte Civil Rights Project.

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Domestic Workers Sue to Recover Unpaid Wages

January 8, 2010

Despite the lack of posts, we’re still making waves in El Paso!

On Wednesday, two committee members, with the help of Paso del Norte Civil Rights Project, filed suits to recover over $60,000 in unpaid wages.

ABC affiliate KVIA covered the suits (to read their article, click here):

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We were also featured in The Diario!

(For the original article in Spanish, click here.  For another Spanish article published by EFE on MSN Latino, click here )

Two Domestic Workers Sue Their Employers

Alberto Ponce de León
El Diario de El Paso | 07-01-2010 | 00:58 | El Paso

Yesterday, two domestic workers sued their respective employers in the El Paso County Court for having been paid less than the US federal minimum wage.

Chris Benoit, labor law specialist with Paso del Norte Civil Rights Project, the organization that represents them both, said that together, the suits are for more than $60,000.  Unjustly, he explained, one of them was underpaid by over $40,000 for the time she worked, and the other was underpaid by at least $20,000.

“One worked for 10 years and the other for 4.  Their employers never paid them minimum wage nor overtime”, said Benoit.  “One of them received $150 a week for over 50 hours of work, and the other received $120.”

On September 15, 2009, Paso del Norte Civil Rights Project started the Economic Justice Program with the goal of helping all workers whose labor rights are being violated in the United States. Read the rest of this entry »


Pushing for Criminal Prosecution

December 1, 2009

The Committee, along with various local organization including Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center, recently held a rally to raise the profile of wage theft in El Paso, and to ask District Attorney Jaime Esparza to meet with us to discuss prosecution of wage theft as a criminal matter.   Many media outlets covered us, including Univision 26 and El Diario!

Two of our members discuss why they joined the committee, and why they are holding this rally!

Border Network for Human Rights Executive Director Fernando Garcia talks wage theft!

To learn more (and to see pictures)

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Press Conference 11.12

November 24, 2009

The Committee held its first press conference on Thursday, November 12th, to support a member as she filed her wage theft claim in court!

To learn more (and see our picture) Read the rest of this entry »