Victories and the National Day of Action against Wage Theft

November 9, 2010

It’s that time of year again!  Thursday, November 18th is the National Day of Action against Wage Theft.  The Day of Action is organized by Interfaith Worker Justice, a national organization committed improving working conditions for low-wage workers.   As you can see on their website, organizations around the country are holding actions around the country to raise the profile of wage theft and ensure employers know we’re fighting back!

This year, the Committee will be hosting the first annual Wage Theft Awards. Join us at the Federal Court Plaza (the corners of San Antonio Ave, Magoffin Ave., and Campbell Street) to show your support for workers rights in the El Paso region and find out the winners of our awards, all of whom stand out as egregious violators in a sea of unjust employers.   As of today, the event is being co-sponsored by Paso del Norte Civil Rights Project, the Retail Workers Rights Committee, Annunciation House, and the Asociación de Trabajadores Fronterizos.  If your organization is interested in being a co-sponsor, please contact Shalini Thomas at shalini.e.thomas@gmail.com or call us at 915-532-3799 x 10.

We hope to see you there!

In other news, a big congratulations to Labor Justice Committee member Landy Mendoza who successfully sued her employer in Justice of the Peace court!

Paso del Norte Civil Rights Project law clerk Jillian Tuck, Labor Justice Committee member Josefina Torres, PDN Economic Justice Advocate Alyssa Telander, Committee member Landy Mendoza, and PDN Economic Justice Attorney Chris Benoit outside JP Court after their victory!

Landy came to the Committee because her employer hadn’t paid her in over two months.  As we talked about her case, we realized that even when her employer was paying her, he was paying her less than minimum wage. After accepting her case,  the Committee contacted Landy’s employer, Hector Sanchez.  Mr. Sanchez initially agreed to negotiate with Landy and the Committee.  While he admitted he owed her wages multiple times, he continually refused to pay her.  After two negotiations, Mr. Sanchez stopped responding to Committee phone calls.    The Committee held multiple vigils outside of Ms. Sanchez’ business address, but he still refused to respond.

Finally, the Committee decided to take the case to Justice of the Peace court.  As it was our first case in front of JP Court, we asked Paso del Norte Civil Rights attorney Chris Benoit for his assistance.  Thanks to his efforts, along with Landy’s courage, and testimony from Labor Justice Committee member Josefina Torres, Landy won a judgment against Mr. Sanchez for unpaid wages, damages, and attorney’s fees!

As we grow, we are finding more ways and having more successes in recovering unpaid and underpaid wages.   However, we can’t do this on our own!  We hope you join us at the National Day of Action against Wage Theft as we not only call on employers to stop their abuses, but also call on public officials at the Department of Labor to enforce the laws we have, and make changes to better protect workers.


Rally for Justice!

March 20, 2010

The Labor Justice Committee recently rallied to support Maria Rodriguez*, a Committee member whose ex-employer was refusing to pay her the wages she was owed.  Despite the rain and almost freezing temperatures, the Committee held a candlelight vigil outside of the bar where Ms. Rodriguez had worked.  This action, one of the many tools the Committee uses to recover unpaid wages, successfully convinced the employer to pay Ms. Rodriguez the wages she was owed.

Ms. Rodriguez’ case demonstrate why the Committee is so important in El Paso.  Ms. Rodriguez had been asking to be paid the wages she was owed for over a month, but her ex-employer refused.  Ms. Rodriguez came to us for assistance, but even after multiple letters and phone calls, the employer refused to even meet with her former employee.  Finally, after waiting for over a month without progress, members of the Committee held a peaceful, silent vigil outside of the bar to pressure the employer to negotiate with Ms. Rodriguez.

The Committee stayed outside the bar for over 45 minutes, explaining to passers-by why they were there.  The next morning, the bar owner called the Committee saying she wanted to pay the wages she owed, and Ms. Rodriguez was paid in full the day after.  “The bar owner refused to meet with Maria,” said Josefina Torres, another committee member.  “She was ignoring her phone calls, and obviously thought she didn’t have to pay the wages Maria earned.  That’s why we started the committee – to show employers they can no longer commit these crimes with impunity.”   “If it weren’t for the committee,” Ms. Rodriguez said, “I never would have gotten my wages.”


Recent Victories!

November 2, 2009

As the below Diario article mentions, the Labor Justice Committee has already had multiple victories!  Our most recent victories were for a construction worker who wasn’t paid for two days of work, and for a restaurant worker who was receiving less than minimum wage.  As we move forward with more cases we are showing employers that no one is above the law!

Paso del Norte Civil Rights Project and the Labor Justice Committee win at least 5 worker rights cases

Alberto Ponce de León
El Diario de El Paso

(Read the Spanish version here!)

At least five El Paso workers, the majority of whom are undocumented, have won labor disputes against their ex–employers through negotiations with the help of Paso Del Norte Civil Rights Project, said the labor justice advocate with the organization, Chris Benoit.

The recovered money for each employee, just during the short time the organization has been taking labor cases, has been between $200 and $1,500, he affirmed. In one of the successful cases, says Benoit, two workers that worked for the same company won a settlement of $8,000, although that hasn’t been paid in full yet.

“We’ve won five or six cases since August 24th, when we started,” he said. “The majority have involved the non-payment of wages, but there has been a mix, because some of them were also receiving less than minimum wage.”

The workers include domestic workers, who regularly cross the border between Ciudad Juarez and El Paso to work in homes where they are mistreated or receive payments that violate labor laws, said the organization’s specialist on labor laws.

At least five El Paso workers, the majority of whom are undocumented, have won labor disputes against their ex–employers through negotiations with the help of Paso Del Norte Civil Rights Project, said the labor justice advocate with the organization, Chris Benoit.

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