Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Boss to workers: 'If you go to Sacramento, we will follow you'

Union-busting lawyers followed low-paid dairy workers to the Statehouse in Sacramento last week and watched as they testified about abuse by their employer. The workers are immigrants who voted to join Teamsters Local 517 last year. They work for the Marquez Brothers, maker of El Mexicano brand products.

They were participating in a hearing about abusive bosses who turn immigrant workers over to federal authorities before the Assembly Labor and Employment Committee.

"It is shocking and sad that high-priced lawyers would stoop to this," said Rome Aloise, president of Teamsters Joint Council 7 in San Francisco. "To follow low-paid immigrant workers into a state Assembly hearing room is just about as low as it gets."

Also testifying was Ashley Alvarado, secretary-treasurer of Local 601 and the Teamsters Cannery Council,  representing more than 15,000 primarily Latino workers in the industry:
All immigrants should be treated with respect, but that is not what is happening in our state. Employees should be protected against harassment from employers, but even today, in this very room, employers feel that they can intimidate their employees.
Art Pulaski, executive secretary-treasurer of the California Labor Federation, called out the lawyers from the notorious union-busting firm, Littler Mendelson:
They are sitting behind the workers right now in the third row...let us witness the kind of intimidation that exists for workers every day. that they must get followed just to speak the truth in Sacramento by their employers and their attorneys. 
Committee Chair Roger Hernandez, D-West Covina, threatened to subpoena Marquez Brothers CEO Gustavo Marquez and explain why the workers were intimidated for exercising their right of free speech:
Shame on the employers for spending thousands of dollars to intimidate low-paid workers.
The Los Angeles Times reported on the hearing:
Alarmed that abusive bosses are increasingly threatening to turn employees over to U.S. authorities when they complain about working conditions, state lawmakers and immigrant-rights advocates are calling for tougher laws to combat the practice...
Undocumented, low-wage workers, mainly in the service, agriculture and housekeeping industries, are particularly vulnerable to employer retaliation, said ...Pulaski ...They are often fired. Their wages are stolen, and they're threatened with sexual abuse," Pulaski said. "All because employers know they can get away with it.
The Times also cited reports of wage theft and intimidation. For example, one day laborer was hired to pave a parking lot. The contractor not only refused to pay him but accused him of stealing. When the worker called the police, they turned him over to federal immigration officials.