Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Marquez Bros. could face stiffer fine for harassing immigrant workers

Our favorite anti-union attorney
followed a Teamster to the
state Capitol.
California companies like the Marquez Brothers have a nasty way of challenging immigrant workers' legal status if they complain about being exploited. Those companies would pay stiff fines for doing so under two pieces of state legislation that have a chance of becoming law.

Penalties would be increased for companies that retaliate against employees who question their pay or working conditions under AB 263, offered by Assemblyman Roger Hernandez (D-West Covina), and SB 666, sponsored by Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento).  Hernandez's bill would hike fines against employers who retaliate against workers to $10,000 per worker and make retaliation a misdemeanor punishable by jail time. Steinberg's measure would subject attorneys to discipline or disbarment for retaliation.

Both bills passed through committee and are headed for votes on the full floor of the Assembly and the Senate.
Teamsters Local 517 organized Hanford-based Marquez Brothers last year and are still fighting for a first contract. The cheese factory owners are waging a vicious anti-union campaign. It went so far as to brazenly harass its workers in a government hearing in March. Two high-priced union-buster attorneys followed a Marquez Brothers employee -- a Teamster -- into an Assembly hearing room in Sacramento when she was set to testify about the company's actions.

Sister Candida Vanegas, who worked at the plant for three and a half years, was fired for attending Hernandez’s hearing and supporting unionization.

She told radio station KQED:
Everybody’s scared now. They’re saying, if it happened to her who was trying to help out people, what’s going to happen to us.
Chester Suniga, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 517, said the union is asking for a minimum wage at the Hanford plant of $12 an hour. According to Suniga, the two sides have not reached an agreement on a contract after months of negotiations because of the company’s stalling tactics.
We urge all supporters of workers' rights in California to contact their state lawmakers and tell them to vote for AB 263 and SB 666. Whistleblowers shouldn't be punished for turning in cheating corporations.
You can find your legislator here.