Thursday, September 12, 2013

No ICE for Calif. employers

The Teamsters are hailing the passage of a trio of California bills this week that protect immigrant workers from abusive employers. The measures crack down on retaliation when workers attempt to organize or speak out against unfair treatment or wage theft. They now head to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk for his consideration.

The governor has until Oct. 13 to act on all three bills.
AB 263, offered by Assemblyman Roger Hernandez, and SB 666, sponsored by Sen. Darrell Steinberg, are identical versions of the same bill. They help enforce basic labor laws by barring bosses from calling Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials after working condition complaints are filed against the business. AB 524, offered by Assemblyman Kevin Mullin, prohibits similar threats against workers who file complaints about not being paid fairly.
Art Pulaski, the California Labor Federation’s executive secretary-treasurer, said the legislation plays an essential role:
Employers should be on notice that with these bills, retaliating against workers who stand up for their basic rights will have serious consequences. These new protections are vital to protecting all workers who are afraid to report these abuses.
The lengths companies will go to in an effort to keep their workers quiet was on full display earlier this year during a committee hearing. Owners of the Marquez Brothers cheese facility in Hanford intimidated one worker who testified before the Assembly Labor and Employment Committee in March. The company hired notorious labor-hating law firm Littler Mendelson to follow her and other employees who attended the hearing in Sacramento. The testifying employee, a mother of four, was later fired by Marquez.
Workers at the Marquez plant have been trying to negotiate a first contract as Teamsters for about a year, to no avail. But at least the company’s workers will be allowed to speak out, said Gerardo Aguirre, a former Marquez worker who was fired while standing up for his rights:
The workers at Marquez Brothers are united in standing up to intimidation, at work and in the state legislature. We need laws that allow all workers to speak up and protect immigrant workers from these kinds of abuses.
Gov. Brown has until Oct. 13 to sign them into law.