The LA Worker Center Network to advocate for workers’ rights, protect wage theft victims
With its rich community of immigrant and low-wage workers, the city of Los Angeles boasts itself on being an advocate for workers rights.
To affirm that role, this month the city announced the establishment of a new alliance of workers rights organizations called the LA Worker Center Network, which strives to provide necessary resources to low-wage workers.
The network has a specific role in combating wage theft and enforcing workers’ rights laws, including the county-wide minimum wage increase set for Saturday, July 1.
“Honest work, fair pay!” the crowd full of members of labor organizations chanted at a press conference at the Pilipino Workers Network (PWC) on Wednesday, June 28.
“Workers centers, in Los Angeles especially, have been at the forefront of workers’ rights, of immigrants’ rights,” Meagan Ortiz of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) said. “Many of the organizations here today have been working for a decade together on that intersection.”
Organizations included in the network include the PWC, NDLON, Bet Tzedek Legal Services, Central American Resource Center (CARECEN-LA), CLEAN Carwash LA, Garment Worker Center (GWC), Instituto de Educacion Popular del Sur de California (IDEPSCA), Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance (KIWA), LA Black Worker Center (LABWC), Restaurant Opportunities Center of LA (ROC-LA), Strategic Concepts in Organizing and Policy Education (SCOPE) and the UCLA Labor Center.
Along with government officials, the network strives to uphold workers’ rights and provide assistance to all low-wage workers who have not been paid the wage they deserve. The network has the full support of the city and county, both of which have made combating wage theft a top priority in recent years.
The announcement coincided with the minimum wage increase that was approved last year. On Saturday, July 1, the minimum wage for small businesses that employ 25 employees or less will increase to $10.50/hour; for businesses that employ 26 or more employees, the minimum wage will increase to $12/hour.
Every year, the minimum wage is set to slowly increase until it reaches $15/hour, pursuant to the approved bill.
“We are here to make sure that all workers that are entitled to the minimum wage are paid the minimum wage, and we will hold those businesses accountable for not doing so,” said Director of the LA County Department of Consumer Affairs Brian Stiger, who emphasized that the city and county will provide assistance to any worker regardless of immigration status.
Despite the celebration of the LA Worker Center Network’s commitment to combating wage theft — which afflicts many Filipino caregivers in the county — Lolita Lledo, associate director of the PWC, believes that the city doesn’t do enough to enforce laws that protect overtime pay.
“We appreciate what the city has done for wage theft, but the city and county have not tackled overtime violations, which is usually large and that’s the cause of exploitation of home care workers, many of whom are live-in caregivers,” Lledo told the Asian Journal.
According to Lledo, the process of reporting an overtime violation isn’t as stringent as it should be. Once a violation is reported, the city checks to see if the employer followed minimum wage laws. To combat an overtime violation, workers must file a complaint with the state, which takes much longer.
“It is not correct to only look into minimum wage requirements but to also consider the overtime violations because they go together. It’s outrageous that you have to go to two separate places to complain about two things which go together,” Lledo said. (Klarize Medenilla/AJPress)