Federal Initiative Augments California Labor Law
Judy Chu, Representative for the State of California, applauded the olive branch.
"Today's decision by the US Department of Labor is a bold step in addressing our nation's immigration challenge as it relates to unscrupulous employers illegally taking advantage of immigrant workers," Chu said in a statement released April 28 by States News Service. "This practice is far too common and it hurts immigrant workers and it undercuts American workers. No longer will immigrant workers be enslaved out of fear of deportation by abusive employers who refuse to treat them by the standard that the law requires.
"This decision will allow immigrant workers to come out of the shadows, leave cruel working conditions behind and find jobs where they are treated with the dignity and respect every worker in America deserves."
A survey was initiated with the assistance of 4,000 workers in three major centers around the country. Los Angeles was one of them. The survey found that almost half of workers who filed a justified complaint against their employer or attempted to form a union were subjected to various forms of undue retaliation. Among the illegal responses on the part of unsavory employers were threats to call immigration officials, threats of deportation or actual retaliatory firings. Such responses fly in the face, for Los Angeles respondents at least, of California labor code.
The same survey found that respondents were losing, combined, an incredible $56.4 million per week as a result of various labor law violations and - in California - violations to California and labor law.
Among the alleged violations revealed in the survey: 26 percent of workers had not been paid the minimum wage in the workweek preceding the survey. Of those having worked more than 40 hours in the preceding week, 76 percent were not paid overtime as outlined in binding labor law statutes.
The US Department of Labor initiative would also bode well for legitimate companies and employers who play by the rules, but which are being adversely affected by those employers undercutting the system by violating California labor employment law.
Under terms of the plan, immigrant workers willing to aid in the investigation of unscrupulous employers would be eligible for a U Visa - a document that would allow an immigrant worker to remain in the US for a total of four years, and providing a pathway for an application of permanent residency.
California state labor laws are designed to protect workers from exploitation. This US Department of Labor initiative - albeit federal - would augment efforts by the state of California to protect worker's rights, and pursue those employers engaged in illegal activity in violation of California employee labor law.