KQED Exposes Widespread Abuse and Retaliation Against Immigrant Workers

“Employers harass and intimidate immigrant workers at legislative hearing on employers who harass and intimidate immigrant workers”

Sounds like a headline from a satire website, but in fact, this is precisely what happened at a recent committee hearing on AB 263 (Hernandez). The bill, backed by the California Labor Federation and Teamsters Joint Council 7, would protect immigrant workers who speak up for fair wages and working conditions from abuse, retaliation and threats of deportation – a practice that’s become far too common in California. So common, in fact, that it was on full display inside the AB 263 hearing, where immigrant workers who came to testify about the harassment and retaliation they see and experience at work were intimidated by their employer’s high-priced lawyers.

According to a new report from KQED Public Radio:

Hernandez says members of the legislature actually got to witness worker retaliation at a hearing on the issue in the Assembly Labor and Employment Committee, which he chairs, in March. Among those testifying were workers from Marquez Brothers cheese plant in Hanford. Shipping clerk Candida Vanegas helped lead the effort to unionize the plant.

“We told our people, we’re going to go to Sacramento to show you guys we shouldn’t be afraid anymore,” says Venegas. “But then we were afraid ourselves.”

Vanegas and Hernandez say company lawyers showed up to the Sacramento hearing and sat behind the workers, trying to intimidate them again.

“Let me make one thing clear,” Hernandez told the audience at the hearing.  “I find it really ironic and outrageous that as we sit here today discussing employer intimidation and harassment of employees who seek to find justice in their workplace that these employers would hire high-priced attorneys to come out and follow their employees here today.”

Vanegas is a U.S. citizen, but she says she was standing up for her immigrant co-workers. She was fired shortly after the hearing in Sacramento.

“Everybody’s scared now,” says Vanegas. “They’re saying, if it happened to her who was trying to help out people, what’s going to happen to us?

Hernandez’s committee has launched a formal investigation based on Vanegas’s claims.

Listen to the full KQED story here.

Candida and her co-workers shouldn’t have to experience such abuse from their employer – and neither should anyone else, regardless as to their place of birth or immigration status. These bad employers ought to be held accountable when they threaten and mistreat immigrant workers who stand up for fair wages and working conditions. That’s why California Labor is aggressively pushing for passage of AB 263 and SB 666, to ensure immigrant workers are no longer treated like second-class citizens. Both bills have passed through committee and are headed for full floor votes.

Learn more about AB 263 and SB 666.