- Wed, May 16 2007
- Filed under: Writing
I’ve gotten some inspiring email from the posts on writing this week. I wanted to share some strong writing shared by Samantha, a top ten fundraiser who participated in Six Degrees and personally got 405 people to donate to Bet Tzedek.
Justice for Guillermo
It reads like a scene from a Dickens novel: A 17-year-old sews labels on clothes for 70 hours a week, without lunch or rest breaks, earning three cents for each piece he completes. The year? 2006. The place? Downtown Los Angeles.
Guillermo Martinez (name changed to protect client privacy) thought his job meant a chance to improve the lives of his mother and sisters in Guatemala. He didn’t realize that he would be physically abused and financially exploited.
Fortunately for Guillermo, Bet Tzedek’s Employment Rights Project (ERP) exists. Becky Monroe, ERP Attorney, and Matthew DeCarolis, a Social Justice Fellow in our Valley office, took Guillermo’s case and recently won a $44,000 judgment for him.
Guillermo is a slight young man of 5’5”. When he was hired, he was promised between two and six cents per clothing piece he completed. After a year on the job, Guillermo mustered the courage to question whether he was being credited with all of the pieces on which he labored. The floor manager’s response? To physically assault Guillermo and push him to the floor. Guillermo had to go to the hospital, and one year later, still receives treatments for his injury.
Guillermo then came to Bet Tzedek for help in getting his owed wages. Each week, he earned an average of $230, averaging out to less than $3.50 per hour. Based upon the California minimum wage and overtime rules, Guillermo’s work week should have earned him nearly $600 per week.
The Hearing Officer at the Labor Commissioner’s office conducted a hearing and reviewed all the evidence we presented. On cross-examination, the factory owner presented her defense: “If I paid minimum wage, then I could not make a profit.”
In mid-March, Guillermo received the Hearing Officer’s decision: Guillermo is entitled to receive $44,000, covering all wages and breaks claimed plus applicable penalties. The owner has been put on notice that she must comply with minimum wage laws or face exposure to other wage claims like Guillermo’s.