PH consulate launching labor rights campaign in US
LOS ANGELES - Los Angeles is one of the biggest hubs of Philippine overseas workers in the US. But with a large work force, the possibilities for labor abuse are high.
"We've had workers where they weren't paid for 3 months but then couldn't leave their consumers or they're always paid very late or they haven't received their wages for over a month. Or they're being paid less than minimum wage," said Aqui Sorian Versoza of the Pilipino Workers Center.
With many Filipinos facing problems at work, the Philippine consulate is stepping in, creating a partnership with local labor officials.
"Encourage the Filipino community to be aware of their labor rights. We are training our own personnel in the consulate to be able to understand these issues so when some of our kababayans come to the consulate, we are able to give them a more direct and more focused reply on how to help them," said Consul General Ma. Helen Barber Dela Vega.
Many labor experts and officials agree that while labor abuse can happen in any industry it is very rampant among caregivers. Home health care has been the most vulnerable resulting in long breakless hours, and lost wages.
Department of Labor and Employment officials have launched their own awareness campaign and investigations into health care agencies.
"We do more directive strategic industries and one of those too is in home health care for health care workers, in janitorial, agriculture and garment," said Justin Emerick of the US Department of Labor.
Violated Filipino workers in many sectors have been able to resolve their cases especially within the past two years including Glendale City official Edith Fuentes who won a discrimination settlement against her employer, while a group of nurses successfully settled with a Fresno hospital after they were told not to speak Tagalog.
Individual caregivers as well have been successfully winning back wages from their employers. But officials, advocates, and the consulate believe there is a much needed first step for justice at the work place.
"You need to come forward if you feel your rights are being violated, you're not being paid properly, you feel you're discriminated. Whatever it is, you need to come forward. One person just needs to come forward the rest can be impacted," said Kimchi Bui of the Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division.