Protection for abused Pinoy workers in California urged

By Henni Espinosa, ABS-CBN North America News Bureau

Posted at Mar 30 2010 05:27 PM | Updated as of Mar 31 2010 01:27 AM

SAN FRANCISCO, California - In commemoration of International Workers Rights Month in April, Filipino community groups are rallying behind abused Filipino caregivers.

The Filipino Advocates for Justice is campaigning for a California law that would uphold the rights of abused workers.

If passed, this new law would become the Bill of Rights for caregivers and domestic workers in California.

The Filipino Advocates for Justice is also demanding federal workplace protections for caregivers and domestic workers, within the United States Department of Labor.

Meantime, the Filipino Community Center (FCC) is calling on undocumented Filipino caregivers and domestic workers to stand up for their rights.

The group said that there are about 53,000 Filipinos in San Francisco, and about 13,000 have no legal immigration status. And because they are undocumented, many of them are abused.

Bernadette Herrera, FCC caregiver outreach coordinator said most of those who are abused are live-in caregivers and domestic workers.

“Many of them are paid flat-rates that are such small salaries compared to the work that they do. For example, they only get $1,000 dollars a month, when they barely sleep and are required to work 24 hours a day,” Herrera said.

Terry Valen, executive director of the FCC said besides wage theft, these employers abuse the workers with threats of deportation.

“Many of them are trafficked, are held against their will. But they feel they have no choice because of their status,” Valen said.

Recently, the FCC supported 2 abused Filipino caregivers who filed a lawsuit before the Department of Labor Standards Enforcement against their employers, demanding back wages.

Valen said the complainants and their lawyers have already met with their employers before labor officials last Friday. The employers have refused to settle and acknowledge that the workers have been abused. The case is going to court, which will then determine whether to award monetary damages to the workers or not.

The FCC reminds all Filipino workers that even if they are undocumented, their rights as workers are protected under United States laws.

Abused workers who come out of the shadows are given help by the FCC through temporary shelter and free legal help. Balitang America