More clinics scheduled
• Will be from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. the fourth Monday of each month, starting July 26, at Plymouth Congregational Church, 925 Vt.
• Volunteers and lawyers will be available to assist those who have been unfairly treated by their employers.
• Bilingual interpreters will be available.
• Volunteers are still needed for the clinics, and a volunteer training will be from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday at the church.
• For more information, call 843-3220, ext. 14, or e-mail email@example.com.
They clean our dishes, cook our meals and grow our food.
But lower-wage — and particularly immigrant — workers don’t always get paid for all the work they do in our community.
It’s called “wage theft,” and several area workers who have experienced it shared their stories Saturday at the first Lawrence Worker Justice Coalition meeting at Plymouth Congregational Church, 925 Vt.
Juan Miguel Turcios, an undocumented immigrant from Honduras, gave one example of how businesses in Lawrence treat such workers unfairly. Turcios, who has been in the United States four years, said he was recently hurt on the job. That injury led to an infection and a $4,000 hospital visit — an expense his employer won’t pay, and one he can’t.
It’s a story that’s becoming more and more common and was the catalyst for Saturday’s meeting and future worker justice clinics, said Shannon Gorres, director of Hispanic ministries at Plymouth.
“We continue to hear stories of workers not being paid,” she said.
Gorres said those stories of wage theft include employers simply not paying employees for weeks and months at a time, using wages as rent in homes the employers own, and denying overtime and minimum wage. “They think they have no leverage,” Gorres said.
But Saturday’s meeting was a first step to empower area workers to fight for better treatment. Monthly worker justice clinics, featuring lawyers, volunteers and advocates, will help low-wage workers understand their rights. The clinics will also serve as an entry point for worker rights complaints.
Adam Huggins, a representative for the U.S. Department of Labor, spoke at the meeting and said his agency wants to help workers obtain fair wages and treatment, whether they’re U.S. citizens or undocumented workers. The department has started a new campaign called “We can help” that encourages workers to make complaints when labor laws are violated.
Getting education and awareness out to the community is also vital, Gorres said, as the community may not realize such unfair treatment of workers happens here in Lawrence.
And she thinks the Lawrence community would be outraged if they knew some of the area businesses they frequent don’t treat workers fairly.
“I don’t want to eat food made with slave labor,” she said. “Support businesses that support ethical employment practices.”