Thursday, February 16, 2012

Your Workers' Center stops wage theft by working with workers, not for them

Your partnership with workers seeking justice: an insider's peek into WIN's Workers' Center

Delmar Vasquez appreciated that through the Workers' Center, "I got to be part of solving my problem."

     As WIN's Workers' Center takes on wage theft cases, we have two equally important goals: recovering wages, and building workers' power.

     In 2008, Delmar Vasquez contacted WIN's Workers' Center after a cleaning company refused to pay him for a month's worth of work. He soon learned that the Workers' Center would use labor laws to support his wage theft case. However, he would be much more involved in resolving his case than he would have been if he'd just contacted a lawyer.

    That's because one of the ideas that guides your Workers' Center is this: we're here to partner with workers in resolving their cases, not to do things for them.
    This means that when public actions such as vigils or pickets are planned, workers like Vasquez are expected to participate in them. While this new experience can be intimidating at first, workers often leave with a greater sense of the power they have to challenge injustice.

    Vasquez took part in a delegation to one of the businesses that he had cleaned while working for the cleaning contractor that owed him money. He also talked about his case at public forums on the crisis of wage theft. Now, he's become a member of the Steering Committee for WIN's Workers' Center. He frequently talks with other workers who face the same injustices he did, and he encourages them to speak out.

    Vasquez recovered the full $1,437 he was owed for his work. One of the things he appreciates most about his involvement in the Workers' Center goes beyond the wages he recovered. "I got to learn the facts more about my rights and how we can organize. I was not depending on someone else to solve my problem. At the Center, you get to be part of solving your problem," Vasquez says.

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