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Stolen Wages Returned for 3 Hotel Workers, Highlighting Need To Fight Wage Theft

Working Mass - Sun, 2023-01-22 15:39

By Paul Garver

Metrowest Worker Center Recovers Wages for 3 Hotel Workers

Wakefield, MA — On December 20th, workers and supporters demanded managers pay back wages when they made a surprise visit at the Five Points Marriott Hotel in Wakefield. The action got results: three days later, three Brazilian immigrant workers confirmed that they had received their paychecks. It’s estimated $800 million is stolen annually from workers by their employers in Massachusetts.

The delegation was led by the Framingham-based Metrowest Workers Center [CASA in Spanish and Portuguese] and included the Center Director Diego Low, volunteer workers from the Center, one of the unpaid workers, and members of immigrant solidarity organizations that partner with the Workers Center, including two from MetroWest Boston DSA (Democratic Socialists of America).

The delegation delivered a signed letter to the hotel manager asking that the hotel require its cleaning contractor Castro Construction to pay back wages owed to three Brazilian immigrant women working as cleaners at the hotel. Refusing to accept the claim that no managers were available, the delegation milled around the hotel lobby, insisting to speak with a hotel manager with the authority to ensure that the women get paid.

Eventually two hotel managers emerged, read the signed letter, and promised to meet with their cleaning contractor to require that the workers receive their stolen wages.

Three days later, Aparacida C., Janice G., and Dalila C. confirmed that they had received their paychecks.

Castro Construction also owes larger sums of stolen pay to at least eleven immigrant workers it formerly employed at the Five Points Marriott Hotel in Newton. It may be necessary to go through the laborious process set up by the Attorney General’s office to recover their stolen wages.

Although many permanent workers also suffer from wage theft in the form of non-payment of overtime and other abusive practices, it is immigrant workers — especially undocumented construction and service workers — that are especially vulnerable to out-and-out wage theft. Their employers, usually labor brokers and sub-contractors, assume that undocumented workers, fearing deportation, and are therefore unlikely to take legal steps to recover their pay or collect the benefits to which they are entitled.

In his report back to CASA supporters, Diego Low wrote:

The three women owed wages for their work at Four Points Wakefield received their back wages yesterday. The hotel collected the payments from the labor broker and advised CASA Thursday, allowing time to collect and distribute them the funds for their families’ holidays. CASA will be looking at strategies for pursuing strategies for collecting wages for the other dozens of workers owed wages by the broker at other hotels, where we lack the leverage of an ongoing contract.

These strategies might include trying to recover stolen wages at the Five Points Newton Marriott. The global Marriott chain would suffer reputational harm from the shady practices of the labor brokers and contractors that were hired by its hotel managers to cut costs.

CASA could also work with statewide labor unions and other immigrant and community organizations to compel the state legislature to make business owners and lead contractors responsible for preventing their subcontractorssub-contractors and labor brokers from cheating workers to keep their bids low. The key issue for CASA is holding not only lead contractors responsible for abusive practices of sub-contractors, but also the companies for which the workers perform services.

CASA is governed by its board composed of immigrant workers, who make the strategic decisions in response to the perceived needs of their communities.

Fighting Wage Theft in Massachusetts

The AFL-CIO, workers centers and immigrant support groups have identified wage theft as a major problem for workers in Massachusetts. Of the approximately $800 million stolen annually from workers by their employers in Massachusetts, the Attorney General’s office has collected and returned only $12.3 million.

Comprehensive legislation against wage theft has failed at the Massachusetts State House for two consecutive sessions. In 2019 some 100 workers packed into a legislative hearing to join with AFL-CIO staff to provide detailed testimony of their experiences with wage theft. Bill 4681, the 2021-22 Act to Prevent Wage Theft, advocated by the AFL-CIO,the Brazilian Workers Center and numerous labor and community organizations, was refused even an up or down vote by business-friendly house leadership. 

What should DSA do?

Wage theft is a major problem facing workers in Massachusetts, and one of the most blatant forms of the capitalist exploitation of workers. It is particularly vile because it targets the most vulnerable workers, those with the greatest need to get paid on time, and often with fewer resources to fight back. Workers Centers like the Metrowest Workers Center in Framingham do not see their role as substituting for labor unions, but work with unions to build a stronger organizational and political movement of the working class. As a democratic socialist organization, DSA supports workers centers that like the Metrowest Workers Center.

Specific actions to help the most vulnerable workers, in particular ones without documents, are necessary, but insufficient. DSA should actively support the passage of comprehensive legislation as advocated by labor unions and immigrant rights organizations that would hold all employers and primary contractors responsible for paying wages stolen from workers by the labor brokers and sub-contractors. Ousting business-friendly legislators with a stranglehold over the legislative process like Speaker Mariano from office is needed to enact and enforce legislation against wage theft. Workers deserve much higher wages and more control and ownership of their workplaces. The least the capitalists can do is pay workers what they already said they would pay.

Paul Garver is a member of the Boston DSA.

Love and Solidarity Will Beat Far Right Attacks on Queer Spaces

Working Mass - Fri, 2023-01-13 14:06

After a pitched scuffle to defend a drag queen story hour last month in Fall River left comrades injured but victorious, the Boston DSA is planning to show up in force in Fall River tomorrow to protect queer spaces from far-right attacks. This piece was originally published in the Boston Political Education Working Group’s blog as “Step right up, come one come all, to defend Fall River.”

By Anonymous Comrade

The first thing I want to say about our December 10 defense of the Fall River Pride Committee’s drag story time is that we succeeded.

I wanted to start out that way because between all the various mediocre news stories and online commentaries, you might not realize it. But we succeeded. When neo-Nazi group NSC tried to rush the door, it was our team of volunteers from an ad hoc coalition of local organizations including Boston DSA, that kept them out. We, the team that I coordinated, did keep them out, and we were able to keep attendees safe. And through friendliness and creativity – singing, bells, colorful masks – our volunteers at the side door were able to provide an atmosphere of fun and normalcy for the children as they entered the event, even with NSC outside the front door and Proud Boys across the street. Volunteers were able to escort families to their cars as they left. We did all this not by being some kind of elite strike force, but by showing up, working together well, using our varied skills (tactical situational awareness, first aid, cheery child-friendly charisma, and more), and by keeping our cool.

Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t a pleasant experience for me, and I suspect there are other people on the team who feel similarly. It’s frightening to be rushed by neo-Nazis who have a lot more muscle mass than you and who outnumber you (because they arrived quite early, only some of our team was there at the time of the rush). I was hit multiple times in the solar plexus, slammed against the doors. I would rather not have been injured, and would rather none of my comrades had been injured either. I heard a whole lot of slurs that morning. I’ve been frustrated at attempts to credit the police for keeping people safe when the cops were not present during the rush on the doors, and who later claimed to not be able to tell the difference between us, in our varied clothing, and neo-Nazis in group merch and quasi-uniform dress). But none of that changes the first sentence in this essay. We succeeded in defending drag story time.

This Saturday, January 14, is the next drag story time in Fall River, and this time it will be a little different – with a community support rally outside to provide fun and safety for all, to celebrate queerness and perseverance and courage. If it isn’t obvious, I’m writing this not simply to share my own experiences or perspective, but to encourage you to attend in support.

I have never been, to use a good friend’s phrase, a “woofing tough.” I have disabilities that impact my ability to build strength or coordinate my own movements. I have chronic pain issues. I avoid militant rhetoric and aesthetic in this kind of work because I don’t believe in raising stakes for nothing, and I don’t believe in making implied promises that I can’t back up. Every time fascists yell in my general direction about how they’d win in a fight, I shrug internally, because I’ve never thought otherwise. And yet over the last few years I’ve worked more action frontlines than I care to recall. A lot of people have been beside me on those lines who didn’t think of themselves before as the kind of people who could do this work. No matter how much groups like NSC want it to be so, we antifascists aren’t their mirror image and we don’t operate on the same terms with only the politics changed. If I have stood for anything in my time organizing against the far right, it is that this work does not belong only to the strong and the powerful.

Why am I telling you all this? Because I want good people to participate in supporting our communities and opposing the intimidation and the organizing of the far right. I don’t want people to think they can’t or shouldn’t do it, or that their contributions aren’t real, because in some way they aren’t the “right” type of person.

So come one, come all, to Fall River this Saturday – whether you’re an old hand or this would be your first action, whether you’re a ninja or regularly trip over your own feet. Dress for the weather (wearing comfortable shoes, wearing hats and masks, minimizing the amount of cotton against your body). Keep your cool, act collectively, and follow the lead of organizers (because this all has a goal and it’s not individualized catharsis). Be aware of what’s happening around you, make sure you have safe ways to enter and exit, and enjoy the performances! Numbers will make us all safer, make it more possible for people who are afraid or uncomfortable or unsure to participate. The numbers we turn out could mean the difference in whether a family feels safe enough to attend the drag story time.

Together we can preserve this queer space, and send a much-needed message to any queer kids (or adults) who may be watching: tomorrow need not be as bleak as neo-Nazis and bro-fascists want them to believe.

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