$2 million in unpaid wages retrieved for Filipino workers in California
Los Angeles — California has some of the toughest employee protection laws, and yet wage theft remains pervasive in the state, especially among low wage and hourly workers.
This year alone, the Pilipino Workers Center (PWC) was able to retrieve $2 million in unpaid wages for Filipino workers by helping them file and win wage theft cases against abusive employers, according to PWC executive director Aquilina Versoza.
Speaking at the 6th Annual Larry Itliong Festival that capped Filipino-American History Month last week, Versoza also said they were able to secure a $35 million budget for education and outreach programs that empower domestic workers, including caregivers, nannies, and house cleaners.
Together with the California Domestic Worker Coalition, the PWC supports domestic workers, mostly immigrant women, to ensure their rights are protected.
The festival, hosted by the PWC in Historic Filipinotown in LA, paid tribute to Larry Itliong, the iconic Filipino-American labor leader and civil rights advocate. The PWC has strived to carry on the life mission of Itliong, “championing the dignity and rights of workers,” Versoza said.
Fil-Am celebrities Donita Rose and Jay R joined local performers, including Felson Palad, Ramon Acoymo, Imogen Atangan, Mica Javier, the Filipino-American Symphony Orchestra (FASO), Pamana Kali, Ancestral Vision Movement, Pakaraguian Kulintang Ensemble (PKE), and PWC members.
One of the speakers, LA City Council member Hugo Soto-Martinez, said it was “a little bit of a shock” to him to learn it was not the Mexican-American labor leader Cesar Chavez who started the workers’ strike in Delano, California, but the Filipino farmworkers led by Itliong.
“I think today is about recognizing the contribution of the Filipinos during the (Delano) grape strike,” Soto-Martinez said.
“We recognize Larry Itliong as important, not just as a Filipino leader and icon, but also as an American leader and icon in terms of what he brought to the labor movement,” said Senior Justice Deputy Esther Lim from the Office of LA County Supervisor Hilda Solis. “That is something to be commemorated, to be remembered and talked about.”
California State Senator Maria Elena Durazo paid tribute to Itliong, saying he helped lead “a very powerful movement.”
Other speakers included Asian American Studies scholar and educator Florante Ibanez, Mary Jane Galviso from the Filipino Farmers Cooperative and Itliong’s son, Johnny Itliong. Versoza and Fil-Am community leader Gerald Gubatan emceed the event.
Attendees were given customized baybayin art, painted by renowned Filipino artist Eliseo Silva, best known for his Gintong Kasaysayan mural in Historic Filipinotown. Baybayin is an ancient writing system from the Philippines.