Aug 21, 2017
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents have showed up at several California state offices where labor dispute proceedings were ongoing, looking for workers who had brought claims against their employers, according to state officials. ICE also contacted the officials, asking for details about the state's investigations into labor violation cases related to several construction sites.
In California, about 35,000 workers a year file claims for back pay. Many of those complaints come from people in industries that are heavily dependent on immigrants, such as garment manufacturing, car washing, and trucking, according to the Los Angeles Times.
In many cases, the workers in these industries get less than minimum wage and work very long hours. Big retailers like Forever 21, Ross Dress for Less, Macy's and Nordstrom benefit from low wages at the garment workshops. Last year, the U.S. Labor Department investigated 77 California garment companies and found labor violations in 85% of the cases. The companies paid a $7 an hour average wage to their workers. Some garment workers were paid as little as $4 an hour.
"The reason why employers pay such low wages is because workers are undocumented. It has a lot to do with the perception that they won't speak out and they won't file a claim," according to Mariela Martinez, the director for the Garment Worker Center.
But, when these workers file claims at state offices against these very exploitative work conditions and go to the state offices to defend their cases in a meeting, ICE agents show up before the meeting, with the workers' names in their hands!
The companies are using a Federal government agency, ICE, to scare and intimidate the workers, and to impose low wages and miserable work conditions on them. ICE is nothing but a tool of the companies getting enriched on the back of the working class.