Brazilian Worker Center

Fighting for Social and Economic Justice

Workers' Rights

Workers’ Rights Project

Our Workers' Rights project is our core program. We work with individuals and groups of workers, under the same employer, to defend and advocate for their rights under state and federal labor laws. We also participate more broadly in the Fair Wage Campaign that joins together workers’ centers from throughout Massachusetts, and that meets regularly to strategize on issues of policy and legislation related to workers’ rights, and with this coalition we attend regular monthly meetings with the Fair Labor Division of the Attorney General’s office.

We see our advocacy on particular workers’ cases, and our service to them in helping them to resolve complaints, not as an end in itself, but also as an avenue to finding out the concerns of our constituency, monitoring current working conditions, and as a tool for organizing and policy work. Since 2007, B.I.C. has handled 1086 worker complaints about illegal treatment in the workplace. We solve many cases through mediation between workers and employers. In one year recently, between Aug 2009 and July 2010, we opened 161 cases, and won $163,411 in worker settlements. In the last 7 months alone, since May 1, 2010, we opened 111 new cases.

Our role as a bridge between workers, government, and the courts can be seen in the recent Upper Crust Pizza chain case in Massachusetts, that resulted in a settlement of $341,000 in unpaid back wages for 121 workers, and has generated another class action suit due to the employer’s financial retaliation against workers. The case originally began with an individual complaint brought to B.I.C. which, realizing its class action implications, we referred to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). We have referred many other affected workers to the DOL who have come to us regarding this case, and our associated attorneys have been involved in representing them. The US Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division, following up on our referrals, reported to us on August 20, 2010 that: “The Brazilian Immigrant Center (B.I.C.) has provided a number of valid complaint referrals to the Boston District Office. It should be noted that the Boston District Office has collected $406,449.59 due 17 employees from 3 referrals related to minimum and overtime violations under the Fair Labor Standards Act.” Even more of our referrals await DOL action, and we have dozens of other active cases at the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office. While we help workers negotiate smaller cases, we refer larger ones that can become class action suits to outside counsel or to state and federal labor authorities. We regularly consult with dedicated volunteer attorneys who are available to help staff and workers. Our workshops and seminars also train workers in rights, how to organize and train others, and how to register complaints. Since at heart, much of the mistreatment our constituents receive is due to discrimination against them as immigrants of color, our workshops also address how to recognize and combat racism.

updated: 4 years ago

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