Remembering the “Clinic of Legal Defense to Recover Salaries”

Jornaleros en la calle Cesar Chavez frente a su centro jornalero en San Francisco. Day Laborers on Cesar Chavez St. in front of their day labor center in San Francisco. Photography: Courtesy of Sahar Khoury.

Jornaleros en la calle Cesar Chavez frente a su centro jornalero en San Francisco. Day Laborers on Cesar Chavez St. in front of their day labor center in San Francisco. Photography: Courtesy of Sahar Khoury.

Eight years ago I participated in the initial development of the group Unidos through La Raza Centro Legal (LRCL); this group was known as “the clinic of legal defense to recover salaries”.

I give credit to graduate Hillary Ronan because of her effort and dedication to establish the group. The group consisted of one lawyer, Hillary Ronan, six college volunteers, and four jornaleros [day laborers]. This exchange of ideas and experiences between volunteers, day laborers, and other workers, made the clinic dynamic and yielded positive results.

“At the beginning few people came, but when people found out about the clinic, a lot of people started to come. It was a very complex and effective project. They took us to some training programs which taught us how to communicate with people and the type of information we had to give them,” said a colleague from DLP who also participated in the group.

“They gave us trainings to become familiar with the bureaucratic process, necessary documentation, and how to refer to the commission’s office for minor complaints. Each person was given the information needed to decide if a lawsuit was established or not,” shared a member of La Colectiva de Mujeres.

“There was a very controversial case with a domestic worker, Vilma Seralta, who suffered abuse, mistreatment, and who was given excessive work. It was a case that lawyer Ronan adopted and took to victory. Vilma recovered a big part of the money she hadn’t been paid for her work, a victory that otherwise she couldn’t have accomplished,” she added.

After a person submitted a complaint with a lawyer, there were several steps to file a complaint. First the employer was called, and then a letter was sent. If there was no answer, another written notice was sent.  If, after these steps, the employer didn’t answer, the complaint was filed.

In order to file a complaint, it is important that the workers know their employer. My advice is that you take notes in a notepad with the hours, the days, and the place you worked, but above all, record the first and last name of the employer. Take his address, and if possible his driver’s license number.

All this information is needed to file a wage theft complaint, and was of great help for the workers in “the clinic of legal defense to recover salaries” through LRCL.

By: Jose Ramirez

Translate by: Jimena Kirk

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