Pioneer Blvd. Workers’ Organizing Project Kicks Off!

Filed under Civil Rights Unit, Media and Photos

On August 3rd 2009, South Asian Network (SAN) officially launched its Pioneer Blvd Worker Right’s Organizing Project. The goal of this project is to end the exploitation of South Asian and Latino workers on Pioneer Blvd., and build relationships between these workers. This project has been launched in response to the prevalence of labor rights abuses impacting low income workers.

Pioneer Boulevard, located in Artesia, CA, is an area known to many communities as “Little India”, because of its numerous boutiques, jewelry shops, restaurants and many other small businesses that cater mainly to the South Asian community.

Low income workers in this area are exploited everyday and face many challenges, including denial of California minimum wage, an absence of overtime pay, long work hours, denial of meal and rest periods, and a general lack of health and safety measures in the workplace. In fact, all of the workers SAN has worked report that they work 10-14 hours a day, while earning only $3-$7 per hour of work. Although some workers have come forward to exercise their rights by demanding that their employers stop the exploitation and compensate them by paying back pay, workers face a multitude of issues that prevent them from seeking restitution. Among these are language barriers, immigration status, age, problems finding transportation, fear of retaliation from employers, the pressure of the economic crisis, isolation from mainstream America and discrimination. Post 9/11 discrimination impacting South Asian workers continues to create obstacles for the broader acceptance and inclusion of the South Asian community in the US.

South Asian Network is a grassroots, community based organization dedicated to advancing the health, empowerment and solidarity of persons of South asian origin. Fundamental to SAN’s mission is the promotion of equality for all. Since 2002, SAN has advocated on behalf of low income workers employed in businesses located throughout Los Angeles County. These businesses include 7-11 and other convenience stores, gas stations, motels and restaurants. All of these businesses are South Asian owned. During the last two year, SAN has helped workers obtain over $60,000 in back wages and penalties from their employers. Our strategies have included writing demand letters to employers, holding settlement meetings with employers, organizing community visits to the business, and holding public actions in front of businesses which violate worker rights.

SAN continues to partner with several workers who worked at Ziba Beauty Salon, to demand justice for workers. In January 2008, five workers at the Ziba were fired for refusing to sign an employment contract that contained unenforceable non-compete and trade secret provisions. On January 15th, 2008, these 5 courageous workers partnered with SAN to protest in front of Artesia’s Ziba Beauty Center to demand an end to poor working conditions and severe harassment by Ziba management. Among their top demands was the elimination of contract provisions that attempted to stop employees from working at other salons or opening their own business after leaving Ziba. With the help of Deborah Drooz Esq., an attorney working for Stroock & Stroock & Lavan, Ziba removed these restrictions from their employment contracts.

The Pioneer Blvd Worker Right’s Organizing Project will address the aforementioned needs by providing South Asian and Latino workers the necessary tools to facilitate positive change in the workplace. During the two year period, workers will take part in workshops designed to raise their awareness about California Labor laws and health and safety issues, including how their work environment is impacting their overall physical and mental health. Workers will continue partnering with SAN to demand that their employers and the Artesia City Council adopt workplace policies that incorporate a living wage and a healthier workplace. An essential component of this work will be to conduct an Oral History Project, to document the migration stories and struggles of South Asian and Latino workers, so that communities can better understand the multidimensional and complex nature of this issue.

Furthermore, SAN hopes that employers will become better educated about their legal obligations and committed to upholding worker rights. SAN will invite employers to participate in its annual celebration of International Worker Solidarity Day.

It is SAN’s hope that the Pioneer Blvd., Worker Right’s Organizing Project will bring together multicultural communities and facilitate change, ultimately allowing the employer-worker relationship to be symbiotic, rather than exploitative.

For more information about this article or this project, please contact

SAN at 18173 South Pioneer Blvd., Suite I, Artesia, CA 90701 or by phone at 562-403-0488.

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