Group fights for workers' unpaid wages

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by ERIC WILKINSON / KING 5 News

NWCN.com

Posted on January 18, 2010 at 7:53 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jan 19 at 12:09 PM

SEATTLE - A dozen immigrant laborers say they worked for weeks, even months for an unlicensed contractor in South King County and were either underpaid, or not paid at all. 

Gabael Ramirez says he did framing for the man for six months in 2008 and is still owed about $3,000.  

"I need that money to pay t he rent and feed my family," said Ramirez, who has a wife and one year old son. "Because he didn't pay me, I got behind in my bills and had to go on food stamps."

The group Casa Latina is taking on the cause, saying the contractor owes at least 12 workers more than $33,000. 

"Wage theft is reaching epidemic proportions on a local, state and nationwide level," said Arielle Rosenberg of Casa Latina.  "It is important that we call the public's attention to this challenge to our rights as workers and our stability as a community."

To do just that the group is organizing protests outside the businesses and homes of employers who they say are not paying their workers, calling it an issue of "basic workers' rights." 

"In Washington, if you work you must get paid, whether you're a documented or undocumented worker," said Rosenberg.

Casa Latina is working with the nation's largest federation of unions, the AFL-CIO, to improve wages and working conditions for day laborers in Seattle and across the country.

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