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East Los Angeles Workers Celebrate Innovative Agreement After Year-Long Organizing Campaign

(November 19, 2014 – Los Angeles, CA) – Workers and community supporters gathered at the Restaurant Opportunities Center on Wednesday to announce and celebrate their recent agreement with their employer, Pedro Rosado, the owner of the three mariachi restaurants located on the top-floor of the El Mercadito complex in Boyle Heights.

In October 2013, dozens of El Mercadito restaurant workers, supported by Restaurant Opportunities Center of LA (ROC-LA) and Bet Tzedek Legal Services, organized themselves to alert Mr. Rosado to their growing concerns about workers’ claims of unlawful pay practices, including policies regarding tip-pooling and breaks.

The workers engaged in an innovative, multi-pronged campaign to improve conditions in their workplace. They garnered community support in several public actions outside the restaurant. The workers also initiated an investigation by the Bureau of Field Enforcement (BOFE) of the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE). The DLSE issued citations against Mr. Rosado in April 2014.

Meanwhile, since January 2014, the workers have been in direct negotiations with Mr. Rosado, who quickly engaged with the workers after their campaign launched in December 2013. Workers met with Mr. Rosado directly and shared their concerns in their own words. The workers also formulated a list of desired policy changes in their workplace, often above and beyond what the law requires.

“As a low-wage worker advocate, I too often represent workers seeking the bare minimum: their unpaid wages after they leave a place of employment. It was really inspiring to see this group ask for more, work together to agree upon desired policies, and harness their collective power to make changes in their workplace,” said Danielle Lang of Bet Tzedek’s Employment Rights Project.

The workers are proud to announce a set of collaborative agreements between themselves, Mr. Rosado, and the DLSE. The agreements provide for a monetary settlement of $220,000 for a group of twenty-five workers to resolve their wage claims and also separately resolve the DLSE citations. Moreover, Mr. Rosado and the workers agreed upon a set of employment policies for El Mercadito going forward. The workers are now entitled to up to five days paid sick leave per year and two weeks guaranteed vacation leave. In order to maintain a strong relationship between the workers and management in the future, the workers and management plan to have meetings every other month dedicated to labor-management concerns.

“We received our first settlement checks in September. It was really amazing to see the result of our efforts. By working together, we were able to make our voices heard and we are happy that Mr. Rosado listened,” said an El Mercadito server, Erika Sanchez. “I am very excited to have new policies in place that make sense for everyone. It’s a relief to know that if I am sick, I can stay home without losing a day’s pay or risking my job,” said another El Mercadito worker Alma Barba.

Bet Tzedek, ROC-LA, and the workers themselves applaud Mr. Rosado for working with the organizing workers to resolve their concerns, adopt new policies including paid sick leave, and build toward a better workplace for everyone concerned. “As a prominent business owner, Pedro Rosado is a community leader in Boyle Heights. ROC-LA is glad to see Mr. Rosado providing a positive example for other employers by working proactively with his employees to create a quality work environment. We urge community members to support these actions by patronizing the restaurants, and hope that other restaurant employers will follow Mr. Rosado’s example by taking the high road to profitability,” said Kathy Hoang of ROC-LA.

About Bet Tzedek
Founded in 1974, Bet Tzedek pursues equal justice for all by providing high-quality, free legal services to low-income, disabled and elderly people of all racial and religious backgrounds. One of the nation’s premier public interest law firms, Bet Tzedek uses direct legal service, impact litigation, community outreach and legislative advocacy in the areas of consumer rights, employment rights, elder justice/caregiver law, Holocaust reparations, housing, human trafficking, public benefits and real estate to serve more 15,000 people every year.

About ROC-LA
The Restaurant Opportunities Center of Los Angeles is a restaurant workers’ organization seeking improved wages and working conditions, and is part of the national organization Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC-United). Founded initially after 9/11 by workers displaced from the World Trade Center, ROC has grown into a national restaurant workers’ organization with 10,000 members in 19 cities nationwide. For more about ROC-LA, visit www.rocunited.org/la.