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Staff Letter to the Editor: Immigrants Fuel U.S. Workforce, Census Data Say (L.A. Times)

While Don Lee’s Jan. 10, 2024 L.A. Times article, “Immigrants fuel U.S. workforce, census data say,” highlights our nation’s dependence on immigrant workers, wage theft and labor exploitation of these very workers remains rampant.  

In California, wage theft costs minimum wage workers $2 billion a year in lost wages. Approximately 19,000 California workers filed wage claims in 2021, alleging wage theft totaling $338 million. Employers in the low-wage garment, car wash, restaurant, and residential care industries, largely comprised of immigrant workers, systemically and egregiously violate labor laws and steal wages. Immigrant workers are too often denied the human dignity of being paid for their work, and often face harassment, discrimination, and abuse in the workplace.  

Given these indisputable numbers, committed action is necessary.  State and local government must enforce laws and work with community-based organizations and workers to ensure that employers pay wages owed to workers or face serious penalties for their violations. Support of worker-led movements that empower workers and change industries is crucial. We cannot be the “land of the free” without redoubling efforts to protect the “tired . . . poor . . . huddled masses” at our door. 

-Mary Ross, Directing Attorney, Economic Justice (ERP & LITC), Bet Tzedek