Hundreds – including children – are on a road to recovery

There is a nationwide surge of child labor cases, and it’s happening right in our backyard. In Los Angeles County, poultry processing plants are under investigation for having children as young as 14 years old in endangered working conditions.

In one case, the U.S. Department of Labor discovered over 300 workers and at least eight children – most of whom were indigenous Guatemalan migrants – cutting and deboning poultry with sharp knives and were paid below minimum wage with failure to pay overtime. The company, The Exclusive Poultry Inc., agreed to pay nearly $3.8 million in wages, damages and penalties.

Member organizations Thai Community Development Center (Thai CDC)Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance (KIWA)Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Human Trafficking (CAST) partnered with Comunidades Indígenas en Liderazgo (CIELO) and the Los Angeles County Office of Immigrant Affairs to represent the workers in-language on their immigration remedies and support them with public benefits enrollment, food boxes, distribution of wages and financial literacy trainings.

Sadly, cases like these are not isolated incidents. Modern-day slavery continues to exploit vulnerable populations through unjust workplace practices of wage theft, human rights and labor violations. These are the realities faced by many vulnerable workers, especially immigrants.

In fact, over 100 workers and at least two minors were recently discovered working in oppressive conditions at yet another poultry processing plant, Moon Poultry. In the ongoing investigation, Thai CDC and Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles (LAFLA) spoke with workers outside the plant, triaged and aided over 80 workers and are currently working to screen them for immigration relief.

“This case is yet another example of our economy’s race to the bottom seeking the cheapest labor for profit maximization. While we help the workers assert their rights, pursue justice, and seek the redress and restitution they deserve, we will also fight for systemic change that will put people before profit.” – Chanchanit Martorell, Executive Director of Thai CDC.

AAPI Equity Alliance applauds Thai CDC and its Thai Workers’ Center, KIWA, CAST, CIELO, LAFLA, the U.S. Labor Department and the Los Angeles County Office of Immigrant Affairs for their tremendous work in protecting workers and providing wrap-around services for the workers as they recover from this traumatic experience.

This pivotal breakthrough wouldn’t have been possible without the collective efforts of federal and local governments in partnership with community-based organizations on the grounds. It reminds us of the power within our coalition of over 40 member organizations and partners. Because when we are all committed in the pursuit of safety and justice, transformative change can ripple through marginalized communities – just like it did for hundreds of exploited workers.

If you are seeking support with labor exploitation or know someone who is, visit Thai CDC’s Thai Workers’ Center at Second Home Hollywood (1370 N St Andrews Place Los Angeles, CA 90028).