National Alliance for Filipino Concerns – Southern California Region: JUSTICE FOR L’AMANDE 11! WORKERS RIGHTS ARE HUMAN RIGHTS!

For Immediate Release
August 17, 2015

For reference: Alex Montances, Southern California Regional Coordinator, NAFCON
Ryan Leano, Southern California Staff Member, (415) 779-5994, sc@nafconusa.org
Website: nafconusa.org

National Alliance for Filipino Concerns – Southern California Region
JUSTICE FOR L’AMANDE 11!
WORKERS RIGHTS ARE HUMAN RIGHTS!

The National Alliance for Filipino Concerns – Southern California Region (NAFCON Southern CA) expresses its staunch support for the L’Amande 11 bakery workers who are courageously standing up for their rights as workers and victims of labor trafficking and wage theft, as they continue to seek justice through an ongoing lawsuit against L’Amande Bakery owners.

The L’Amande 11 Bakery Workers’ battle began in 2012 when the 11 workers migrated from the Philippines to California in search of economic opportunity to provide for their families back home. They were hired by Analiza and Goncal Moitinho de Almeida, owners of L’Amande Bakery who abused the E-2 visa process by bringing the workers to the United States to work for substandard wages and working conditions. The E-2 visa allows for wealthy foreign nationals who have invested a substantial amount of capital in a U.S. business to bring foreign workers to the U.S. because they will be engaged in duties of an executive or supervisory character or because the possess “specialized” skills that are “essential” to the company’s operation. However, due to the lack of accountability of both the Philippines and the United States, there is no way to ensure that these foreign companies are in compliance with these particular visa requirements. Thus, workers become vulnerable to abuses such as wage theft, exploitation, and retaliation.

Hopes, dreams, and opportunities were crushed as Ana and Goncal Moitinho de Almeida presented nothing but broken promises when the workers arrived. Under the E-2 visa, these workers were expected to be hired and make around $2,000 a month, but instead they were paid as low as $360 a month on top of working long hours without breaks, without overtime, and without days off. When workers complained about this abusive treatment, the owners of L’Amande Bakery responded by telling the workers they had no choice but to continue working, or else the workers would have to pay the Almeidas an unaffordable monetary penalty.

In addition to being victims of wage theft, the L’Amande 11 also became victims of labor trafficking. They were forced to become the domestic servants for the Almedas and to maintain their $2.375 million dollar apartment complex including, cleaning, painting, yard work, landscaping, flooring, repair, and construction work. Ana Almeida blackmailed the workers when they complained about the working conditions by telling them that each and everyone of them would have to pay $11,000 for all their visa and airfare expenses. She also stated that she would forgive these expenses if they worked for her for 3 more years, forcing the bakery workers to think that staying there would be the only way to break free from the abusive treatment.

Last week, Ana and Goncal Moitinho de Almeida suddenly shut down their two bakery locations in Torrance and Beverly Hills, along with firing the rest of its workers in a frantic effort to avoid responsibility of their crimes committed against the L’Amande 11. There have been direct threats to the workers’ family members in the Philippines as well as several instances of online harassment on Facebook portraying the workers in a negative light.

NAFCON Southern CA recognizes the stories of the L’Amande 11 bakery workers, because it is connected to the stories of over 6,000 Filipinos who leave their families everyday in search for opportunities abroad to meet the basic needs of their loved ones. The lack of economic stability in the Philippines have created deplorable living conditions that many citizens seek opportunity everywhere else but within their own country. The aspirations for many of the L’Amande 11 when deciding to come to the United States was to be able provide their children with the opportunity to obtain an education and leaving was one of the most viable options. The L’Amande 11, also share the experiences of the 8 out of 10 workers across Los Angeles County that experience wage theft every week. According a report by the UCLA Labor Center, workers in Los Angeles County lose $26.2 million dollars every week because of wage theft violations, while owners like the Almeidas continue to make profit under such exploitative conditions.

NAFCON Southern CA stands with the L’Amande 11 in advocating and defending their rights as workers. NAFCON believes in the dignity and respect of all workers and will advocate alongside the L’Amande 11 until justice is served.

###

Comments are closed.

Like NAFCON on Facebook