Sunday, December 06, 2009

Justice for Nativo Lopez

Justice for Nativo Lopez and Overhill Farms Workers
"An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." Martin Luther King, Jr.
Fact Sheet
INTRODUCTION. Nativo Lopez is known nationally for his organizing and support of immigrants, workers, and students. As president of the Mexican American Political Association and national director of the Hermandad Mexicana Latinoamericana, Nativo is a vocal advocate for the rights of undocumented immigrants who face persecution because of their status: be it at their workplace, school, or communities. Most recently he founded a new independent union, the General Brotherhood of Workers International Union, and has been working closely with terminated employees from the company Overhill Farms and assisting in their fight against unjust firings. Overhill Farms is the largest food processing and manufacturing company in California with between 800 and 1,000 employees, based in the city of Vernon, and supplies packaged food product to companies such as Jenny Craig, Panda Express, El Pollo Loco, American Airlines, Northwest Airlines, Safeway, and many other super-market chain stores.
· Nativo faces eight felony charges by the Los Angeles District Attorney, Steve Cooley, that include: fraudulent voter registration, fraudulent document filing, perjury, and fraudulent voting. On July 8th, 2009, Nativo declared himself "NOT GUILTY" to a judge during his arraignment. These charges are based on allegations that he used a business address (of his organization) to register to vote and vote in an election, while allegedly residing at a different location. The period in question was January 2006 to March 2008. He voted on one single occasion, and never in multiple jurisdictions. The California Secretary of State investigated the case for one-and-a-half years, while the department could have decided to take administrative action, instead turned it over to the Los Angeles County District Attorney for prosecution.

· These charges could have been resolved administratively due to their technical nature. Instead, they are being pursued as felony charges. It is a clear example of selective prosecution. Where others have never been prosecuted for similar infractions, Nativo has been targeted at a time that he has been vocal against the broken immigration system and stood up in defense of the workers at Overhill Farms, and the 1,800 workers terminated recently at American Apparel.
· An arrest warrant was issued on June 22, 2009, however, false reports of his arrest have painted a flawed image of the actual nature of these charges and the events that followed. Nativo in fact presented himself to a judge at the Los Angeles Superior Court on June 24, 2009, the day before reports were made, and allowed to leave on his own recognizance.
· The workers at Overhill Farms that stood up against their unfair boss have also been targeted by a lawsuit of the company. On July 1, 2009, a civil lawsuit was filed against Nativo Lopez and six worker leaders - charged with extortion, defamation and intentional interference with the company's customers, employees, and the union, which represents the majority of the employees. The company claims that they are being pressured to rehire the terminated employees but fails to mention anything about the procedure it took to select the almost 300 employees who were accused of a discrepancy in their social security numbers and given only 30 days to clear up the matter. These 300 employees had worked for the company between 5 and 20 years and had established their seniority and benefits under their union contract. When the employees questioned the company about their discriminatory practices, the company changed their story a few times and terminated them. Overhill Farms was not under any obligation by the Social Security Administration, the Internal Revenue Service, or any other government entity to fire the employees. The company also chose to terminate workers who presented evidence to correct the discrepancy. Overhill Farms turned around and hired part-time employees (so classified), but works them 50 to 60 hours weekly, at minimum wage and provides them absolutely no benefits. This was clearly the scheme of the company to eliminate seniority employees and replace them with lower wage part-time workers.
· The charges (both the felonies and civil charges) against Nativo and the workers are a clear attempt to distract them from their call for a national boycott against Overhill Farms until the company rehires the dismissed workers. The charges are aimed at distracting the public from the real issue at hand.
· Nativo's preliminary hearing will be on December 17, 2009 at 9:00 a.m. at the Los Angeles Superior Court at 210 W. Temple St., Los Angeles, 90012, Dept. 36 on the 3rd Floor.
For more information on assisting in the Justice for Nativo and Overhill Farms Workers Defense Committee please contact Taina Reyes at treyes@hermandadmexicana.org or call (323) 269- 1575.

1 comment:

Auerbach said...

There are some errors of fact in this article that your readers should know about.
Overhill Farms received a notice from the Internal Revenue Service that the Social Security numbers of 260 current employees were fraudulent.
The company did not "select" the employees. The IRS did.
Overhill Farms gave the employees 60 days to rectify their information with the IRS (not with the Social Security Administration, whose rules are very different from those of the IRS.) Not one employee was able to do so.
Under Section 7202 of the Internal Revenue Code, if the company used false or inaccurate information – including Social Security numbers – in providing payroll tax information to the IRS, the company would be guilty of a crime punishable by up to five years in prison and up to $10,000 for each affected employee, or $2.6 million.
In addition, the EMPLOYEES themselves could be prosecuted, each risking a year in jail and $100,000 in fines.
When it became apparent that many of the affected employees would have to leave, the company hired part-timers to maintain its production. Part-timers work the same kinds of shift schedules as full-time employees (not 4 to 6 hours per day.) All part-timers are members of the Union, and are protected by its contract with the company. They are paid MORE per hour than full-timers, because they do not qualify for full benefits.
Most or all of these part-timers have or soon will transition to full-time status.
Overhill Farms is a proud Union shop.
All employees get Union-negotiated wages and working conditions. Full-time employees get paid vacations and sick leave, as well as COMPANY PAID health insurance for the employee after six months, and for the employee's entire family (also paid by the company) after four years.
Any employee, full-time or part-time, who works more than 8 hours a day or 40 hours per week, gets paid over-time, as required by law.
The plight of these dismissed employees, who for years worked hard to provide for themselves and their families, underscores the need for the Administration and Congress to come up with a workable solution to this country's immigration situation. Scapegoating an employer may be satisfying rhetoric, but the answer to the problem facing our 260 former employees, and many thousands of other workers who lack the legal status to hold their jobs, is not in Vernon, but Washington, D.C.