Background: In April, Mei Kum Chu and a group of injured and retired home attendants formerly employed by Chinese-American Planning Council (CPC) brought a class action case against their employer. Inspired by Lai Yee Chan and other current employees, these former workers launched their own lawsuit to demand back pay for years of 24-hour shifts without proper compensation. CPC argued that because 1199SEIU, the former workers’ union, had amended the contract to compel arbitration in labor conflicts, the former workers should submit to the new contract and enter into arbitration.
The Decision: Last week, Hon. Katherine Forrest, U.S. District Judge, decided that Chu and other former home attendants could pursue their claims in State Court, rather than being forced to enter into arbitration. She explained that because the contract was amended after the plaintiffs stopped working for CPC, the employer could not retroactively apply the mandatory arbitration clause to their claims. Therefore they could pursue claims for non-payment that occurred between April 2008 – June 2015.
This decision sets a precedent and therefore has a huge impact: All the home attendants who worked between April 2008 and June 2015 now have the chance to pursue back wages. It also will open the door for workers from many other home care agencies to do the same. Law-abiding employers can take it easy, but sweatshop bosses should start to worry. Mei Kum Chu and other former home attendants fought against numerous odds to come together and demand justice. They faced years of isolation and exploitation by their employer, lies from their own union and indifference from the Department of Labor. They encourage all workers to come forward and join them in the Justice for Homecare Workers Campaign.
Do you think it’s right to force workers into arbitration? What about forcing workers to do overtime? Do you have ideas on how to promote the campaign or want to get involved? You can:
- Sign the new petition to 1199SEIU here
- Tweet our position paper on why we need to #Fightfor40 and #StopMandatoryOT to President Obama and any presidential candidate.
- Get your organization to endorse the campaign here.
- Organize in your community and/or invite us to speak at your next event.