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Chinese Daily News in LA: Workers Exploited, but Fought Back

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Los Angeles, CA: Imagine 17-hours days with few breaks, if any, and no overtime pay. If you complained, you were told that there was someone ready and willing to take your job. Such is an example of the deplorable work requirements alleged in a class-action lawsuit that recently resulted in a $5.19 million dollar award to the workers of The Chinese Daily News, in Los Angeles.

Launched in 2004 on behalf of 200 employees, the class action resulted in a sum of $2.5 million, awarded by a jury in 2007. Upon appeal, the same judge presiding over the original trial, Consuelo B. Marshall of Federal District Court in Los Angeles, affirmed the original award, and then added to it. The increase includes 10 per cent interest on the original sum of $2.5 million, as well as penalties for violation of various labor laws.

Chinese NewsThose violations were alleged to be outrageous.

Workers representing various job disciplines, including writers and reporters, shop workers, advertising sales reps, production crew, delivery drivers and even secretaries were alleged to have been goaded into working 12-hour days or longer, with no meal or rest breaks.

According to a former employee, and one of the plaintiffs in the class action who was fired from the newspaper in 2005, production workers would have to spend hours at presses and stackers. Drivers, encumbered by traffic gridlock, were nonetheless required to carry out deliveries from a long list of addresses strewn throughout Los Angeles.

The newsroom was particularly stressful, says Lynne Wang, a former reporter. According to Wang, reporters were required to produce five stories a day—an astonishing number in the print journalism field. There would be little, if any time to catch a break between news conferences, interviews, and the actual writing of the story made all the more stressful by the typical deadline mentality of the daily newspaper environment.

Those workdays, according to Wang, could stretch even longer and last well into the night during presidential elections or other legislatives votes in Taiwan.

The Chinese Daily News is owned by the United Daily News Group, a large publishing concern in Taiwan that owns and operates other Chinese-language newspapers in New York, Houston and San Francisco.

According to Wang, it was not uncommon for her former supervisors to alter weekly time reports in an effort to conceal the actual number of hours worked. Many of the employees, like Wang, were recent immigrants without a working knowledge of employment law. Coupled with intimidation and fear of reprisal, blatant violations in labor and human rights statutes went on for years.

The award serves as payback for many of the plaintiffs in the class action whom, according to their lawyer, were either fired or forced to quit.

Wang was quoted last month in the New York Times as saying she was happy with the result, but also saddened concerning how difficult it was to achieve justice.

Justice is, indeed, sometimes a struggle to achieve. But in a democracy, the pursuit of justice is a sacred trust and the right of every American. And the legal community is ready, willing and able to represent individuals wronged, or persecuted in any way.

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