In a major legal win for immigrant workers, thousands of California construction workers will start receiving checks April 15 to compensate for unpaid wages and other alleged labor violations committed during California's housing boom.
The $8.5 million legal settlement benefits nearly 3,100 former and current workers for several companies that built houses in Southern California, the Central Valley, Central Coast and San Francisco East Bay.
A few workers initiated the complaint in 2006 after approaching a Spanish–speaking attorney, but lawyers say the case grew into one of the biggest class–action lawsuits in California involving mostly Latino construction laborers, including some who are undocumented.
"We hope that this sends a strong message that all workers have rights," said one of the attorneys, Gladys Limon of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund's Los Angeles office.
The construction settlement isn't the only indication that courts and government agencies are dealing with long–standing allegations of underpaid immigrant workers.
State Attorney General Jerry Brown's office has a new Underground Economy Unit that investigates businesses for suspected wage and workers' compensation abuse and tax fraud.
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