Cincinnati laborers fight for wages

February 25, 2009

CINCINNATI--Despite freezing temperatures and driving winds, more than 50 people came out February 21 to protest a company's failure to pay wages to a group of Latino workers.

Laborers Of the Vineyard Ministries' (LOVM) Thrift Shoppe in the Hartwell neighborhood north of Cincinnati employed a dozen workers to help remodel the store--but despite the work being done, has failed to pay them.

"We are here because we cleaned and we painted in this building," announced former LOVM worker Hilda Roblero Barrios. "We want to be paid."

Holding signs reading "The work is done, now pay the workers" and "Justicia ahora!" ("Justice now"), the diverse group of demonstrators distributed information to interested drivers and pedestrians about the dispute at LOVM.

The workers were all hired by LOVM President Charles Washington in January of 2009 and are owed a total of more than $6,000 for the hours that they have worked. Washington so far has been unwilling to compensate any of the workers since they first approached him together on February 9, 2009.

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For more information about the LOVM campaign or the Cincinnati Interfaith Workers Center, call 513-621-5991 or visit their Web site.

"I had a landscaping job, when Charles Washington offered to pay me 50 cents [an hour] more to work for him. When you make so little money, 50 cents more is a big deal, so I accepted the job and began working for him," former LOVM worker Agusto Lopez said over the megaphone to the supportive crowd.

Lopez, along with the other former workers of LOVM, has not yet received his wages for the work he completed. "It's not fair to do people like that, Charles Washington is trying to take advantage of us," he continued.

Cincinnati police monitored the protest from the parking lot in an effort to intimidate protesters, as chants like "Que queremos? Justicia! Quando? Ahora!" ("What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!") and "No justice, no peace!" rang out.

At the protest, Don Sherman of the Cincinnati Interfaith Workers Center (CIWC) announced that Washington had agreed to meet to settle the claim. However, Washington failed to show.

Organized by the CIWC, the demonstration received support from members of the Service Employees International Union, United Food and Commercial Workers, International Workers of the World and International Socialist Organization.

The fight for winning these wages is connected to a broader struggle for both immigrant rights and workers' rights. Struggles like the one at LOVM will play a big role in rebuilding a fighting labor movement.

Dan Moore contributed to this article.

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