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Aug 07th
Home Columns San Diego Happenings Filipino Housekeepers Score Win Against US Navy
Filipino Housekeepers Score Win Against US Navy PDF Print E-mail
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Columns - San Diego Happenings
Wednesday, 19 December 2007 06:33

The News UpFront: (TOP STORY) as of Wednesday, December 19, 2007 

~  The Filipino housekeepers stood their ground for one-and-a-half years of painful struggle. Last night (Tuesday, Dec. 18) their advocates in the community announced a big win for their case against the US Navy. Courage and perseverance earned them respect and dignity and the right to keep their jobs.
Filipino Housekeepers Score Win Against US Navy
Member, Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE), Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA)
and National Press Club of the Philippines-USA.
SAN DIEGO - Resolute to the end, 14 Filipino housekeepers agreed to set aside their complaints against the United States Navy, paving the way for favorable settlement of a labor problem that had all the foreshadowing of racial discrimination and worker abuse.
The housekeepers and their community advocates claimed victory even as the Navy awarded a modest monetary compensation to only one individual in the group.
(Jubilant housekeepers flash the victory sign during a small reception Tuesday night after their advocates -- the One Vision One Voice Movement of Dr. Maria Lourdes Reyes and the Employee Rights Center of Peter Zschiesche -- announced a settlement of their problem with the United States Navy.)
For the 13 others, the Navy elevated them from their two-year probationary status, thus guaranteeing their job tenure and clearing their records.
"This is a win. You (the housekeepers) raised your voices and you all have our backing," said Dr. Maria Lourdes F. Reyes, founder of One Vision One Voice Movement, the only Filipino organization which had extended its support since the labor unrest surfaced in June last year.
The 13 who still work as housekeepers in Navy-owned and managed lodges and inns in San Diego had been accused of abandoning their jobs after their supervisors had berated them for repeatedly complaining about working conditions and told them to "go home".
The order to leave was literally interpreted by the workers who then punched out and left their posts.
When they sought out the base commander to talk, the workers were also accused of staging a strike within the high-security submarine base in Point Loma. At that point, they were on the brink of being arrested as guards and police dogs kept them at bay while confiscating their identification tags.
"The fact that these housekeepers were able to reach a favorable settlement is testimony to their solidarity and perseverance in seeking justice for over 15 months," said Peter Zschiesche, director of the Employee Rights Center.
The ERC took the cudgels for the workers, talking and negotiating with Navy authorities with the support mainly of OVOV and the Interfaith Committee on Workers' Justice. The office of Congressman Bob Filner had also intervened.
"The biggest victory is that we got somebody to listen," stressed Zschiesche. That "somebody" was the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a federal agency, which looked into the case.
Zschiesche recalled the legal battle to have the complaints accepted and the workers finally won that battle at the same time the EEO was putting together the final agreement. "It was the EEO Settlement Officer who finally heard the discrimination arguments," he explained.
"It's very unusual for people (like the housekeepers) without union to do what they did," Zschiesche said, considering the might of the US Navy as an employer.
"You took on a hard employer. The Navy is used to tell people what to do and have it their way. I salute you all for your courage," he added.
Dr. Reyes, Zschiesche and some of the housekeepers were at the informal press conference called Tuesday night (Dec. 18) to announce the settlement.
The event quickly turned into a Christmas party for everyone of those involved and lasted for two hours with a lot of Filipino food, including one big roasted pig donated by Zschiesche.
"Solidarity and perseverance, along with the courage to stand up and be heard at work, among non-union workers must be celebrated whenever they occur - especially when they result in relief from the injustices they seek to speak out against.  Justice, however small, is sweeter when won!" said Zschiesche.
For the first time since June 2006 when they went out of work, the housekeepers were happy eating and dancing away the night at the residence of one of their co-workers.
Caring Lopez, who had looked depressed from the start, had a smile on her face and was so profused with thanks. Larry Barrios said he felt very happy with the outcome.
"Thank you, it's over!" said Connie Cole. "Thanks the Lord, everything is over," quipped Remedios Tabion.
"Thank you for supporting us," added Aling Zenaida . "Thanks for helping us, Peter, Dr. Reyes," chorused Aida Montoya. "Maraming salamat po," said Tess Navarro.
In a press statement later, Zschiesche said several lessons were learned from the experience:
One, that housekeepers working for the Navy have fewer rights than most employees and, because of their cultural background, have to contend with the dangers of misunderstanding their rights. 
Two, they do not have the right to engage in “protected concerted activity” that employees in the private sector enjoy under the National Labor Relations Act. 
Three, their presence on a military base further restricts their rights of free speech and assembly. 
"From the beginning these housekeepers were not properly advised of their situation at work on June 20 and, as a result, they were allowed to put their jobs in jeopardy," said Zschiesche.
The ERC had argued that this disregard amounted to a form of illegal ethnic discrimination.
PHILIPPINE VILLAGE VOICE - Redefining Community News
BREAKING NEWS -  Exclusive
Issue No. 98 / News Without Fear or Favor /

. . . . A community service of San Diego's Philippine Village Voice ( or at 619.265.0611) for the information and better understanding of the public. . . . . .

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Last Updated on Thursday, 20 December 2007 04:08

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