Seven immigrant and refugee workers took a stand Monday, August 8th, against harsh working conditions at Portland Specialty Baking, LLC (PSB). The PSB production line workers filed a class action lawsuit claiming violations of overtime laws and paid sick leave, seeking to represent hundreds of current and former workers. PSB workers manufacture such baked goods as bagels, pretzels, and pies, that are sold under Franz and Rich’s brand names and at Starbucks, Walmart, Costco, Winco and Jamba Juice.
“We work long hours, sometimes more than 13 hours a day and often over 60 hours in a week,” said Ignacio Mazahua Reyes through a Spanish interpreter. “We are simply asking to be paid correctly the overtime that we are owed and to be able to take paid sick leave without fear that we will be written up or lose our jobs.”
The workers, through their attorneys at Northwest Workers’ Justice Project and the Law Office of Phil Goldsmith, allege they should be paid both daily manufacturing overtime when they work more than 10 hours a day and weekly overtime for hours over 40 in a week. They request injunctive relief to prevent shifts of more than 13 hours, illegal in manufacturing. The complaint also says PSB’s attendance policy violates the new Oregon Paid Sick Leave Law that went into effect on January 1, 2016 because workers receive points that can lead to discipline and written warnings for taking protected leave.
“The daily manufacturing and weekly overtime wages are meant to protect our clients, or at least compensate them, for the grueling working conditions they are experiencing,” said Corinna Spencer-Scheurich of the Northwest Workers’ Justice Project. “For many, this is one of their first jobs in the United States, and wage theft and labor violations don’t constitute a very warm welcome.”
“Some small changes in pay or schedules could make a big difference in our lives,” said Hsit Hsit through a Karen interpreter. “It is hard to get enough rest. Without the lawsuit, the company would have very little reason to do things differently.”