Day Laborers Hold Wage Theft Picket Outside Planet Fitness in Orange
Getting their morning workout in
Photo by Gabriel San Roman / OC Weekly
Activists tuned their jaranas before marching on Planet Fitness in Orange this morning to protest wage theft. Day laborers who worked at the gym site last December joined in the spirited picket strumming their own instruments and chanting, "No pay? No way!" Leaflets handed out to people walking in to get their morning exercise spelled out the labor dispute.
OC Colaborativa—comprised of Colectivo Tonantzin, the National Day Laborer Organizing Network and UCI Immigrant Rights Clinic—charged that Planet Fitness hired nine jornaleros to work on three OC gyms through a subcontractor who left the state after stiffing them at the end of the job.
"For many of the days, they worked 10-17 hour shifts up until 2 a.m.," said P.J. Flores, an activist with Colectivo Tonantzin. "For all the workers, they're owed over $100,000 in total." Activists first protested at Planet Fitness' Laguna Niguel gym where the unpaid workers wrapped up the job in January. The fitness club's lawyers sat down and talked with OC Colaborativa members, but the issue remained unresolved.
The picket in Orange originally had been planned for last Friday, but got delayed in hopes a new round of negotiations could end with terms agreeable to all. "So far, they only want to pay three of the workers $19,000 but that doesn't even begin to cover all the expenses," Flores said. "We're going to keep pushing until all of them are paid."
The day laborers did tiling, moved equipment and built bathrooms for Planet Fitness gyms in Orange, Laguna Niguel and Huntington Beach. Day laborer Pedro Montiel took a break from the picket line before handing off the guitar he strummed. "We want the people watching us to support us and our cause," Montiel said in Spanish. "We want to be paid what we're due."
Day laborers asked Alex Chem of Phaenix Innovations West when they were going to be paid for their work. The subcontractor claimed that he hadn't received the checks from Planet Fitness. Chem later stopped answering the phone and the workers never saw him again.
Flores and Montiel walked into the Orange gym and explained the situation to the employee working the front desk. She recognized the worker and promised she'd pass along his message to the manager who wasn't onsite at the time. The Weekly reached out to Planet Fitness' corporate headquarters, but received no response.
"We're hoping this picket pressures Planet Fitness into finally ending this without going to court," Flores said. "But if they still don't want to pay, we will continue with either the Department of Labor or OC Superior Court to file a lawsuit to make sure the workers get paid."
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