About 40 people gathered outside a West End Denny's restaurant today (March 26) to protest the treatment of migrant workers.
The rally was organized by the immigrants'-rights group Migrante-B.C. and the United Food and Commercial Workers Union.
They're backing a lawsuit by a migrant worker, Herminia Vergara Dominguez, against the restaurant's owner, Northland Properties Corporation.
Naveen Mehta, the UFCW's Toronto-based director of human rights, equity, and diversity, told the Georgia Straight that the lawyers handling the case hope to have it certified as a class-action lawsuit.
The lawsuit alleges that more than 50 Filipino foreign workers were required to pay $6,000 each to an agency that recruited employees for Denny's, but did not receive the hours of work, overtime pay, and travel expenses that they were promised.
Northland officials were unavailable for comment.
Mable Elmore, NDP MLA for Vancouver-Kensington, told the crowd that she first became aware of the situation when she visited Denny's for breakfast.
A worker approached her to describe his plight, and she invited him to her community office to discuss the issue further.
She praised his courage in stepping forward, and introduced him to people at Migrante-B.C.
"We helped him fill out an employment-standards complaint and supported him and the other workers at Denny’s to put forward this class-action lawsuit," Elmore explained.
Elmore called on the provincial government to do more for temporary migrant workers. She demanded a 1-800 provincewide hotline and "strengthening of employment standards and labour legislation to advocate for temporary foreign workers".
Jane Ordinario, a community worker, Migrante B.C., told the Straight that the first worker was sent home because he lost his status in Canada. Dominguez then stepped forward and became the representative plaintiff in the lawsuit.
Ordinario noted that a forum was held at a nearby church, where lawyers informed the migrant workers about their legal rights.
"We will also have to assist the workers who were sent back to the Philippines,” she added.
Local Philippine community activist RJ Aquino said that the demonstration was designed to let migrant workers everywhere know that they have community support.
"We want to make sure our voices are not just for these migrant workers with this lawsuit for Denny’s, but for every migrant worker around the world who is receiving unfair and unjust treatment from their employers,” Aquino told the crowd.