Thai slaves in Los Angeles changed course of labor history

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Headline from Thai Slavery Case

Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles, the largest civil rights organization for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, is honoring the 24th anniversary of the El Monte Thai workers case.

According to KPCC, the case took place in the early 1990s when Rotchana Sussman, a native Thai worker, and other Thai migrants were taken into sweatshops in Southern California and treated as slaves.

 “In my room, nine people slept. Downstairs was the kitchen and workplace. It was very filthy, with rats and cockroaches,” said Sussman.

The workers were locked up for seven years, prohibited from going outside and forced to work for 16 to 18 hours a day. Finally, on August 2nd, 1995, federal agents found the victims confined inside the El Monte sweatshop, SGVT reports.

The case was not only a milestone for the garment industry, but also gave highlight to issues surrounding labor regulations in the nation.

“The El Monte raid was a very important point in the history of labor standards in this country,” said David Weil, the former administrator for the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor. 

According to PRI, the case helped to change the law regarding human trafficking. A law was passed in 2000 shortly after the case.

The anniversary event took place in Westin Bonaventure Hotel & Suites. Special guests included Jennifer Newsom, First Partner of California, and Julie Su, secretary of the California Labor and Workforce Department.

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