PARIS – Latino workers from Arcola could be sharing about $200,000 in coming months as a class-action lawsuit with the Northern Harvest furniture company nears settlement.
Furniture worker Hugo de la Rosa of Arcola complained to an Urbana Latino support organization, El Centro por los Trabajadores, about pay inequities in 2001. El Centro's executive director, Hugh Phillips, connected de la Rosa and his fellow workers with a Chicago law firm with experience in employment issues.
De la Rosa complained that Arcola workers of Mexican descent were not paid as much as other employees for doing the same work, among other charges. He said employees lost their jobs for complaining.
Paul Strauss, an attorney with Miner, Barnhill and Galland in Chicago, said all but one party has signed off on the agreement.
Strauss, who took the case on a pro bono basis, said it could well take six months after everything has been signed before the workers see checks.
"It's going to take a while," Strauss said. "After everything is signed, we will have to publish and mail out a notice. Claim forms are not due until 120 days after the notice is sent out. Since some of the people may be in Mexico, we'll need that time."
"Then the court has a hearing to review the settlement, and make sure our fees are proper and justified. Then, 30 days have to go by to make sure no appeals are filed before people get paid."
He said as many as 100 workers could be eligible to be members of the class action.
Northern Harvest president John McGinn could not be reached for comment. A manager at the Paris facility said she would not comment, either.
Besides the suit, Strauss filed complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the National Labor Relations Board.
After negotiation with the NLRB, Northern Harvest agreed in 2002 to pay each of the 27 Latino workers $1,259 and offer reinstatement.
You can reach Paul Wood at (217) 351-5203 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.