Antonio Vanegas was a victim of wage theft while working in the Ronal Reagan Building in Washington, D.C. For two years, his employer paid him $6.50 an hour – significantly less than minimum wage – and denied him overtime pay, despite working him over 70 hours per week. On May 21 of 2013, Antonio testified before the Congressional Progressive Caucus about his working conditions along with other workers from the Good Jobs Nation campaign. He also told the Caucus that because his food service employer was contracted by the Federal Government, President Obama could change the situation almost overnight by issuing an Executive Order requiring all government contractors to pay a living wage and respect their workers.
Just days after he testified, Antonio was stopped by the Federal Protective Service and detained for four days by ICE (immigration) officials. He was slated for deportation, despite the fact that federal guidelines clearly prohibit interference in labor disputes. Yet, Antonio refused to be intimidated and spoke out publicly against his mistreatment.
Today, Antonio is still here in Washington, D.C. Due to the bravery of Antonio and his colleagues, the Department of Labor has opened an investigation into abuses alleged by workers at the Ronald Reagan Building. And, as a result of this investigation, Antonio has received work authorization and is currently in the process of receiving legal status. The Good Jobs Nation campaign has also won union representation for workers at the Smithsonian museums and continues to ask President Obama to take executive action on this issue. Antonio continues to be involved in the campaign and shares his story with other workers.
Immigrant workers like Antonio are changing the face of the labor movement and showing us what real courage looks like. In the nation’s capitol, native born and immigrant workers are joining together in Good Jobs Nation to insist that federal contractors pay their workers livable wages and obey the law.
Antonio, it is our honor to present you with this Award for Workplace Bravery.