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Sweatshop Victims Cite Harassment by Bosses : Employment: Workers say their cooperation with a sewing shop crackdown has gotten them blacklisted. The allegations have resulted in another investigation.

December 31, 1989|SONNI EFRON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

"We have just begun talking with La Belle and have not come to any conclusions," Otero said.

La Belle co-owner David Kashanian said the company has been asked to freeze payment to another Orange County contractor that had allegedly not paid its workers properly. He declined to name the contractor.

But Kashanian said he was not aware of any abuses at Joanne Fashions and has not done business with the Nguyens since they sold their shop in September. He said La Belle cannot be held responsible for how its contractors treat their workers.

"Is this my job, if you work for some other company, to put my nose in to see if you got the right wage?" he asked. "This is not under my name. I cannot control it."

Meanwhile, Solano, her mother and Juana Valladares say they have been branded troublemakers and refused work at other garment shops as word has spread that they cooperated with the government.

Valladares supplied Otero with the names of two sewing shops she says refused to hire her. One store owner told her he had no work for her "because you talk," Valladares said. Otero confirmed that she is investigating those allegations. In the meantime, Valladares says she may try to find work as a janitor.

Otero said her office has affidavits from the other workers and is investigating their complaints. She said all of the complaints have come from Latino workers, though many Southeast Asian workers were also owed back wages. Otero said she suspects some of the Asians have been subjected to similar pressure tactics but are reluctant to complain.

"Not one of them would talk to us about it," Otero said. "But if we get signed receipts that say somebody received their money, there's simply nothing we can do about it."

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