Asian Americans Advancing Justice - LA

Building upon the legacy of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center

Low-Wage Worker Exploitation and Sweatshops

Beginning in 1995, Advancing Justice - LA, along with other advocates, led the groundbreaking anti-sweatshop lawsuit, Bureerong v. Uvawas, and worked with Thai and Latino garment workers to hold manufacturers and retailers accountable for illegal sweatshop conditions.  Beginning with Bureerong, APALC has used and expanded the joint employer doctrine by successfully filing suit against well-known manufacturers and retailers in addition to the sweatshop operators.  This strategy was developed as a unique response to the pyramid structure of the garment industry, where multiple levels of contractors and subcontractors are engaged by the manufacturers and retailers in order to maximize profits and deflect liability for prevalent labor violations. 

Following Bureerong, Advancing Justice - LA continued to represent garment workers against sweatshop operators, manufacturers, and retailers in cases against companies such as Bebe Stores, Inc. and Forever 21, Inc.  In multiple actions against Bebe, Advancing Justice - LA represented Chinese garment workers who were denied their lawful wages and blacklisted when they complained.  Advancing Justice - LA pushed for corporate accountability of sweatshop conditions by arguing that Bebe paid such low prices to the factory that Bebe either knew, or should have known, that the factory was not complying with minimum labor standards.

In Castro v. Forever 21, Inc., Advancing Justice - LA represented 33 Latino garment workers against Forever 21, a national clothing retail chain, for its various violations of state and federal labor standards.  The workers sewed in a dozen different sweatshops that received contracts from Forever 21.  In 2004, the parties reached a settlement in which Forever 21 committed to promoting greater worker protections in the local garment industry.

In recent years, Advancing Justice - LA has begun to litigate cases on behalf of newer immigrant communities, including Hmong and Cambodian Americans who have been subjected to blatant wage and hour violations. In 2010 Advancing Justice - LA filed Her v. Club One, a class action on behalf of card dealers at Club One Casino in Fresno, California, whose workforce has largely been Asian American.  Representing the class of plaintiffs is Hmong immigrant Unie Her, who bravely spoke up about being required to work through his meal and rest breaks, not being paid minimum wage and overtime, and having to hand over a portion of his hard earned tips to casino owners.  After he complained, Mr. Her was fired from his job.  In addition to the Her case, Advancing Justice - LA also filed class discrimination claims against Club One on behalf of multiracial Asian and older workers. Advancing Justice - LA's involvement in the Club One cases has also served to shine the light on the great need for access to quality legal representation for marginalized communities in California's Central Valley.

In addition to impact litigation, Advancing Justice - LA integrates multiple key strategies to further low-wage workers’ rights.  Advancing Justice - LA has successfully used community education, policy advocacy, and leadership development in order to fight sweatshops and worker exploitation.  For example, Advancing Justice - LA played a key role in passing Assembly Bill 633, the nation’s strongest anti-sweatshop law, and facilitated the direct testimony of workers in Sacramento about the need for such a bill.  Advancing Justice - LA has been dedicated to improving working conditions in low-wage industries at the local and national levels for over 15 years and continues to advocate for increased worker protections through a client-centered model.

For Legal Help

Advancing Justice - LA’s hotlines prioritize assistance to low-income persons in the following areas of law: family, immigration, consumer, public benefits, employment, housing, and civil rights.

English: 888.349.9695
需要協助嗎: 800.520.2356


도움이 필요하십니까?: 800.867.3640
Tagalog: 855.300.2552
ต้องการความช่วยเหลือ: 800.914.9583
Cần sự giúp đỡ: 800.267.7395


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Our mission is to advocate for civil rights, provide legal services and education, and build coalitions to positively influence and impact Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders and to create a more equitable and harmonious society.