Teachers and to all our supporters, we are so excited and happy to announce that the decision of the Louisiana Workforce Commission (LWC) is very favorable to our cause! Congratulations to all those who keep the fire burning! Congratulations to those brave souls who stood as witnesses on our behalf! Kudos to AFT and LFT for their dedication to our cause! Bravo to the leaders and members of the Filipino Educators Federation for the needed leadership.
May this victory mean the strengthening of our efforts for justice and our advocacies to protect the rights of migrant teachers and workers. Let us remember that this development is not the end but is just a new beginning in our struggle. We expect that UPI will appeal and challenge the decision. We expect that there will be more arenas of battle. However, today we have a good reason to celebrate. But yes, the fight for justice goes on!
A Quick Review of the Findings
Despite UPI’s flimsy attempt to reclassify its operations and skirt the law, the Commission concluded that UPI is indeed operating as an employment service in the State of Louisiana as defined in the LPES (Louisiana Private Employment Service) law. As such UPI violated the said law by operating without first obtaining the requisite license. On top of that, below are the other findings of the Commission.
1. “The evidence established that UPI charged the teacher applicants a "marketing fee" which is prohibited by La. R.S. 23:111 B(2).”
2. “The evidence established that UPI collected placement fees from the teacher applicants "prior to actual commencement of work" in violation of Section 107.A.5 of Title 40 of the Louisiana Administrative Code.”
3. “The evidence established that UPI collected fees from teacher applicants who did not ultimately commence work on the job procured by UPI in violation of La. R.S. 23:111 B(3)(e) and Section 107.A.6 of Title 40 of the Louisiana Administrative Code.”
4. “The evidence established that UPI's contracts with the teacher applicants obligated the teachers to pay UPI a fee of 10% of the teacher's gross monthly income for the first 24 months of employment. This contractual provision violates La. R.S 23:111 B(3)(a) which limits an employment services fees to the applicant's first year's gross earnings.”
5. “The evidence established that UPI violated La. R.S 23:111 B(3)(b) which requires the employment service to adjust its fee upward or downward based on the actual gross earnings of the applicant.”
A Summary of the Awards and Penalties
With the findings above, the Commission ordered the following awards:
1. “UPI is hereby ordered to pay a fine to the Louisiana Workforce Commission in the amount of $500 for violating the LPES by operating an employment service in Louisiana without first obtaining the requisite license and otherwise failing to comply with the LPES as set forth herein.”
2. “The Commission does hereby order UPI to pay litigation expenses in the amount of $7,500.00 jointly to the AFT, LFT and Avoyelles Parish Intervenors as the prevailing parties.”
3. “The placement fees paid by the Filipino teachers were charged by UPI, an unlicensed employment service, in violation of Louisiana's Private Employment Service regulatory scheme. UPI is ordered to refund the placement fees paid by the Filipino teachers to UPI.”
4. “This Commission does not have the power to impose a criminal sanction on the Defendant. The matter will be referred to the appropriate authorities as the Director of the Louisiana Workforce Commission may deem necessary.”
The LWC decision however falls short of nullifying the contract as it underscores that that is outside the powers granted to it by the law. The decision says, “The LWC is without authority to declare the contract between two parties null.” What is clear is that LWC finds the contracts in violation of the statute in several counts. And according to the AFT lawyer, if UPI “seeks to enforce the contracts in a court of law, the court would use the LWC decision to declare the contracts void.”