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August 24, 2001
Chao Seeking Back Pay for Garment Workers
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U.S. Labor Secretary Elaine Chao said during a visit to San Francisco this week that her department will pursue back pay for some 200 immigrant workers who've gone without paychecks since April from a garment factory in the city.

The workers, employed by Wins of California, are owned as much as $850,000, state and federal authorities tell the San Francisco Chronicle.

"I am just so sad. I could not sleep last night," Chao said of the garment factory case while touring a new Job Corps center in San Francisco.

"It just broke my heart to think that these are new immigrants, most likely who didn't speak the language, and who were not being told the truth. And they need to have justice," she said.

Wins of California owners Toha "Jimmy" Quan and his wife, Anna Wong, signed a stipulation with the state Department of Industrial Relations on Monday in which they vowed to not operate their business until they are fully licensed and registered with the state of California, department spokeswoman Susan Gard said.

Quan and Wong shut down their operation on Friday, after The Chronicle reported the owners owed their workers some $850,000. State officials said they had operated the business for a full week after being ordered to close by a federal judge.

Anne Hipschman, assistant chief counsel for the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement at the state Department of Industrial Relations, told the Chronicle that the Wins case is "the most egregious failure to pay wages in Northern California history."

Wins of California produced clothes for the likes of the U.S. Army and Air Force, Sears, Wal-Mart, and Kmart, authorities said.

Chao said officials of the Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division had briefed her on the case.

"The department's mission is to ensure that workers are paid for the labor . . . and we understand there were a number of other problems related to the company (Wins of California) as well," said Chao, who did not elaborate. "We are working with the state to ensure these workers are protected and that their back wages are forthcoming."

To view the San Francisco Chronicle story, click here.
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