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Bianco Workers File Suit

A group of workers is suing the New Bedford factory that was raided by immigrant officials in March. The suit filed in federal court in Boston yesterday represents 500 former and current employees.

It alleges the factory, Michael Bianco, Inc., which is a Defense Department contractor, violated workplace laws.

WBUR'S Bianca Vazquez Toness has more.TEXT OF STORY

BIANCA VAZQUEZ TONESS: The main argument of the case is that Michael Bianco Incorporated, or MBI, used two systems of payment to avoid paying overtime. Audrey Richardson of Greater Boston Legal Services filed the suit and says explains how the payment system operated.

AUDREY RICHARDSON: Many workers in the Michael Bianco factory worked double shifts. They would work a day shift generally from 7 in the morning until 5 in the evening. They'd clock out at 5 p.m. and within 15 minutes they would clock into their evening shift.

TONESS: Richardson was leading a press conference in Boston yesterday. Two former workers also spoke with the help of an interpreter. Flor Chach worked at MBI for nearly a year and a half. She says she started her second shift at 5:15 and worked until 11:15.

FLOR CHACH: Se me pagaba en dos cheques diferentes.

INTERPRETER: and i was paid with two different checks.

CHACH: Uno en el dia con el nombre de Michael Bianco y en la noche con el nombre de Front Line.

INTERPRETER: in the day time i was paid with a check in the name of Michael Bianco and in the evening in the name of Front Line.

TONESS: Chach said the hourly wage for the second shift was her regular rate, not the time and a half required by law.

Attorney Audrey Richardson says Front Line Defense was a separately incorporated company, but operated out of the same building and used the same equipment. Documents show the company and was run by the wife and daughter of the Francesco Insolia, the owner of MBI.

RICHARDSON: And so it was clearly a deliberately created fiction, a fiction that was designed to make it look like on paper that these additional overtime hours were not being worked.

TONESS: The class action suit also alleges that Michael Bianco Incorporated illegally docked workers pay for tardiness. Richardson says clocking in as little as one minute late would cost workers 15 or 30 minutes pay.

RICHARDSON: Many times the reason the employees clocked in late was not because they arrived at the plant late but because when they got there there were insufficient numbers of time clocks in the workplace.

TONESS: Attorneys say they are representing both former and current employees with this suit, regardless of their immigration status. There is one current employee listed by name among the plaintiffs, who alleges her pay has been illegally docked for tardiness. She doesn't claim to have worked double shifts without overtime pay.

The company isn't saying much.

DOUG BAILEY: Well, we haven't seen the lawsuit.

TONESS: Doug Bailey,. a spokesman for Michael Bianco Incorporated

BAILEY: These allegations are part of an ongoing federal investigation. Neither Mr. Insolia nor the company have been charged with any workplace, safety or labor violations. And until that time I think we're going to reserve comment.

TONESS: Owner Francesco Insolia and three managers of Michael Bianco Incorporated are still awaiting indictment in federal court. They face charges of employing illegal immigrants and enticing immigrants to stay illegally in the United States.

This program aired on May 16, 2007. The audio for this program is not available.

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