A few dozen workers from a call center in Warsaw are on the lookout for Michal Lopatin (and his wife Anita Stelmasiuk). PL Outsourcing, the company run by Lopatin, had been behind on paying some employees starting at the beginning of 2016. By the summer, the firm stopped making payments. Lopatin and his wife (from whose account many were paid) took off, leaving the workers without any salary, and went off to live in Santa Monica, California. Workers are trying to get what they are owed and ask for the help of their fellow workers in the US to help track this deadbeat boss down.
The call center was one of many fly-by-night operations set up by young entrepeneurs in Poland to make a quick buck. Such operations often look like decent startups to workers desperate to get any job. They usually make big promises to employees, but close down after some while, often leaving people without their wages. The 31-year old Lopatin has already been involved in owning/running three similar enterpresises: PL Outsourcing, Perfect Outsourcing and Kings of Sales. Technically, PL Outsourcing and Perfect Outsourcing are two separate legal entities, but they were in fact the same, run by the same people, in the same place. Such legal manouevres are often used by business people to transfer workers betweeen legal entities, to avoid legal obligations.
People who were employed at PL Outsourcing were often promised that they would be employed after a three-month trial period. But usually workers were instead put on civil contracts. As „contractors” instead of employees, the workers did not receive holiday pay, sick leave or other benefits due to them. However, the actual work down should have been recognized as an employment contract. Other problems came up due to the fact that the workers later found out that Social Security payments had not been made for them. In addition, neither were payments into the guarantee fund. The boss skipped town, leaving people without the work certificates needed to claim unemployment benefits and without any possibility to claim emergency aid to workers from banrupted companies. Lopatin, in fact, did not announce the company's bankruptcy. In Poland, the technical state of bankrupticy occurs when you cannot pay your debts, including debts to workers. Failure to fulfill the legal procedures at this point is an economic crime.
Luckily for Lopatin, his wife Anita won the green card lottery and the couple packed their bags and settled into a new life in Santa Monica. One can read about how wonderful life is for the pair, among other places, on Anita's blog. www.waytousa.pl While the self-styled „enterpreneurs” have been enjoying vacations to Italy, or sun and the beach in their new homes, the former employees of the call center and still struggling to get out of the debt incurred when Lopatin packed up and fled.
Maybe Michal and Anita think that nobody is going to be able to get their money all the way over in California and that the people who got screwed will just write off their losses. After all, it is very hard to get them over there. Hard, but not impossible. It is also clear that not being here, any and all legal action taken against them will work to the workers' benefit.
Lopatin nowadays is somehow connected to landscaping. It is not clear whether he has decided to actually do some hard work himself, or whether he still has entrepeneurial ambitions and intends to get other people to work for him. He is listed as working out of 12920 West Magnolia Boulevard in Sherman Oaks.
In order to attempt to get their money back, the couple needs to be located. All information would be appreciated.
In the meanwhile, wage theft continues to be a serious problem in this country. ZSP, a base union, has been the only organization where workers have been able to effectively recover money owed. Sometimes this is possible by taking direct action. Direct action means, among other things, that we won't stay silent about incidents like this.
Don't let yourselves be cheated by the bosses! Organize and take action! Solidarity is our weapon!