Fair Work Center and Working Washington Announce Strategic Alignment and New Executive Director

Fair Work Center and Working Washington are coming together to build a powerful, sustainable and scalable worker organization to advance worker and economic justice in Washington and beyond.

“Together, these organizations will help shape and lead the 21st Century workers’ movement in our region,” said David Rolf, founder and President of the Board of both Fair Work Center and Working Washington. “While each organization has been thriving on its own, the Boards of Directors realized that we could accomplish so much more for low-wage workers by joining the strengths of each organization under a single vision and strategic plan.”

The Boards of Fair Work Center and Working Washington recently hired Rachel Lauter to be the new Executive Director for both organizations.

“This is an important time of transition and growth for both worker-centered organizations and we are thrilled to have Rachel at the helm. Rachel’s combination of legal advocacy, organizational development and Si Se Puede tenacity will ensure that both organizations together become even more powerful in improving lives of low-wage workers,” said State Senator Rebecca Saldaña, Vice President of the Board of Fair Work Center.

“I’m honored to take on this role and am eager for the challenge ahead. Organizations like Fair Work Center and Working Washington are playing increasingly vital roles in building and sustaining power for low-wage, unrepresented workers,” said Lauter. “By aligning the legal, community education, advocacy and organizing strategies of each organization, we will bring a comprehensive approach to supporting workers in Seattle and throughout Washington.”

Rachel Lauter

Ms. Lauter started on May 29 and will be balancing time between the offices of both organizations while she leads a search for a new location to bring the more than 20 staff together under a single roof. Ms. Lauter moved to Seattle after serving as Deputy Chief of Staff and Director of Appointments for Mayor Bill de Blasio in New York City. In that role, she served as the Mayor’s senior personnel advisor, making hundreds of appointments and hiring the most diverse group of senior leaders in New York City history. She also oversaw the operational, administrative, and fiscal functions of the Mayor’s office, served as a policy advisor to the Mayor on issues related to campaign finance, election administration, and voting, and drafted and negotiated dozens of local laws. Prior to joining the de Blasio administration, she served as an Assistant Counsel to Governor Andrew Cuomo and as a federal law clerk. Lauter is the co-founder of New Kings Democrats, a Brooklyn-based political organization. She is a graduate of Brown University and Harvard Law School, where she served as President of the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, the oldest student-run legal services provider in the country.

 

About the Fair Work Center and Working Washington:

Fair Work Center empowers workers to achieve fair employment. We are a hub for workers to understand and exercise their legal rights, improve working conditions and connect with community resources.

Working Washington’s mission is to build a powerful workers movement that can dramatically improve wages and working conditions, and change the local and national conversation about wealth, inequality, and the value of work.

Welcome Rachel Lauter, our new Executive Director

Fair Work Center and Working Washington are thrilled to announce our new Executive Director, Rachel Lauter.

Rachel Lauter

Rachel most recently served as the Deputy Chief of Staff and Director of Appointments for Mayor de Blasio in New York City. In that role, she served as the Mayor’s senior personnel advisor, making hundreds of appointments and hiring the most diverse group of senior leaders in New York City history. She also oversaw the operational, administrative, and fiscal functions of the Mayor’s office, served as a policy advisor to the Mayor on issues related to campaign finance, election administration, and voting, and drafted and negotiated dozens of local laws. Prior to joining the de Blasio administration, she served as an Assistant Counsel to Governor Andrew Cuomo and as a federal law clerk. Lauter is the co-founder of New Kings Democrats, a Brooklyn-based political organization. She is a graduate of Brown University and Harvard Law School, where she served as President of the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, the oldest student-run legal services provider in the country.

We’ve been hacked!!

Our website was recently hacked (sometime around April 7, 2018) and was down for about a week. We have lost the archives of our newsletter that lived on this page, but are working to replace that content over the coming weeks. We apologize for any inconvenience and the outdated look of our News page.

2017 Annual Report

We are excited to share Fair Work Center’s 2017 Annual Report. 2017 was a year of growth for Fair Work Center. We expanded our outreach team and added new partners to the Fair Work Collaborative to reach more low-wage workers with information about their rights at work. We bolstered the Fair Work Legal Clinic by adding two new staff attorneys, doubling the size of our clinic staff and more than doubling our capacity to provide free legal services. And we stepped up our advocacy at the state and local level to broaden our impact for all workers, not just those we see in our day to day work.

We are grateful for all the people and organizations that support Fair Work Center and make this work possible. With the incredible challenges workers face at the national level, Fair Work Center will continue to grow and evolve in 2018 to ensure workers in our region have access to justice on the job.

Click here to view Fair Work Center’s 2017 Annual Report.

Welcome Memo Rivera, our new Interim Executive Director

Please join us in welcoming Memo Rivera as the new Interim Executive Director of Fair Work Center! Memo joined us in December and will be leading the organization until a permanent director can be found.

“I’m thrilled to be joining the team. Since moving to this country more than a dozen years ago, I have dedicated my career to improving working conditions and standards for low-wage workers. I am excited to bring my passion and experiences to this incredible organization,” says Memo about his new role.

Prior to joining Fair Work Center, Memo spent the past 12 years with SEIU 775, one of the largest unions in Washington and the founder of Fair Work Center. Memo helped lead long-term care industry and nursing home union organizing campaigns in Washington, Montana, New Mexico, Massachusetts and elsewhere. Memo spent a year on assignment organizing gas station attendants and janitors in Mexico City. He managed the community organizing effort on the initial Working Washington field canvass of 100,000 homes in South Seattle and South King County, and he was field director of the multi-union SeaTac airport organizing effort leading to hundreds of airport workers organizing a union for the first time. For the past two years, Memo led organizing campaigns in Washington and Montana health care adding more than 2,000 new members to SEIU 775 in the last two years. In a prior life, he spent ten years as Director of Information Technology Purchasing for Mexico’s largest bank. He has a degree is in Mathematics and is fluent in Spanish and English.

Case Briefs

Below are a few cases that have come in to the Fair Work Legal Clinic in the past couple of months. Names and other identifying information have been changed to protect the privacy of these workers.

Ivan and his family were new to the United States, having moved here from Argentina to pursue new opportunities in the food service industry. Back in Buenos Aires, he and his wife were accomplished gluten-free bakers and small business owners, and they were hoping to replicate that success here in the Pacific Northwest. To help make ends meet, Ivan went to work at a local South American restaurant. Despite consistently working 12-hour days, he never once received overtime pay. Eventually, he left to work in a different restaurant, without ever being paid for the overtime he was owed. After coming to Fair Work Center, Ivan worked with one of our law students in the legal clinic, who helped draft a demand letter for Ivan to send to his former employer. We then negotiated a settlement with the employer covering $5,000 in unpaid overtime to Ivan.

Jeffery is a maintenance worker who disclosed his HIV-positive status on a health insurance form he completed for his employer. His employer [who had no right to see Jeffrey’s confidential medical information] then ordered the Jeffery to take a leave of absence, saying he couldn’t come back to work until Jeffery provided a doctor’s statement releasing him to work and detailing his personal medical information. The anti-discrimination employment law protects people with HIV and other medical conditions from differential, negative treatment at work, so we sent the employer a letter alerting them to the legal implications of their current course. Thankfully, and because Jeffery wanted to continue working there, the employer withdrew its demand and paid Jeffery back wages for the time he was forced to stay home from work.

Lastly, we also recently settled a case in which we represented Sandra and Nate, two former employees of a local general contracting company. The general contractor had been stringing them along for months, promising to pay as soon as he could, while the workers continued to work full-time without getting a paycheck. All the while, the contractor was sending his kids to private school and taking a family vacation to Mexico. After a few months, the contractor abandoned the construction projects and laid off the entire staff. Sandra and Nate were referred to the legal clinic by the King County Bar Association, and once we took on their case we filed suit, which led to negotiating a settlement with the general contractor for $15,000 in compensation.


FAIR WORK NEWS CONTENTS:

Summer Staff Additions

We’ve been fortunate to grow our staff over the past few months to help meet the increased outreach, education and legal services we are providing. Please join us in welcoming Katie, Andra and Alex. Learn more about each below.

Katie Cameron
Staff Attorney
Katie Cameron is a graduate of Stanford University and Berkeley Law. Prior to joining the Fair Work Center Legal Clinic, she worked in private practice in Seattle, representing employees in state and federal litigation. Her experience also includes work in public policy, impact litigation and immigration law. At Fair Work Center, Katie focuses on direct representation, litigation, and policy advocacy designed to enforce workers’ rights and shift power in the workplace for workers. Katie will also provide legal and technical support to our community clinic program and collaborative partners.

 

Andra Kranzler
Intake and Outreach Staff Attorney
Andra Kranzler is a graduate of Eastern Washington University and Seattle University School of Law. After law school, Andra received the school’s Justice in Action fellowship, where she spent two years at Columbia Legal Services providing critical legal support and advocacy that was instrumental in producing Seattle’s groundbreaking priority hire ordinance. Most recently, Andra was a Legislative Aide for Seattle City Councilmember Lisa Herbold. Andra will join the legal clinic in August and will be responsible for coordinating our community clinic program, handling intake services, and joining our outreach and education team at events to provide legal services in the community. She will also represent workers directly

Alex Gallo-Brown
Retail Workforce Development Coordinator

Alex Gallo-Brown, Retail Workforce Development Coordinator. Alex is responsible for developing and guiding our Retail Workforce Development program. He brings experience as a community college instructor, labor organizer, published writer and poet, retail worker, and caregiver, among other vocations. Alex holds degrees in English and Creative Writing from Georgia State University in Atlanta and Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. He is passionate about empowering workers, promoting racial justice, preparing pasta puttanesca, and reading and writing poetry.


FAIR WORK NEWS CONTENTS:

Fair Work Legal Clinic First Birthday and Fundraiser

What a night! Thanks to everyone who came out to celebrate the 1st Birthday of the Fair Work Legal Clinic on September 27.

The Fair Work Legal Clinic has been a tremendous addition to Fair Work Center. Since opening the legal clinic one year ago, we have provided intake and legal information, advice or representation to more than 450 workers looking for a solution to workplace violations, most commonly some form of wage theft. The total monetary impact of our interventions in these cases is more than $400,000, while also helping numerous workers get their jobs back after wrongful termination.

We’d like to especially thank our sponsors one last time for making the event a success: Emery ReddyBreskin Johnson & Townsend PLLCTerrell Marshall Law Group PLLCFrank Freed Subit & Thomas LLPUniversity of Washington School of LawSeattle University School of Law. And thanks to our boosters: AKW Law, P.C. and Kittleson Cairns PLLC – Injury & Employment Lawyers – Tacoma.

In case you missed the event, you can still contribute at fairworkcenter.org/donate.

Check out the pics below!


FAIR WORK NEWS CONTENTS:

The Beecher’s Case

Beecher’s Handmade Cheese is a prominent, local, artisan cheesemaker. Founded in Seattle in 2003, Beecher’s now anchors popular in-house cheesemaking shops in both Seattle and the Flatiron District of New York City.

Back in September of 2015, nine hoop-breakers – a job requiring extreme physical labor that comes near the end of the cheese-making process – came to Fair Work Center alleging that they were routinely denied breaks, paid sick leave time and overtime. When they did take leave, they said they had been retaliated against by their manager.

At the time, Fair Work Center did not yet have a legal clinic, just three staff and a part-time legal director. We formally requested the Seattle Office of Labor Standards (OLS) file a Director’s Charge on behalf of the cheese-making employees at Beecher’s. After months of Fair Work Center advocating alongside and on behalf of those workers, OLS worked to convene a settlement conference so that we could talk directly with Beecher’s and persuade them to change their practices.

In what would become our first major co-enforcement action with OLS, we saw company-wide changes at Beecher’s as a result of the charges filed and resulting settlement that finally came in May 2017. All cheese production workers at Beecher’s received raises. Every employee at Beecher’s will receive Know Your Rights training provided in a unique partnership between Beecher’s and the Fair Work Center. Supervisors will receive training on how to comply with Seattle’s labor standards, and Beecher’s will enhance its oversight of those employees. And the managing supervisor accused of denying breaks and paid sick leave, retaliating against employees who took leave, and denying overtime pay was fired. Training for employees and supervisors will begin later this year.

While the individual cases we represent are incredibly important for those individual workers – often meaning they can pay the rent on time or put food on the table – we are increasingly looking for cases like Beecher’s, where we can make company-wide or even industry-wide impacts. By working with the Office of Labor Standards on an innovative new model of co-enforcement, we are forging a path in labor standards enforcement with the potential to see powerful, lasting improvements for workers.


FAIR WORK NEWS CONTENTS:

Recap of the Workers’ Rights Tribunal

On October 26th, 2017, Fair Worker Center, Colectiva Legal del Pueblo, and the Seattle Workers for Justice Coalition co-hosted a workers’ rights tribunal to hear testimony from seven non-union iron workers. They spoke of horrendous working conditions experienced on publicly funded and private construction projects across the region. Many of these workers have been on strike against Bulwark Construction and Walker Rebar for the past year.

The tribunal included community- and elected-leaders from the Puget Sound area.

Workers’ testimony included numerous accounts of unsafe working conditions, lack of training, fear of reporting injuries or unsafe conditions, lack of health benefits for backbreaking and dangerous work, and more. They also talked about how the companies utilize immigrant labor because they know they will work for less

“When I began to work for this company [Bulwark], they never gave me the right training,” said Armando, who also said that despite working long days, he and his coworkers weren’t allowed to take breaks.

Magdelano echoed that statement: “I was working 10-12 hours in a day. No lunch breaks. No water. No gloves. No safety jackets. No hard hat.”

Alfredo said that if he or his coworkers asked for breaks, they were told they could leave if they were unhappy. Alfredo was also badly injured on the job once, but his foreman made him continue working without filing an injury report. He said, “I just kept on working. This is what happens when you get injured. The company skimps on providing insurance, benefits, and everything else.”

After hearing these and other workers’ testimony, the members of the Tribunal agreed to send a letter to Bulwark Construction and Walker Rebar condemning what they heard from the workers and calling on those companies to treat their workers with dignity and respect, comply with labor and employment standards, and recognize their workers right to form a union. Fair Work Center is helping draft this letter and will be part of the coalition of leaders and organizations that deliver it to Bulwark Construction and Walker Rebar.


FAIR WORK NEWS CONTENTS: