Fair Work Legal Clinic Now Open

This Labor Day, Fair Work Center is proud to announce the opening of its new civil legal aid clinic, the Fair Work Legal Clinic. The clinic will offer low-wage workers free intake and referral services, legal advice at its monthly community clinics, and legal representation. The clinic is operated in partnership with the Seattle University and University of Washington Schools of Law, and will be the first clinic associated with the King County Bar Association’s Neighborhood Legal Clinic program that focuses exclusively on workplace issues.

“Low-wage workers face serious barriers to justice when they raise workplace issues,” said Nicole Vallestero Keenan, Executive Director. “Fair Work Center is already supporting workers to address these challenges, but this new clinic means workers now have a place to turn to when they need legal aid, whether that is in filing a claim with a government enforcement agency or representing them in a court case against their employer.”

“Fair Work Center helped me recover nearly $5,000 in wages my employer owed me,” said Anna, a janitorial worker. “My daughter and I were about to be evicted, but thanks to the support of Fair Work Center, I was able to get the wages I was owed and stay in my apartment.”

According to the 2015 Washington State Civil Legal Needs Study Update, one-in-three low-income people (33.6%) experience workplace legal issues. Yet, it is not an area in which workers are seeking or getting legal help.

“I am thrilled to open this new legal clinic, which is so desperately needed and will help bridge a gap in the civil legal aid available to low-wage workers,” said Elizabeth Ford, Legal Director at Fair Work Center. “We will be training the next generation of attorneys who will shape employment law for decades to come.”

Ford, an experienced labor and employment lawyer, is also faculty at Seattle University School of Law, where she will teach a Workers’ Rights Clinical Course based at the Fair Work Center. The course will be offered to both Seattle University (beginning this fall) and University of Washington (beginning in 2017) law students. Students will get hands-on experience in employment law by staffing the community clinics, holding regular office hours for workers seeking legal information, and representing workers in wage claims.

“We are absolutely thrilled that this clinic is becoming a reality and offered here at Seattle University,” said Annette Clark, Dean and Professor of Law at Seattle University School of Law. “It is a perfect fit with our mission of educating powerful advocates for justice.”

“We are thrilled to partner with the Fair Work Center and Seattle University to address the pressing legal needs of the low-wage worker community,” said Christine Cimini, Associate Dean for Experiential Education and Professor of Law at the University of Washington School of Law. “In addition to helping low-wage workers, we are excited to provide this real-life valuable educational opportunity to law students.”

In addition to opening the new legal clinic, the Fair Work Center is one of three sites nationally to test WorkerReport, a new mobile app that allows anyone to easily report a workplace violation. Once the violation is reported, the Fair Work Legal Clinic will investigate and provide assistance to the worker involved. WorkerReport is now available for download on Apple and Android devices.

How One City Is Making Sure Bosses Comply With Wage Theft and Paid Sick Leave Laws

Beecher’s Handmade Cheese, a cornerstone of Seattle’s Pike Place Market, claims (with good reason) that its penne mac and cheese is the finest in America. Dining at Beecher’s is a must.

Working there may be less advisable. Deric Cole, an Army vet, worked at Beecher’s for seven months, beginning in 2014. He says that turnover was so high that when he quit, he was a senior employee. Shifts varied from day to day, he adds, sometimes starting at 3 a.m. and occasionally lasting up to 15 hours. Cole says that while Beecher’s technically offered overtime, those who managed to accrue it were punished, and employees were even asked to work off the clock. Cole also alleges that Beecher’s ignored Seattle’s 2012 paid sick leave ordinance and refused to grant any paid time off for illness.

Fed up, Cole eventually brought these complaints to a new city agency designed to help in cases like his: the Office of Labor Standards (OLS), one of the first of its kind in the United States.

Over the past five years, Seattle has implemented sweeping labor laws, instituting paid sick leave, discouraging discrimination against those with prison records, incrementally raising the minimum wage to $15 by 2017 and strengthening wage-theft protections.

But these new laws can’t enforce themselves. One year after OLS’s creation, people like Cole will be among the first to test Seattle’s experiment. Although San Francisco originated the model over a decade ago, it has been slow to catch on. Seattle’s new endeavor could push other cities to adopt enforcement mechanisms for local labor laws.

Read more at inthesetimes.com

Fair Work Collaborative Will Support Thousands of Workers in Seattle

Fair Work Center is the largest recipient of City of Seattle’s Labor Standards Enforcement Grant

With new wage laws now in effect in Seattle, many workers are still struggling to see their rights achieved under the law. Since Seattle’s progressive movement fought for and won a $15 minimum wage, our community is now at the forefront of seeking innovative public/private/community partnerships to conduct outreach, enforcement and education on our new labor laws.

Just this morning, the City of Seattle announced the recipients of the $1 million Community Fund to support outreach, education and enforcement of Seattle’s Labor Standards. As the convener of the Fair Work Collaborative, a partnership of eight community-based partners, Fair Work Center is thrilled to be the largest recipient of the fund.

The 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.

Since we launched in June, we have brought together a talented board and staff with over 100 years of combined experience in labor standards enforcement, outreach and community engagement. We launched a collaborative to spread the word about worker’s rights, supported dozens of workers whose rights have been violated at work, and developed comprehensive “Know Your Rights” trainings for workers and the community at large.

Workers with questions about the phase-in of $15/hour minimum wage, securing paid sick leave, or other issues can connect with Fair Work Center online at fairworkcenter.org; through our helpline at 1-844-485-1195, or by email at help@fairworkcenter.org. The center provides services in Vietnamese, Spanish, Somali and English. The Fair Work Center offices are located at 5308 Martin Luther King Jr Way South.

Fair Work Center Helps Workers Muddle Through New Labor Standards

In the past three years, Seattle has enacted four new citywide laws, and it’s not just the $15 minimum wage. There’s the Job Assistance ordinance, which limits how employers can use criminal records; the Wage Theft ordinance, which offers protections when employers illegally withhold pay; and the Paid Sick and Safe Time ordinance, which ensures that employees accrue paid time off for illness. 

But understanding their ins and outs, or even recognizing when an employer is violating them, can be tricky. To help workers navigate these new laws, local policy experts and community organizers created a new nonprofit called the Fair Work Center. 

“It’s a one-stop shop to figure out what to do when your rights are violated at work,” said Director Nicole Vallestero Keenan. Read the full story at at realchangenews.org.

Confused About Your Rights As a Worker? A New Non-Profit Has You Covered

Crosscut Daily Troll:

Following the recent raising of the minimum wage in Seattle to $15 an hour, many employees in the Emerald City may be a little confused about their rights. The Fair Work Center, a non-profit, has launched and will partner with a law clinic at the University of Washington. “Seattle is fortunate to have a suite of newly adopted labor laws, including one of the highest minimum wages in the country,” said Fair Work Center’s Director Nicole Vallestero Keenan. The center will help workers make sense of their rights under city laws about paid sick leave, wage theft protections and other issues as well as the minimum wage.

Fair Work Center Launches to Help Workers Navigate Seattle’s New Labor Laws

SEATTLE—With new wage laws now in effect in Seattle, the nonprofit Fair Work Center has launched to help workers better understand their rights and the city’s labor standards.

“Seattle is fortunate to have a suite of newly adopted labor laws, including one of the highest minimum wages in the country,” said Director Nicole Vallestero Keenan. “Fair Work Center has been established to help workers make sense of their rights to paid sick leave, wage theft protections, minimum wage and more.”

Read more at the Eastside Business Journal.

Los Angeles mayor enacts $15-an-hour minimum wage

LOS ANGELES — In becoming the largest city in the country to mandate a $15-an-hour minimum wage, Los Angeles could put the pressure on other cities in what is sure to become a potent issue in next year’s presidential election.

Mayor Eric Garcetti signed the measure into law Saturday. It will require employers to gradually raise minimum wages until they reach $15 an hour. The first step comes in July, 2016, when the minimum wage becomes $10.50. Then, each following year, it will rise another another step — $12, $13.50, $14.25 and then $15.

Read more at USAToday.

Seattle’s minimum wage raise gave me the breathing room I needed

On January 1st, Whole Foods decided to raise our wages four months earlier than the April 1st implementation date, to $11 an hour. That was the first step to $15, which has a phase-in period and would reach $15 in 2017 for large companies.

My increase translated to about $120 more a month. Before this, I didn’t have a smartphone, and I was able to put that extra income towards purchasing a phone through my family’s plan. That purchase was actually key to obtaining a new job as a delivery driver at a local sushi restaurant in March 2015, where I earn more from tips, because I was able to use that phone as a GPS to navigate around Seattle.

Aside from that major purchase, the wage increase has given my wife and I some breathing room, and allows us to take a day every once in a while to get take-out from a restaurant, as well as being a little healthier in our choices at the grocery store.

Read more at the Guardian.

How Strategic Enforcement Fuels Compliance with Labor Laws

When we fill up our tanks, we’re aware of the price we’re paying for gas. But for those of us who live in New Jersey or Oregon, or have ever passed through a station that employs attendants to pump gas, did you stop to think about the wages paid to that attendant? At the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division, that’s what I think about. And we’re working to ensure that employers in this industry hit the gas on efforts to pay properly at the pump.

New Jersey is one of the two states (along with Oregon) where motorists are prohibited from pumping their own gas. Gas stations in New Jersey employ thousands of attendants − typically vulnerable, low-wage workers who are, for a variety of reasons, at risk for working under conditions where they are not paid all of the wages legally due them.

Read more at here from DOL.