Efraín’s story: “It felt like a total lack of respect”

 

Efraín worked as a cook for a sports bar and grill in Seattle. He was regularly required to work overtime hours, didn’t get any breaks, and was only paid for a flat 40 hours each week—no matter how many additional hours he actually worked. And when he tried to take a paid sick day, his employer fired him.

He got in touch with our legal clinic and we took the case. Now, Efraín is getting $72,000 in a settlement — more than a year’s worth of pay.

Here’s Efraín’s story, translated from Spanish:

(Haga clic aquí para leer la versión original en español)

“After they hired me, I worked hard for six months while earning the minimum wage they offered me. Six months in, my manager called me in to talk. I brought my coworker to help translate to English, because our manager only spoke English, and didn’t speak a word of Spanish. My boss told me that I was doing really well and offered me more responsibility in the kitchen. And with that, he offered me a salary of $1000 a week to work Monday through Sunday—I’d have to be there seven days a week.

From then on, I had to work at least 55 hours a week, sometimes up to 60 hours—all for $1,000 a week. They weren’t paying me anything more for all those extra hours. So they already owed me a ton of money. Still, I needed the job.

It was so stressful working six or seven days a week. I’d leave work to head home at 1:30am. Later, it became 2:30am. I couldn’t take breaks at work or days off. I was only sleeping about 4 or 5 hours a night.

I felt terrible. Before, this job was already so demanding—and now it was even more work. Our boss didn’t care about the effort we were putting in or about how little he was paying us. He didn’t care at all. Every year, the owner hosted a party to celebrate the staff, but they never invited those of us who worked in the back, in the kitchen. All of that stuff, the pay and the exclusion and everything, it felt like a total lack of respect.

One day, very early in my shift, I told my boss that I’d slept really poorly and needed to go to the dentist to deal with some bad tooth pain I was having. I’d never missed work, but today I just couldn’t do it. He told me it was okay to leave and go to the dentist—so I did. But maybe two hours later, he called to tell me I was fired.

I was so angry and frustrated. I thought about all the work I did there, about how none of it mattered to them, they didn’t value any of it. It’s still very, very frustrating to think about.

I’d heard about Fair Work Center about five years ago, during an English class I was taking at the time. I remember our teacher telling us that it was a place to go if our rights were being disrespected. So I got in touch with the lawyers at Fair Work Center, and after talking they decided to help me fight my case.

I just want other workers to know about what rights we have. Sometimes, as undocumented people, we don’t know where to turn or who to take our questions to when our rights are being violated. In the past, I haven’t said anything, I’ve stayed quiet because I’ve been afraid of bad consequences and all that—I’ve never said ‘let’s fight back, let’s take them to court, let’s do it.’

But with this situation, I knew I’d been wronged—and I knew I needed to enforce my rights. And that’s what we did.”

Are your rights at work being violated? Need help?

Call us at 844-485-1195, email help@fairworkcenter.org, or fill out this form.

Los trabajadores de agricultura en WA ahora deben recibir un pago extra cuando trabajan horas extras

Haga clic aquí para leer esta noticia en inglés.

Miles de trabajadores de agricultura en WA ahora deben recibir un pago extra cuando trabajan horas extras. Durante la sesión legislativa en 2021, los trabajadores agrícolas ganaron una nueva ley que puso fin a la exclusión racista de trabajadores agrícolas desde esta protección laboral básica.

En 2022, todos los trabajadores de agricultura tienen derecho a recibir un pago de *tiempo y medio* para todas las horas trabajadas después de 55 en una semana. En el transcurso de los siguientes años, el número de horas requeridas para recibir un pago extra va bajando poco a poco hasta llegar a 40 horas en una semana.

  • 2022: pago extra después de 55 horas/semana

  • 2023: pago extra después de 48 horas/semana

  • 2024: pago extra después de 40 horas/semana

OJO: debido a un dictamen de la Corte Suprema del Estado de WA en 2020, los trabajadores de lechería ya tienen derecho a un pago extra después de trabajar 40 horas en una semana. 

¿Te está pagando lo justo tu patrón? ¿Recibes un pago extra?

Agricultural workers in WA will now get overtime pay when they work overtime hours

Haga clic aquí para leer esta noticia en español.

Tens of thousands of agricultural workers across the state now get overtime pay when they work overtime hours. That’s because of a groundbreaking state law won by farmworkers during the 2021 legislative session, which reversed the longstanding racist exclusion of farmworkers from this basic labor protection.

In 2022, all WA agricultural workers have the right to receive 1.5x pay for each hour worked after 55 hours in a week. Over the next three years, the number of hours before overtime kicks in will decrease until eventually reaching 40 hours/week.

  • 2022: overtime pay after 55 hours/week.
  • 2023: overtime pay after 48 hours/week.
  • 2024: overtime pay after 40 hours/week.

Note: due to a WA Supreme Court decision in 2020, dairy workers get overtime pay when they work more than 40 hours in a week.

Is your boss paying you overtime? What are you seeing?

Seattle gig worker hazard pay and sick days are still in effect

You may have heard that a bill to repeal hazard pay for grocery workers was passed in Seattle. Grocery worker hazard pay will end 30 days after the Mayor signs the bill.

But gig workers in Seattle should know this: laws that ensure you receive $2.50/job hazard pay and have access to paid sick days are still in effect through the pandemic emergency. 

If you’re a gig worker in Seattle, you still have these rights:

  • Hazard pay: If you do gig food delivery work, you are entitled to $2.50 in hazard pay for each restaurant or grocery delivery you make inside the Seattle city limits. Hazard pay must be listed separately on your pay report, and paid out on top of what you would otherwise be paid.

  • Sick leave: If you do gig delivery work or drive for Uber/Lyft, you have the right to take paid sick days. You accrue paid sick days going forward at a rate of 1 day for every 30 days you work. When you take a paid sick day, you’ll get paid based on your average daily compensation, including tips.

Dozens of Seattle construction workers are seeing workplace-wide accountability for workplace-wide violations of their rights

 

We know that when there’s one labor rights violation in a workplace, there’s often more.

And that’s exactly what the Seattle Office of Labor Standards found in a recent investigation into two Seattle-area construction companies. After several immigrant construction workers brought concerns about their rights to CASA Latina — a trusted organization in the Latinx community, and one of our close partners — they got connected with City investigators, who in turn started looking into overall labor rights practices at the companies.

OLS found a long-standing pattern of labor rights violations at the two companies, including a widespread practice of ignoring minimum wage and overtime protections. And those violations aren’t limited to the handful of workers who spoke up: all told, OLS is forcing the companies to pay $2,055,204 to 53 workers.

Such robust and wide-ranging enforcement proves the power of our system of community-based labor standards enforcement in Seattle. The immigrant workers in this case already had strong existing relationships and trust with CASA Latina. When they came forward with concerns about their rights, CASA Latina remained involved throughout the entire investigation, helping bridge communication and build trust between workers and the City’s investigators. 

That trust is essential when it comes to ensuring workers can enforce their rights at work — and that’s especially true for immigrant workers of color, who face particularly high rates of labor rights violations, and who often don’t know or believe that government agencies like OLS are there to help.

This collaborative process means big things for workers: backed up by local organizations bringing community-based expertise, and supported by the resources and investigative power of city government, workers are increasingly seeing workplace-wide accountability for workplace-wide problems.

These partnerships between workers, community organizations, and city government are no accident. For years, community organizations like Fair Work Center and CASA Latina have been working with the City of Seattle to fund and build out this cutting-edge approach to labor standards enforcement.

It’s working. Seattle is leading the way by passing first-in-the-nation labor standards. And we’re backing those laws up with an equally innovative approach to enforcement that’s successfully moving money from companies to workers and holding employers accountable.

As the Seattle City Council turns its attention to the annual budget, it is critically important that city leaders continue to support and fund this community-based labor standards enforcement system. Our labor laws are only as strong as our ability to enforce them — and city leaders need only look to recent enforcement victories for workers as proof of just how powerful that enforcement can be.

Welcoming Danielle Alvarado as the new Executive Director of Fair Work Center & Working Washington

Dear Working Washington & Fair Work Center community,

We are thrilled to welcome Danielle Alvarado as the new Executive Director of Working Washington & Fair Work Center.

Danielle has more than a decade of experience working in the movement for racial and economic justice. And she knows our organization inside & out: since 2019, she’s been our Legal Director.

Leading our legal team, she has supported WA workers in recovering over $1.5 million in stolen wages, and has expanded our ability to represent workers in wage theft, harassment, and retaliation cases. She has also shown a deep commitment to putting the needs of immigrant workers and workers of color front and center in our organizing. This past year, she helped co-lead the broad coalition of community organizations that won $430 million in pandemic relief for undocumented workers excluded from government relief programs.

Born and raised in San Jose, California, Danielle became the first lawyer in her Mexican-American family in order to support organizing and build power in communities like the one she grew up in. She has spent her career supporting worker centers all over the country and has dedicated herself to learning about the many different ways workers are successfully building power.

That’s the experience driving Danielle’s vision for the future of Working Washington & Fair Work Center:

I believe that workers are experts in their own lives — that those of us who are closest to the problem should be the ones to identify and build solutions. That idea has long guided our organization’s work and victories, but there’s still so much more we can do to ensure the voices of those who’ve been excluded from conversations and decisions about their lives —  immigrant workers, workers of color, LGBTQ+ workers, disabled workers, and so many others — are put front and center.”

 

Since Fair Work Center & Working Washington merged in 2018, we’ve come together to win some transformative victories. We’ve passed groundbreaking protections for domestic workers in Seattle. We’ve won first-in-the-nation hazard pay and sick leave laws for gig workers. We’ve successfully expanded overtime protections to cover hundreds of thousands more salaried workers across the state. And we’ve launched new education programs in SeaTac & Yakima, and created a Basebuilding Team to better support worker leaders over the long haul.

Danielle steps into this role at a time of ongoing crisis for workers. But despite the challenges we’re facing, we know this from experience: when we organize together to demand big changes, we win big. Danielle comes prepared and fired up to continue the work of building power and winning transformative changes for working people across WA. 

But we’re up against billionaires and wealthy corporations — and that means victories will take resources. If you are able, show your support for Danielle and her leadership by contributing to a new Transition Fund that will ensure we have the resources we need to continue fighting for a just and equitable recovery from this pandemic crisis.  

Thank you for being a part of it all,

David Rolf
Board President
Working WA & Fair Work Center

Rebecca Saldaña
Board Vice President
State Senator — WA 37 

P.S. Want your full-time job to be building worker power with Danielle and the rest of the team at Working Washington & Fair Work Center? We are hiring for new legal clinic leadership and for two campaign organizing positions.

The Seattle Office of Labor Standards has moved $5 million from big gig companies to gig workers (so far)

Ever since gig workers in Seattle won first-in-the-nation hazard pay + sick leave laws last summer, workers have been enforcing their new rights & bringing cases to the Seattle Office of Labor Standards for investigation.

It’s working.

Over the past year, OLS has moved a total of more than $5 million from gig companies to 24K+ gig workers in Seattle for violations of the sick leave and hazard pay laws. And that’s on top of the millions of dollars workers are already getting when companies comply with the law by providing paid sick time and paying $2.50/job hazard pay.

In the latest settlement, Postmates is paying nearly a million dollars to workers after failing to provide required sick leave during the pandemic.

But it’s not just Postmates paying up. Over the past year, plenty of other gig companies have also reached settlements with OLS. Here’s the rundown:

It’s all proof that when we pair innovative labor standards policies — designed by workers, for workers — with robust government enforcement, we can raise standards across entire industries and ensure the rights workers win are real.

Seattle is setting a national model for gig workers’ rights — and that may soon include new *permanent* standards, with gig workers leading the way at the Seattle City Council. Stay tuned.

Domestic workers in Seattle won a Bill of Rights in 2018. What’s next?

In 2018, nannies and housecleaners with Working Washington & Casa Latina won the Seattle Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, ensuring domestic workers are covered by basic labor protections like minimum wage laws, paid rest breaks, meal breaks, and more. This victory overcame the racist exclusion of domestic workers — most of whom are women, people of color, and immigrants — from our most basic labor standards.

As part of that victory, we won the creation of an innovative, first-in-the-nation Domestic Workers Standards Board: a place for workers and employers to come together and make formal recommendations to the city about how we can continue improving conditions for workers.

Three years later, how’s it going? Over the past few months, nannies and housecleaners have come together on a list of recommendations to the city, focusing especially on the widespread lack of paid time off in the industry. Nearly two-thirds of nannies and house cleaners in the Seattle area can’t take paid time off when they’re sick to stay home and get healthy.

So domestic workers are leading an innovative solution — and last week, they brought their formal recommendations directly to the Seattle City Council. Under the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, those recommendations have some real force: once the Standards Board presents its formal recommendations to lawmakers, the City Council is required to offer a response within 120 days.

The Standards Board is proposing a new paid time off system that travels with workers as they travel from job to job. The way this “portable benefits” plan works, you can take sick days even if you don’t have a full time job and might not otherwise qualify for time off under current Seattle law.

There are still plenty of steps to go before portable benefits are a reality in Seattle. But we’re already building something big — it’s a movement that’s changing fundamental things about how decisions typically go down in the halls of power. Instead of politicians making decisions about us but without us, the standards board model puts workers’ voices front-and-center in the conversations that impact our lives.

Together, we’ll continue to make sure politicians here in WA are following our lead.

P.S.— Curious to learn more about how workers are leading the way with the innovative standards board model? Click here to read this article in Bloomberg from back when the board first launched in 2018.

Fair Work News — May 2021

a restaurant where workers’ rights weren’t on the menu

A Spanish-speaking immigrant restaurant worker in Seattle recently contacted our legal clinic looking for help enforcing his rights on the job. He was regularly required to work overtime hours, but his employer only paid him for 40 hours each week, no matter how many hours he actually worked.

He’d also taken Paid Sick & Safe Time after coming down with an illness — but instead of wishing him a speedy recovery, his employer fired him for staying home.

Represented by Fair Work Center lawyers, he filed a wage theft and retaliation lawsuit against his employer to enforce his right to get paid and take time off when sick.

a big corporation with a big sick leave problem

A warehouse worker at a large corporation reached out to us because they were concerned that their company’s sick time policy violated the state’s emergency COVID-19 rules.

Managers had told them that anyone who got sick needed to come into the workplace in-person to get approved for using sick time. When the worker mentioned how unsafe that policy was — especially during a pandemic —supervisors threatened to write them up.

We supported this worker in filing complaints with the WA Division of Occupational Safety & Health and with the Attorney General’s office to get the company to end this hazardous policy.

and a self-help success story

A Spanish-speaking immigrant worker at a restaurant in South King County got in touch with us after his employer shorted him $1,600 on a recent paycheck. He knew he was being cheated, but wanted to better understand his rights before confronting his employer about the missing money.

Our legal team helped him understand his rights and his options for recovering his missing pay. With that information, this worker negotiated with his employer on his own and recovered the entire amount he was owed.

Are your rights at work being violated?

If you’re interested in a training, one on one information session, or a free consultation with our lawyers, call 844-485-1195, email help@fairworkcenter.org, or fill out this form.

Questions about your rights at work? Join us for our Weekly Workers’ Workshop

Join us on Zoom and Facebook Live for our Weekly Workers’ Workshop, every Tuesday at 5pm (in English) and 5:30pm (en español). It’s a space to share your experiences, ask questions, and learn more about your rights and how to enforce them.

Our community educators — including Colleen and Ricardo — can’t wait to meet you and start tackling the issues you’re facing on the job: click below to check out their video invitations!

Help us build an even stronger worker movement in 2021

In this challenging year, your support has helped us respond to this crisis, win new workers’ rights, and continue building worker power.

>>>Will you renew your support in the new year & help us build an even stronger worker movement in 2021?

The economic and public health crisis has hit workers hard. More than a million people across WA lost work, and hundreds of thousands are still unemployed. Workers in essential industries have often faced additional risks without adequate safety equipment or access to paid sick leave. 2.2 million people in Washington are struggling to buy groceries & make ends meet. And the crisis is deepening racial inequities: people of color are far more likely to be classified as essential and unable to work from home, are more likely to have lost work, and are less likely to collect unemployment benefits after losing work.

In response, we shifted our priorities to address the urgent needs revealed by this crisis. We helped launch the push for a moratorium on evictions and utilities shut-offs to prevent thousands from losing access to running water or even losing their homes. We’ve held dozens of COVID health & safety trainings to help workers understand and enforce their rights. And we helped pass Seattle’s new Jumpstart tax, requiring the biggest companies paying the highest salaries to pay a small tax to fund relief programs like affordable housing and grocery vouchers.

Here are 11 victories we accomplished together this year:

  • We helped lead the coalition that won a $40 million fund for undocumented immigrant workers, who are excluded from federal relief programs and unemployment insurance, and we’ve worked to get that money out the door and into the hands of 38,000 people across the state. But we know one-time cash assistance isn’t enough: that’s why we’re now fighting to create an emergency program that provides undocumented workers who have lost work with weekly income support for a length of time similar to unemployment insurance.
  • Workers across industries organized to strengthen health & safety measures. Restaurant workers wrote an open letter calling on state leaders to prioritize worker safety, provide direct relief to workers, and fix our state’s unemployment system. Strippers led the new Adult Entertainment Advisory Committee, which submitted safety policy recommendations to the state legislature in November. And domestic workers are laying the groundwork to expand access to paid sick time.
  • We launched two new industry-specific Know Your Rights training programs in Yakima and at SEA Airport in SeaTac, which are developing dozens of worker leaders who are experts on their rights and trusted sources for this information in their workplaces.
  • Our legal clinic helped workers recover nearly $150,000 in stolen wages during the pandemic and conducted hundreds of legal consultations with workers. We did policy research to help develop a proposal for an income support system for undocumented workers. We launched a new partnership with the WAISN hotline to connect even more immigrant workers throughout the state with free legal advice. And our team filed two lawsuits against restaurants to make sure workers are paid the money they’re owed.
All these accomplishments take resources. Many of us are struggling to pay rent this month, but if you’re able to chip in a monthly contribution of just $5, $10, or $15, it’ll go a long way to winning even more victories and leading a just recovery in 2021.

Our movement is building momentum. We have a strong track record of winning, and big plans to make sure we keep that up in 2021. But we’re up against wealthy corporations who are spending tons of money to push their same agenda of more for them and less for the rest of us. We’ll keep fighting back—and we need your help to do that.

Click here to renew your support for Fair Work Center. Even $5 makes a big difference and helps us build strength for the long haul.

In solidarity & gratitude,

—All of us at Fair Work Center