Su & Us: Enforcing the minimum wage

Su, a Korean immigrant who worked as an assistant to a hairdresser in Bellevue, answered phones, greeted customers, swept up hair, and provided tea and snacks. She worked 45 hours per week but was paid just $1,000 per month, less than $5.50 per hour. Her employer thought that she could take advantage of Su and her desire to break into the personal care industry, telling her that she was not an employee but an “independent contractor.”

Su knew this was unfair and was referred to the Fair Work Legal Clinic by 21 Progress, one of our Fair Work Collaborative partners. The Legal Clinic represented Su, filing a charge of wage theft on her behalf with Washington’s Department of Labor and Industries (L&I).

L&I initially found that Su’s employer must pay $2,000. But Su brought in her records showing that she was actually owed double that amount. L&I agreed and ordered Su’s employer to pay the full $4,000 she was owed. Su is thrilled with the result and we are thrilled that we could support Su in standing up for her right to a fair wage. That said, L&I could and should have gone further in cases like Su’s.

Unfortunately, in the majority of its cases, L&I does not require that employers pay interest when paying back wages stolen from their workers’ paychecks. This means that if L&I orders payment a year after the theft happened, the employer gets to use the worker’s money during that whole time. This is like an employer taking an interest-free loan from its employees’ paychecks. Meanwhile, low-wage workers – who are disproportionately women, people of color, immigrants and refugees – have the pay the interest on credit card debt or payday loans just to get by. This isn’t right, and Fair Work Center will continue to advocate that L&I must include interest in these wage and hour cases.

If you think you are not being paid the minimum wage, or what you are owed, please call our hotline at 1-844-485-1195, email us at help@fairworkcenter.org, or fill out our our web-form.

Overtime for Nonprofit Workers?!? Join us Wednesday 1/23 for a conversation about nonprofits and restoring overtime rights

Washington State could act to restore overtime rights to hundreds of thousands of salaried workers in our state — including thousands who work long hours for low pay at nonprofits.
Nonprofit staff, board members, managers, volunteers, and donors are invite to join Vu Le of NonprofitAF and Rainier Valley Corps fame, Misha Werschkul of the Washington State Budget & Policy Center, Laura Pierce of Washington Nonprofit Association and Rachel Lauter of Working Washington and Fair Work Center for an online conversation about:

What’s going on with overtime rules

What’s at stake for workers and communities

How updated overtime rules could affect your job, your nonprofit, and your mission… for the better!

Lunch & Learn: Nonprofits & Overtime Rights
Wednesday, January 23, 2019
12:00 pm
Online on Zoom and in person at Southside Commons in Columbia City (map)
Nonprofits have a key role to play in this conversation. Join us Wednesday to learn more about the issue and what’s next.

This raise was brought to you by fast food workers

No single group has done more to raise standards for low-wage workers over the past decade than low-wage workers. It’s easy to take for granted the annual increases to the minimum wage in Washington, Seattle, SeaTac, and Tacoma that just occurred last week on January 1st. It’s easy to forget how we got here, and just as importantly, who got us here.

In late 2012, Working Washington began organizing in SeaTac with the idea of making every job at the airport a good job. Those efforts resulted Proposition 1, a ballot initiative passed in November of 2013 which raised wages to $15/hour with annual adjustments for inflation for airport and hospitality workers in SeaTac. It also provided paid sick days and provisions that gave workers opportunities for more hours and ensured they received all the tips or service charges they earned.

Six months later, hundreds of fast food workers with Working Washington in Seattle launched strikes across the city, calling for $15 for all workers across the city. Prior to the first strikes, the only fast food workers you heard from in the media were actors in commercials, but through their courageous action, these low-wage workers sparked a citywide debate about the poverty-wage economy and the future of work in Seattle. Despite initially being dismissed as unrealistic by nearly everyone, Seattle’s Fight for $15 was soon embraced by the public and a wide spectrum of leaders in the city.


Check out this video, “Walking Out Into History” for more on the epic win of $15 in Seattle.

The speed and scale of the shift was extraordinary. Workers continued agitating after those first strikes, with additional strikes, a march from SeaTac to Seattle, and a number of creative street actions to turn up the heat on local elected leaders to act. And in less than six months of high profile actions, a $15 minimum wage was a major plank of both mayoral candidates’ platforms and everyone, from City Hall to workplaces large and small, was talking about the inevitability of raising the minimum wage. On May 1, 2014 – just one year after those first fast food workers took to the streets – Mayor Ed Murray announced a proposal to increase Seattle’s minimum wage over the course of the next seven years to $15 or higher for all workers. The rest, as they say, is history.

Fair Work Center comes out of this history. We were founded shortly after $15 was established in Seattle in order to ensure that the new minimum wage – as well as other progressive labor standards workers won like paid sick and safe leave and fair chance employment – was enforced and that workers were getting paid the wages they fought for.

Today we provide know your rights education to thousands of workers each year. We support hundreds of workers in exercising their rights through our legal clinic. And we are partnering with Working Washington to build lasting power for low-wage workers across the state.

For more information on the minimum wage or your other rights on the job, to learn how to access our free legal clinic or arrange a know your rights training in your community, check out www.fairworkcenter.org.

337,100 people got a raise on Tuesday!

This week, an estimated 337,100 workers in Washington got a raise thanks to Initiative 1433, which raised the minimum wage across the state to $12.00/hour on January 1. This year’s raise represents more than $250 million in annual wages for the people who need it the most – and who are more likely to put it back into their local economies.

Some cities in Washington have even higher minimum wages. Here are the local minimum wages for 2019:

Washington: $12:00/hour
Seattle, big companies & chains (501 or more employees worldwide): $16.00/hour
Seattle, smaller companies & chains (500 or less employees worldwide)…
…Where workers earn $3/hour in tips and/or health benefits: $12.00/hour
…Where workers earn less than $3/hour in tips and/or health benefits: $15.00/hour
SeaTac (for hospitality and airport workers): $16.09/hour
Tacoma: $12.35/hour

Wondering what you’re owed? Check out whatsmywage.org, a tool from from our sibling org, Working Washington, that walks you through a quick form to figure out your minimum wage.

According to the Economic Policy Institute, Washington was one of 19 states raising the minimum wages on January 1, meaning wage increases for more than 5 million Americans.

Thanks to all the workers in Washington and across the country who fought for and won these raises to the minimum wage!

For more information on the minimum wage or your other rights on the job, check out www.fairworkcenter.org.

Join us for the Future of Worker Power!

Please join us in shaping the future of worker power on November 1, 5:30-7:30pm at WithinSodo (map). Fair Work Center and Working Washington are joining forces to build a powerful, sustainable and scalable worker organization to advance worker and economic justice in Washington and beyond. Join us in celebrating this alignment and raising funds to fuel the 21st Century workers movement.

We are excited to announce our special guest speaker, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson. In addition to his strong resistance to the Trump administration, Bob is a tireless champion for working people in Washington, and we are thrilled he will be joining us.

RVSP online today!

The suggested ticket price is $50, but there is a sliding scale so you can pay what makes the most sense for your budget.

If you have any questions, please contact Hannah Cole (hannah@workingwashington.org).

We look forward to seeing you on November 1st!

RE: ATTORNEY GENERAL BOB FERGUSON’S ANNOUNCEMENT REGARDING “NO POACHING” PROVISIONS

July 12, 2018
[Cross-posted at workingwa.org/media]

The following remarks were made by Rachel Lauter, Executive Director of Working Washington and Fair Work Center, in regard to Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s announcement that to avoid a lawsuit, seven fast food corporations will remove “no-poach” provisions from their franchise agreements:

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“Workers who fight to raise their pay or take on wage theft and other workplaces issues are often dismissed and told to ‘get a better job’.

These ‘no-poaching’ agreements show that employers sometimes make it harder for worker to get that better job. They make it harder for workers to improve their circumstances. They stand in the way of opportunity.

But today that’s coming to an end.”


The following comments were made by Working Washington member Merlee Sherman, who works as a courier for Jimmy Johns:

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“I’m a driver and a manager in training at Jimmy John’s, and what these no poaching clauses actually look like is suppressed pay and limited mobility for people within the company.

There has not been mobility for me to receive better pay at another Jimmy John’s based on my experience. There have not been options for me to go to another store and receive a better wage. All of those have been limited within the company itself.

Today’s settlement is a giant step for those of us who want to use our skills. Food education in general is my niche, it’s my passion, it’s my career. I want to share my skills with those coming into the food industry and I can’t do that if I can’t put food on the table.”

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.

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.