Danielle Alvarado testimony before the U.S. House Select Committee on Economic Disparity & Fairness in Growth

Testimony of Danielle Alvarado, Executive Director of Working Washington & Fair Work Center, before the U.S. House Select Committee on Economic Disparity & Fairness in Growth

AUGUST 9, 2022

“Good afternoon Chairman Himes, Ranking Member Steil, and members of the Committee. My name is Danielle Alvarado. I’m the Executive Director of Working Washington & Fair Work Center, a statewide organization of low-wage and historically excluded workers. We have led the campaigns to pass and enforce many of the transformative victories mentioned today.

Seattle’s economy is strong, not in spite of our labor standards, but because of them—and our successes here provide a roadmap for the rest of the country.

There are four key lessons that I want to highlight:

FIRST, LOCAL LEADERSHIP ON WORKPLACE PROTECTIONS MATTERS, ESPECIALLY FOR HISTORICALLY EXCLUDED WORKERS 

The success of the Fight for Fifteen meant 1 in 4 Seattle workers got a raise — making it one of the largest economic boosts for workers in recent American history. That’s more than 100,000 people with more in their pockets to pay bills, save up for emergencies, and spend in the local economy.

Today, our Seattle minimum wage is $10 higher than the federal, and the movement that started here has spread nationwide. Over the past decade, we’ve increased wages by more than $150 billion dollars for 26 million workers across the country.

Our victories in Washington aren’t just about what we’ve won, but who has benefitted. We have taken on some of the most deeply entrenched and racist labor standards exclusions in federal law. In Seattle, nannies and house cleaners passed the first municipal Domestic Workers Bill of Rights to establish basic protections like minimum pay and breaks. And this year, for the first time, Washington farmworkers are earning overtime. These victories are chipping away at an economic system that for too long has trapped workers of color at the bottom.

SECOND, LOCAL GOVERNMENT CAN QUICKLY PIVOT, ENSURING WORKERS ARE NOT LEFT BEHIND 

The power of local leadership is clear in moments of crisis. As the pandemic hit frontline workers hard, we won first-in-the-nation emergency hazard pay and sick time rights for gig workers. The City also moved swiftly to establish a relief fund providing additional help to nearly 10,000 residents. These emergency measures were critical to keeping Seattle workers safe, healthy, and able to make ends meet.

And these crisis responses often pave the way for long term solutions. That’s why we continued to organize, which led the City Council to unanimously pass PayUp, our permanent gig worker ordinance, this May.

THIRD, STRONG LABOR PROTECTIONS REQUIRE INVESTING IN ENFORCEMENT 

We know our rights are only real when they’re enforced—and when that doesn’t happen, it’s people of color, Black workers, immigrants, and other historically excluded groups who are more likely to experience labor standards violations.
That’s why Seattle established the Office of Labor Standards (OLS) to build on the work of our state agency. To date, OLS has returned nearly 25 million dollars to over 40,000 Seattle workers. OLS enforces strategically. By focusing resources on priority issues and industries, it is able to recover more money for workers, close the enforcement gap, and hold bad actor employers accountable.

Most critically, OLS has invested millions of dollars in partnerships with grassroots organizations like ours. When we fund community based outreach and enforcement, we break down the isolation and fear of retaliation that keeps so many workers – particularly the most marginalized –  from coming forward. By combining community partnerships and strategic enforcement, we are able to ensure that our progressive labor standards really mean something to the workers who fought for them and need them most.

LAST, STRONG LABOR STANDARDS REQUIRE STRONG WORKER ORGANIZING 

We are proud of our partners in local government. And, it’s critical to understand that the progress we’ve made in Washington would not have happened without the leadership of workers.

Time and time again, we’ve seen that workers know better than anyone what needs to change about our economy. To make sure worker voices remain front-and-center, we’ve created strong coalitions of community organizations, labor unions, and worker centers like ours. By coming together to win new protections at the state and local level, we’re responding to the modern economy by building an inclusive labor movement that leaves nobody behind.

OUR PRIORITIES FOR THE FUTURE 

While we’ve achieved powerful victories in the Seattle area, there is still more work to be done. Washington has no state income tax, which means too many workers struggle while the rich get richer.

There’s an urgent need to strengthen federal and state labor standards and bring them up to speed with Seattle’s gains. Our safety net has unacceptable shortcomings: we need universal access to unemployment, paid leave, and robust health and safety protections that reflect the realities of climate change. We need deeper investments in labor standards enforcement to make sure rights on paper are real in every corner of the state.

No matter where we live, we all deserve, fairly paid, dignified work. Seattle’s workers have shown it can be done. We are ready to continue leading the way.”

MEDIA RELEASE: Ezell’s worker files lawsuit over sexual harassment

COURT FILING DETAILS TWO YEARS OF HARASSMENT, DISCRIMINATION AT EZELL’S FAMOUS CHICKEN BELLEVUE LOCATION

Lawsuit underscores widespread crisis of sexual harassment and discrimination in the restaurant industry


A worker at Ezell’s Famous Chicken has filed a lawsuit in King County Superior Court alleging she was sexually harassed and assaulted while at work.

For two years, the worker’s supervisor, the General Manager of the Bellevue Ezell’s Famous Chicken location, engaged in an escalating pattern of harassment, assault, and intimidation. Meanwhile, corporate management at Ezell’s failed to provide sexual harassment policies or training in Spanish or any way for this worker to report the General Manager’s sexual harassment to upper management at the company without fearing for her job.

The full court filing is available here. Specific allegations raised in the complaint include:

  • Sexual harrassment and assault: the store’s General Manager engaged in an escalating pattern of unwanted sexual behavior, including many instances where he made sexually-explicit and derogatory verbal comments to her, touched the worker’s body without her permission, and an occasion where he groped her body while after trapping her in a walk-in freezer.

  • Corporate responsibility: Management at this Ezell’s location provided no sexual harassment training in Spanish, nor did they offer any procedure for workers to bring forth complaints about sexual harassment or other mistreatment

MORE INFORMATION:

The worker is represented by attorneys at Fair Work Center and Frank Freed Subit & Thomas, LLP.

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Contact Jeffrey Gustaveson: jeffrey@fairworkcenter.org

Reglas de salud & seguridad durante las olas de calor

Las temperaturas están llegando a las tres cifras en Yakima, Spokane, y Walla Walla, a los 90s en Seattle y el resto del estado.

Así que es un buen tiempo para revisar las reglas de calor extremo que comienzan a notarse cuando la temperatura llega a 89º+ por más de 15 minutos en una hora.

Responsabilidades de empleadores durante las olas de calor: 

🥤Proveer una quarta de galón de agua para cada trabajador cada hora

🧊 Mantener el agua fría y accesible

🕶️  Proveer áreas con sombra para descansar

🧘 Descansos mandatorios para enfriarse

Más detalles aquí del Departamento de Labor e Industrias de WA. 

Health & safety rules for WA workers during extreme heat

[Leer esta información en español]

Temperatures are reaching triple digits in Yakima, Spokane, and Walla Walla, and the 90s in Seattle & the rest of the state. 

So it’s a good time to brush up on the outdoor heat exposure rules that kick in for workers exposed to 89º+ temperatures for more than 15 minutes in a 60-minute period. 

Key employer responsibilities during excessive heat:

🥤Provide 1 quart of water per worker per hour

🧊 Keep water cool & accessible

🕶️ Provide shade

🧘Mandatory cool-down rest periods

More details here from the WA Department of Labor & Industries.

Meet Gabo Gutierrez

Our statement on the US Supreme Court’s Decision to Roll Back Abortion Rights

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to strike down abortion rights is a misogynistic attack on people who can become pregnant. We condemn this assault on bodily autonomy and workers’ rights, which will fall the hardest on poor people, people of color, immigrants, and LGBTQ+ people.

Reproductive rights are workers’ rights. Across the country, too many workers already face serious barriers to staying healthy: many of us work without the right to paid time off and are paid poverty wages that prevent us from affording basic necessities like medical care, childcare, and food. Now, millions of us no longer have the fundamental right to bodily autonomy, further limiting our ability to make our own decisions about what’s right for our health and economic stability.

This ruling erects yet another barrier for poor and working people trying to survive and thrive—and it’s part of a broader right-wing, anti-democratic attempt to control and disempower working class people. Here in Washington state, we’ll keep building the power we need to ensure everyone can lead a healthy and dignified life.

Centro Chinampa is now open in Yakima!

 

More than one hundred people came together earlier this week to celebrate the grand opening of Centro Chinampa, our new worker center in Yakima!

Packing house worker leader Angie Lara speaking at the Centro Chinampa grand opening.

Centro Chinampa is a first-of-its-kind hub for worker and immigrant rights in Central WA—a space for us to gather as immigrants, workers, and community to defend our rights, get involved in politics, and build collective power.

We’re proud to collaborate on this worker center and share a roof with OneAmerica, the Washington Immigrant Solidarity Network, and the Washington State Labor Council.

The center is named for the ancient Chinampas of Anahuac (the territory that is now Mexico), floating gardens cultivated and cared for by the local community. As OneAmerica organizer Audel explained at last night’s event: “These practices bonded people to each other and the places they inhabited. We see many parallels between these traditions and the space we have created at Centro Chinampa.”

Danielle Alvarado, Executive Director of Fair Work Center, speaking at the Centro Chinampa grand opening.

 

Fair Work Center staff outside Centro Chinampa.

It was a beautiful night celebrating community and an exciting vision for worker power in Central WA. You can read all about it in the Yakima Herald and El Sol De Yakima — and then, if you’re able, chip in to support our Yakima Worker Center Fund, which will ensure we have the resources we need to move this vision forward.

¡Gran inauguración del centro de trabajadores en Yakima — 15 de junio!

¡La gran inauguración del nuevo centro de trabajadores en Yakima viene el 15 de junio…y te invitamos a festejar con nosotros!

Nuestro nuevo centro en Yakima — un esfuerzo colaborativo entre OneAmerica, WAISN, y WLSC — será un espacio focal en donde la comunidad y los trabajadores pueden venir para aprender de sus derechos, obtener apoyo legal cuando los derechos no se están respetando, y crear un poder comunitario para luchar por nuevos derechos.

Únete a nosotros para esta celebración comunitaria. RSVP aquí.

Si no puedes venir en persona, ¿nos puedes apoyar con una donación? Cada dólar nos ayuda en dar talleres sobre los derechos laborales y proveer apoyo legal a los trabajadores en el Valle de Yakima: CONTRIBUIR HOY

Yakima worker center grand opening — June 15th

The grand opening of our new worker center in Yakima is coming up on June 15th…and you’re invited to join in the festivities!

Our new location in Yakima—a collaboration with OneAmerica, the Washington Immigrant Solidarity Network, & the Washington State Labor Council — will be a regional hub for workers across the Yakima Valley to learn about their rights, get legal help when those rights are being violated, and build the power they need to address the challenges they face. 

Can you join us for this community celebration? Click here to RSVP.

If you can’t make it out in-person, can you support our expanded presence in Yakima with a donation? Every dollar helps run Know Your Rights workshops & provide legal help to workers across Central WA: Make a contribution today

Join us online this week for Workers’ Workshop-Palooza

We’re gearing up for May Day—aka International Workers’ Day—with an entire week of online workers’ rights workshops. It’s the Workers’ Workshop-Palooza. Have a question about your rights at work? Missing a paycheck? Not getting your breaks? We’ll share details about your rights & answer your questions.

Every day this week, 15-minute workshops begin at NOON in English and 5:30 PM in Spanish. Click here to get the link.

  • Monday: Minimum Wage & Overtime
  • Tuesday: Breaks & Tips
  • Wednesday: Paid Sick and Safe Time
  • Thursday: Hotel Worker Protections
  • Friday: Wage Theft

May Day is a time to celebrate the victories workers have achieved by standing together—but our rights are only real if we know what they are and how to enforce them. Tune in to our workshops here.