Fair Work News – February2019

February 2019

Catering company forced to take racism off the menu

Jane was a line cook for a catering company that provides food service to colleges. Jane loved her job, the interaction with the students especially. And she was good at it, churning out all of the food that came from the grill. The Executive Chef however made it impossible for her to stay there with unrelenting racially-motivated comments. Jane did everything she could, informing her superiors and human resources, but it didn’t stop. Jane stayed another three months, but eventually she found it too difficult.

We filed a charge of discrimination and a suit to recover wages, and met with the employer at mediation. There, the employer agreed to pay our client to compensate for the trauma caused by their employee and, importantly, agreed to change their policies and provide enhanced training to supervisors and staff.

Though she has a culinary degree, Jane had left cooking after this experience. With the damages recovered from the company, and she dreams of opening her own restaurant.

 


Wage theft at Emerald City Fence

Dan learned about Fair Work Center from the Washington Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) after attempting to make a complaint about his former employer, Emerald City Fence, a statewide fencing company. This company had a practice of deducting an hour of time from each employee’s pay, regardless of how many unpaid or paid rest and meal breaks the employee took. Because all employees at the company were victims of this wage theft, L&I recommended that Dan talk to Fair Work Center to see if he could make a claim for all his co-workers.

We immediately recognized the magnitude of the problem and agreed to work with Dan and his coworkers. Working with Breskin Johnson & Townsend, a local plaintiff’s employment firm and longtime supporter of Fair Work Center, we recently filed a class action case against Emerald City Fence.

 


404 error – paychecks not found

Jenna worked for a small tech start-up company. She enjoyed the work, but she started noticing issues with the company’s funding. At first, Jenna was patient with her delayed paychecks because she understood funding for a start-up is not always steady. However, the issue quickly escalated from receiving her paychecks late to not receiving compensation for months at a time. Eventually, Jenna’s employer failed to pay her for 12 pay periods for a total of $19,963.69.

This is when she came to Fair Work Center where we are currently supporting her in pursuing a wage complaint through L&I.

 


If your employer is training you, they should be paying you

Said worked as a driver for a transit company. He was required to do 120 hours of training and promised pay at his hourly rate.

Said came to the Fair Work Center after the employer failed to provide him any pay for the training. We provided Said with information about his rights and walked him through his options. Said decided on a small claims lawsuit. When his employer caught wind of it, the employer sent him a check for half the amount owed, promising the rest soon. Said thought about delaying his filing but, when the check bounced, he realized that he should keep going.

With our support, Said’s small claims case is underway in King County District Court.

 


Are your rights at work being violated?  For a free consultation, contact us today online or by phone: 1-844-485-1195.

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.

Fair Work News – December 2018

Fair Work Center is a hub for workers to understand and exercise their rights on the job. This edition of Fair Work News brings you stories of what justice on the job looks like for workers who were victims of wage theft, discrimination and more. Read on to learn how the Fair Work Legal Clinic is recovering workers’ stolen wages and helping enforce laws like Seattle’s Public Accommodations Ordinance and Hotel Employee Health & Safety Initiative.

The Queen Mary Tea Room gets on board

Coleman worked as a server at the Queen Mary Tea Room in North Seattle. Coleman, who is non-binary, noticed that the Tea Room maintained gender-exclusive bathrooms, with “ladies” and “gentlemen” written on the outside of each door. Indeed, the tea room had been cited by the Seattle Office for Civil Rights several times for violation of Seattle’s Public Accommodations Ordinance, which, among other things, requires all single-occupant restrooms to be gender-neutral restrooms. After each citation, the owner took down the signs, but moved them from the outside to the inside of the door or replaced them with pink and blue ribbons. Coleman raised this concern with the management, but nothing was done. Soon after, Coleman was terminated. Fair Work Center filed suit on Coleman’s behalf and negotiated a settlement by which the Queen Mary Tea Room compensated Coleman, agreed to change its practice and hosted a staff training on sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination by LGBTQ Allyship, one of our collaborative partners.

Wage theft at a residential construction company

Martin served as a foreman at a residential construction company. Most of the workers on his crew primarily spoke Spanish, and because Martin was more fluent in English, he served as a communicator with the employer to determine and secure payments for the jobs his crew worked. These contracts between the workers and the employer were oral and based in trust that both sides would uphold their end of the deal. This trust was broken when the employer refused to pay Martin and his peers for their work.

Unfamiliar with the law and unaware of any legal recourse available to him and his coworkers, Martin came to Fair Work Center worried that he would not be able to secure payment for their work. This money was essential to their livelihood. We assisted Martin in preparing a demand letter and filing his case in small claims court. The week before his scheduled court hearing in September, the employer paid Martin and his coworkers everything they were owed. Just as we are certain that Martin will continue to stand up for his fellow workers with the information he learned from visiting Fair Work Center, we are certain that his former employer will think twice before trying to exploit its employees again.

Local Montessori school learns a lesson

Leslie has been a teacher for most of her career. Recently, she took a job as an assistant teacher at a Montessori school in King County. She initially contacted Fair Work Center with questions about her employee handbook. Specifically, she wanted to know if she was entitled to receive pay for a week-long vacation. While looking through her paychecks, we discovered inconsistencies with nearly every one. She worked for the Montessori school for several months, but only one of her paychecks in that time was accurate. We calculated a total of 84.5 hours of missing wages, equivalent to nearly $2,500. We helped Leslie file a case in small claims court this fall, and we will be supporting her throughout the process.

Cleaning up

An undocumented immigrant looking for work, Beatriz was excited to take a job cleaning apartments in an affluent Bellevue neighborhood. Soon after she was hired, her employer doubled the number of apartments she needed to clean each day, regardless of how long it took. Beatriz tried but quickly found it was impossible to complete her duties without working a 12-hour shift, something she could not do as a mother with children at home.

When she tried speaking up about her workload and asking for a raise to compensate for the extra work, her employer cut off communication and disappeared without ever paying her for the days she already worked. Unsure of her rights and concerned about retaliation from the employer with regard to her immigration status, Beatriz came to Fair Work Center to learn what protections she had and how she could get paid. After discussing her options, we assisted Beatriz in gathering evidence and filing a complaint with L&I. Two weeks later, L&I informed her that her complaint was processed, and she would be paid the $602 in wages she was owed.

Delivering justice for delivery driver

Yakub first came to Fair Work Center in 2017. As a delivery driver for a small company that contracts with Amazon and others, Yakub started his day bright and early and worked long hours, but he enjoyed his work. Unfortunately, trouble struck soon after he started. He received a ticket because his employer’s van did not have proof of insurance. Instead of paying for the ticket or working with Yakub, the employer tried to put the responsibility on him. In addition, the employer refused to pay him his final paycheck of more than $1,000. We helped Yakub assess different options for getting paid and assisted him in filing his case in small claims court.

He returned recently, almost a year later, with great news – he received a small claims judgment for almost $2,000! The payment covered his final paycheck, the ticket, and associated filing fees. But he also had some bad news. The employer was refusing to pay him and he had no idea how to get his money. By researching the different methods of collecting on a judgment, we helped prepare and file a writ of garnishment against the employer, thereby allowing him to collect the money he was owed.

Hotel worker stands up for health & safety

Lucie is a housekeeper at a hotel in Seattle. Her employer failed to comply with the Hotel Employee Health and Safety Initiative, which limits the amount of cleaning work hotel workers can be required to do in a shift. Not surprisingly, she was injured as the result and asked for light duty while she recovered. The hotel refused her request and, instead, fired her.

Lucie came to Fair Work Center distraught having lost her income, health insurance, and the ability to pay her mounting medical bills. We recognized that Lucie’s immediate medical needs could be covered by workers’ compensation insurance, so we assisted Lucie in filing her claim with the Washington Department of Labor & Industries (L&I). We also connected Lucie with the Seattle Office of Civil Rights to make a complaint of disability discrimination for the hotel’s failure to accommodate her disability and termination. Finally, we connected Lucie with advocates for hotel workers, and we will continue assisting her as needed in addressing the hotel’s ongoing violations of the initiative.


Please note: We moved! Our new offices are located at 116 Warren Ave N, Suite A | Seattle, WA 98109 (map)

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!

Summer 2018 Fair Work News

 

Hello and welcome to the Summer 2018 edition of the Fair Work News!

My name is Rachel, and I am the new Executive Director of Fair Work Center and Working Washington.

Rachel Lauter

Yes, you read that right, I am the new ED of both organizations!

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.

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. We’ll be a one-stop shop for low-wage workers, connecting them with efforts to change policies impacting their lives or with the legal services and support they need to achieve fair employment and get justice on the job.

Fair Work Center is known for our community-based approach to workers’ rights and enforcement of labor standards. Our deep relationships with nonprofit organizations in the region enable us to engage low-wage workers most likely to be victims of workplace violations, including low-wage women, people of color, immigrants and refugees, LGBTQ people, and young people.

Working Washington is known for its groundbreaking campaigns to raise standards for workers, including leading the fast food worker strikes that led to $15 in Seattle, passing the nation’s first secure scheduling ordinance, and creating new standards for domestic workers long operating in the shadows of labor and employment law.  

Together, we will help shape the 21st Century workers’ movement in our region.

You can already see it in action. The Seattle City Council just passed the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, a historic law that sets minimum standards for domestic workers and establishes a standards board that will serve as a new model of worker organizing. Working Washington was a central partner in the Seattle Domestic Workers Alliance, the coalition that advocated for the bill, and the Fair Work Center stands ready to educate workers about these new standards and enforce the new law.

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, and together we can accomplish so much more than either organization can on its own.

I started on May 29 and my first order of business is finding a new space to house the 20 or so staff that make up both organizations. You can read more about my background hereThere will be more changes coming, so stay tuned and let me know if you have any ideas for ways we can do more for low-wage workers in Washington.

In Solidarity,

Rachel

Summer 2018 Fair Work News

Read more

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.”

STATEMENT REGARDING TODAY’S RULING IN JANUS V. AFSCME

 “Today’s ruling abandons over 40 years of precedent. It shows five judges can’t handle the truth that strong labor unions have played a central role in building a more equitable economy and putting meaningful checks & balances on corporate power.

The Janus case came before the court as the result of a decades-long, multi-billion-dollar campaign to shift money and power from workers to the wealthy. It also came with an accidental poetic flourish: Janus is the Roman god of beginnings and endings, of change and transition, of passageways connecting past and future.

Here in Washington, we’re already leading the way to new futures for workers rights. Working Washington and Fair Work Center have partnered with unions and community groups over the past several years to win the nation’s first $15 minimum wage law, Seattle’s landmark secure scheduling ordinance, paid sick days, paid family leave, and more. We’ve scaled up new approaches to community-based outreach & enforcement of worker rights laws. We’re building a groundbreaking Seattle Domestic Workers Alliance that will take nannies & house cleaners from invisible to powerful. And more.

And regardless of what economic realities the Supreme Court chooses to dismiss, workers in our state will continue to build their power and organize towards a world where everyone can support themselves, contribute to the economy, and participate in our communities.”

— Rachel Lauter, Executive Director of Working Washington and Fair Work Center