Workers at Pyramid Alehouse Settle Wage Theft Lawsuit for $450,000

Today, current and former workers at Pyramid Alehouse in SoDo are celebrating long overdue paychecks thanks to a big win in court. Yesterday morning, a judge with King County Superior Court finalized the $450,000 settlement of a class action wage-and-hour lawsuit that workers against Pyramid’s ownership group, Independent Brewers United, LLC. The average award for each worker in the settlement will be about $1,000, while the highest award in the class totals more than $9,800.

Scenes from the King Count Courthouse yesterday. From left to right: Britt Glass (attorney with Terrell Marshall Law Group), Brian Drew (a named plaintiff in the case), Danielle Alvarado (FWC), Jeremy Brotherton (worker in the class), Devon Blevins (FWC), Henny Ahn (FWC)

Brian Drew, a former bartender at the Alehouse and one of the named plaintiffs, has some advice to others working in the restaurant industry based on his experience in this case: “You get used to putting up with a certain amount of shenanigans when working in restaurants, and what is really needed is a culture change in the industry where people feel like they can stand up for what’s right. Too often we just go along with whatever management says because we know there is a line of people waiting to take whatever job we might have. But workers need to know they have rights and they can’t be fired for saying, ‘Hey something is wrong with my paycheck this week.’ And talk to your coworkers too. You’re not alone, and they’re probably experiencing the same things as you are.”

In the lawsuit, workers alleged several forms of wage theft and abuse during the years of 2014 to 2018. The allegations included:

  • Failure to provide meal and rest breaks
  • Failure to record and pay workers for all work hours
  • Manipulation of timesheets to delete hours worked (“time shaving”)
  • Failure to pay overtime for hours worked over 40 in a week
  • Failure to pay employees all service charges paid by customers
  • Failure to disclose to customers that not all banquet service charges collected went to the workers who provided services

In addition to paying their workers for the hours they worked, Pyramid will also be required to provide training to its workers so they know that whenever they are working, they must be on the clock.

“Food service workers are too often subjected to wage theft and other workplace abuses. With this settlement, we’re content the employer is being held accountable to the law and will have to change its practices. And we’re happy the workers will finally be getting paid the wages to which they’re entitled,” said Toby Marshall, a lawyer with Terrell Marshall Law Group.

“Class action employment cases like this help show that when workers stand together, they have the strength and the power to make serious changes in their work conditions,” said Rachel Lauter, Executive Director at Fair Work Center and Working Washington. “Fair Work Center is incredibly proud to play a role in bringing justice to workers at the Pyramid Alehouse in SoDo.”

In early 2018, workers from Pyramid Alehouse came to Fair Work Center seeking advice and support for discrepancies they were seeing in their paychecks. Fair Work Center is a nonprofit worker center that helps low-wage workers understand and exercise their rights at work through know your rights training and free legal services. Fair Work Center partnered with the employment litigation firm of Terrell Marshal Law Group to bring the case on behalf of the workers, which was filed in April of 2018.

Fighting for the rights of immigrant workers

Fair Work Center fights for the rights of immigrant workers every day. From our know your rights trainings and free legal services to our partnerships with immigrant community organizations, we stand with low-wage, immigrant workers fighting for their rights on the job.

Recently, we joined the fight for immigrant rights that has been raging for years at the Northwest Detention Center (NWDC) in Tacoma. The NWDC is a privately-operated, for-profit prison that contracts with the federal government to detain community members fighting their immigration cases. It is operated by the GEO Group, the 2nd largest private prison company in the country. GEO has long been under fire for the NWCD’s abysmal conditions and mistreatment of detainees, including those whose labor keeps the detention center running. GEO pays these detainee workers just $1 a day, even though Washington minimum wage is $12 an hour. For the record, $1 a day at the state minimum wage buys you about 5 minutes of work. GEO’s entire business model relies on stealing at least 91% of detainees’ wages, all while generating more than $2 billion in annual revenue. 

In September 2017, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson sued GEO Group for failing to pay detainee workers the state minimum wage. This summer, the Fair Work Center was asked to support the lawsuit by filing an amicus brief due to our expertise in enforcing minimum wage protections for Washington workers. An amicus brief is the legal term for providing expertise, information, or other insights to the court to aid in a case that isn’t your own. You can read the brief we filed in support of the Attorney General’s case here. In it we argue that Washington’s wage and hour laws apply to all employees, that wage theft is rampant in our economy, and that GEO is committing wage theft from detained workers. 

This lawsuit is about the value of work, and specifically the value of immigrant work. Immigrant workers, even detained immigrant workers, have the right to the legal minimum wage for their work.

As we argue in the brief, “wage theft is a systemic problem that disproportionately impacts vulnerable low-wage workers.” There probably isn’t a more vulnerable worker than a detained immigrant who faces deportation – but all employers in Washington have to follow the law, and all employees in Washington are covered.  By calling out GEO’s particularly egregious acts of wage theft, Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s lawsuit has the potential to put all employers on notice: no worker is ripe for exploitation in Washington, which is why Fair Work Center is proud to be lending our expertise to support the suit in this way.

Read the full amicus brief here, and remember to contact Fair Work Center if you or someone you know is having their rights violated at work.


PS – We are seeking third-year law students or recent law graduates interested in applying for public interest fellowships with Fair Work Center beginning in fall 2020, including Skadden, Equal Justice Workers, Justice Catalyst, and other independently funded programs. Learn more here!

New rights for domestic workers take effect July 1!

DYK? July 1 marks the effective date of the Seattle Domestic Workers Bill of Rights. This legislation was a huge win for the thousands of nannies, caregivers, house cleaners, and landscapers who have long operated in the shadows of our federal, state, and local labor standards. We’re proud of all the work our sibling org, Working Washington, did in collaboration with the Seattle Domestic Workers Alliance to win this landmark legislation.

Beginning Monday July 1st, nannies, house cleaners, home health care workers and other domestic workers get the basic rights and benefits every worker needs — including power on the job.

Ends the exclusion of these workers from basic labor standards:

  • Covers all part-time, full-time, independent contractors, and live-in domestic workers in the city — regardless of whether they are employed by an agency or a family.
  • Applies Seattle’s minimum wage to domestic workers, regardless of whether they are classified as employees or contractors.
  • Ensures all domestic workers receive meal and rest breaks, with provisions for those circumstances when breaks may not be feasible.

Provides important new rights and protections:

  • Ensures live-in workers get at least one day off out of every seven days worked.
  • Forbids employers from keeping a worker’s original documents, like passports or driver’s licenses.
  • Strengthens anti-retaliation protections for domestic workers who stand up for their rights.

Establishes a new model of worker power:

  • Establishes a Domestic Workers Standards Board which includes workers, employers, and community representatives and has the power to effectively set industry-wide standards.
  • Mandates that the standards board will address wage standards, portable benefits, hiring agreements, training, paid time off, outreach & enforcement, and other issues as they arise.
  • Gives the board real power by requiring City Council to act on the board’s recommendations within 120 days.

When the Fair Labor Standards Act was passed in 1938 it provided workers with the right to a minimum wage and 40-hour workweek, as well as overtime pay for extra hours over 40. But not all workers. Domestic workers, home health care workers, and farm workers were all excluded because of racism – that is, in order to get the support of Southern Democrats in Congress, the bill excluded these jobs done almost entirely by black and Latinx/Hispanic workers. Farm workers and home health care workers eventually won minimum wage but not overtime pay. Seattle’s Domestic

Health & Safety in Yakima Valley

Julia is a Mexican immigrant who works as an apple picker in Washington’s Yakima Valley. Recently, Julia’s supervisor instructed her to tend to a section of apple trees in a field that had been sprayed with pesticides only days before.

Pesticide exposure is a major occupational hazard for farmworkers and their families. In fact, pesticide exposure is attributed to higher rates of health problems among farmworkers’ children, including leukemia and cancer, because parents come home with pesticides on their skin and clothes and expose their children.

Julia knew she shouldn’t have to work in the recently sprayed field, but she didn’t know what to do about it – until she talked to Ricardo, an outreach and education specialist with Fair Work Center & Working Washington.

Julia contacted Ricardo after hearing him on a local Spanish radio call-in show. Julia took Ricardo to the field she was instructed to work in and they took pictures of the signs warning people to stay away because of pesticides.

Together they filed a complaint with Washington’s Department of Safety & Health (DOSH). DOSH confirmed that Julie and her coworkers shouldn’t be working in that field and instructed her employer not to send workers there.


León works in a commercial kitchen located in a grocery store in Yakima.

Conditions in the kitchen were miserable, especially since the air conditioner and other kitchen equipment was broken. Ricardo also supported León in filing a complaint with DOSH, who sent an inspector to verify the broken air conditioner and other equipment. The inspector filed an official request for the grocery store to fix the broken equipment, which they have since done. And, while the inspector was on site, he spoke with León and his coworkers and learned they were also being discriminated against because they are immigrants, so he supported them in filing complaints with the Washington Human Rights Commission.

Now, thanks to Fair Work Center and Working Washington’s presence in the region, Leon and his coworkers are working in a safer and healthier workplace, and are happier too since they are no longer being harassed and discriminated against at work. 

Our presence in the Yakima Valley is possible in part due to funding from the DOSH Safety & Health Investment Project.

Your top 6 rights at work in Washington — in under 60 seconds!

On this May Day, we celebrate workers and their incredible contributions to society as we know it today. In honor of the original fight for one of the first workplace standards – the 8 hour workday – we bring you this new video: “Your top 6 rights at work in under 60 seconds.”

Check it out and share it on social media, help us get ensure all workers know their rights at work.

#1 Minimum Wage & no wage theft: at least $12/hr, higher in some cities — Not being paid the minimum wage or for all of your time spent working are common forms of wage theft.

#2 Paid Sick Leave: You earn at least 1 hour of sick leave time for 40 hours you work. — You can also use your leave time for issues related to domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.

#3 Overtime: 1.5x pay for hours worked over 40 in a week — Not applicable to OT exempt workers — Not getting overtime pay is a common form of wage theft

#4 Meal & rest breaks: 10-min paid rest break for every 4 hours worked; 30-min unpaid meal break for 5+ hour shifts — Not getting meal or rest breaks is a common form of wage theft

#5 No harassment & discrimination on the basis of race, sex, gender, age, sexual orientation, religion, nation of origin, or disability.

#6 Healthy & safety in the workplace

CONTACT US IF YOU YOUR RIGHTS ARE BEING VIOLATED OR YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS!
1-844-485-1195 | help@fairworkcenter.org

Fair Work News – April 2019

APRIL 2019

Pay day for Jorge

Jorge was something of a jack of all trades at the popular restaurant in Shoreline where he’s worked for years. He worked a number of roles in the kitchen and helped out as a server in the dining room when needed. Jorge was not paid properly. His employer would pay him irregularly and only when asked. And he was never paid all that he was owed – it was always just enough to survive, enough to pay rent or buy groceries when needed. To make matters worse, the temporary owner kept incomplete and inaccurate records of his hours, so Jorge wasn’t getting any paystubs to document his hours or the full degree of wage theft he was experiencing.

Working with the Fair Work Legal Clinic, Jorge recreated over a year’s worth of his work calendar and calculated that he was owed more than $22,000. We worked with him to develop a demand letter that we sent to his employer. After Jorge received no response, we helped him file a wage theft claim with the Washington Department of Labor & Industries (L&I). Throughout the investigation, we supported Jorge in navigating the process with L&I and responding to their inquiries and requests for additional information. L&I recently sided with Jorge and sent their own letter to the temporary employer demanding he pay Jorge the $22,000 he’s owed.


Shady scheduling and discrimination on display at the mall

Belle, who works at a jewelry store at a mall in Seattle, first contacted Fair Work Center after experiencing frequent disruptions in her work schedule. In addition, she felt that her employer’s treatment towards her was drastically different than their treatment towards other employees. For example, while other employees were allowed to take breaks freely, Belle was required to get permission in advance. Belle never received any disciplinary actions from her employer and did not understand why she was subjected to this different treatment.

During Belle’s consultation, we discovered that Belle is the only elderly worker in that store; all other employees are in their 20s and 30s, including Belle’s supervisor.

As a salesperson part of her pay is through commission, but the nature of sales in the store are such that people often come in once, scope out what they want and come back later to make the purchase. Because Belle’s schedule was so unpredictable, she would not be able to let customers know when she might be in the store next. This meant that often another salesperson would get commission on the sale that she did the bulk of the work on.

We provided Belle information about our state laws regarding breaks and commission. We advised her that Seattle’s Secure Scheduling Ordinance requires large retail and food service employers with more than 500 employees globally to, among other things, post schedules two weeks in advance, or provide additional compensation to workers for last-minute changes to the schedule. If her employer meets its criteria, it would be in violation. In addition, we advised her to begin documenting her treatment at work in order for us to better assess her whether employer had violated age discrimination rules.

If we determine her employer is covered by Secure Scheduling, we will be able to take action that will not only fix Belle’s scheduling concerns but her coworkers’ too. We are also continuing to work with Belle to address concerns around age discrimination in a way that enables her to keep her job and, just as importantly, close more sales and receive more commissions.


When a hiring bonus isn’t a bonus for getting hired

Dudley worked as service technician for a small general contractor company. He mainly went to other small businesses to make repairs or perform other building services. The primary reason he took this job over others he was considering was because the company was offering a $1,500 hiring bonus for qualified candidates. In his interview, he asked about the hiring bonus and says he was told he would get it upon starting to work.

Unfortunately, he ended up being terminated two months into the job but never received his hiring bonus. He came to Fair Work Center looking for help getting bonus he was promised in his interview. We’re supporting Dudley in preparing to file a claim in small claims court where a judge will decide if an employer can be held accountable to a verbal agreement made in an interview.

Because the law around how hiring bonuses work is a little murky, there are likely many other workers in the situation of feeling like they are owed an advertised hiring bonus only to never receive it upon taking the job. We know it is common for employers to promise one thing to their workers and do another, so we will be fighting hard to help Dudley get his bonus.


Three strikes don’t make this dismissal right

Juanita worked at a nonprofit organization in Seattle from 2008 until very recently. Until early last year, she never had any sort of disciplinary or performance issues with management and was considered an integral part of the team. In fact, Juanita was someone a lot of people in the office came to for questions or support when they needed help.

Last year, her longtime supervisor was terminated and replaced by a new, younger supervisor. Juanita is older than most of her coworkers, and she noticed that her employer was moving towards hiring younger workers. She started to feel like she was being pushed out by her new supervisor, both in how she was being treated day to day and also in the trivial things she was being disciplined for by her supervisor. The first time she was written up it was because she spent six minutes in the copy room when her supervisor said it should only take two minutes. The second time she received a notice saying she was taking excessive bathroom breaks. She became suspicious of her supervisor’s actions and even noticed a few of her newer coworkers following her around the office and timing her breaks. Juanita believes her supervisor directed those coworkers to pay close attention to her activities. It was at that point she first came to Fair Work Center for legal consultation.

The final straw that led to her termination came one day when the office was closing and a client showed up in a state of emergency seeking services. Because she was committed to providing services to people in need, she stayed an extra hour to counsel the client. Company policy is that workers must get advance approval for overtime hours, so, after two trivial strikes already against her, she was written up again for her third strike for taking an unapproved overtime hour and terminated. She feels it was retaliation by her supervisor, who was just waiting to find a reason to let her go.

Juanita first tried going through the internal HR complaint processes twice, but HR sided with management both times. So when she was officially terminated she said she was going back to Fair Work Center to seek legal counsel. At that point, her employer offered her a severance package. We supported Juanita in preparing for the severance negotiation with HR and management, which resulted in her getting the payout she was looking for.


A balancing act: standing up for herself & keeping her job

Gabriela is a Mexican immigrant who works at a Mexican restaurant. She contacted Fair Work Center after a cook, who she did not get along with, put an extremely hot pepper in her salad without her knowing. She raised this issue with her supervisor but no action was taken; the cook was not warned, disciplined, or otherwise put on notice of his behavior. So she took it up to a higher level of management and asked for their help. Gabriela was then written up by her immediate supervisor for going over his head to management, even though her immediate supervisor ignored her complaints.

Gabriela had been working at that restaurant for more than 10 years. And in that time, Gabriela’s schedule remained relatively consistent. Yet as soon as she started to raise concerns over her coworker’s aggression towards her, her schedule changed drastically. Not only were her work hours reduced, but she was scheduled to work “clopening” shifts, where she was required to close one day and open the next. She feared she would soon lose her job entirely.

She was referred to Fair Work Center by one of our community partners, and we provided Gabriela about her workplace rights and advised Gabriela about retaliation. We also discussed ways for her to effectively address her concerns with her employer. Gabriela left the clinic feeling empowered to talk to her employer to address the retaliation and to request that her schedule return to what it previously was. After speaking with her employer, she got her old schedule back. In addition, the problematic cook was transferred to work at another location. Gabriela felt relieved to no longer be working with that cook but still had concerns about her personal safety, given the cook’s strong dislike of her. We provided her with information and resources on how to file for a protection order.


Putting tips back on top

Working WA, our sibling organization, has been organizing gig workers (i.e., people who work for app-based companies like Postmates, Instacart, and Doordash) for the past couple of years. Last fall, Mia, a worker on the grocery delivery app Instacart and leader on Working WA’s gig economy campaign, raised the alarm about major pay cuts on Instacart. She and her coworkers were getting paid 30-40% less for each job, the company was using a black-box algorithm to set pay. And what’s more, they were taking customers’ tips instead of passing them on to workers.

When a customer tips, it is generally understood as extra money for the service provided by the worker. But Instacart was just paying the worker less and pocketing the tip. Here’s how it worked. An Instacart shopper might agreed to take a job that promised $10. The customer who made the order agreed to a $5 tip for the work. But instead of that worker getting $15, Instacart used the tip to subsidize the amount they paid the worker for the job.

Working WA started a petition demanding better pay, no more tip theft, and a more transparent pay system for Instacart’s workers. In a few short weeks it was signed by more than 3,500 gig workers and customers outraged by Instacart’s shady pay practices. Workers and customers were standing up and speaking out, and the media took notice. Bloomberg News did a piece on the petition, which generated even greater attention to the petition and generated even more news stories and social media outrage among gig workers and customers alike.

The tremendous weight of public outrage in combination with the power of gig worker’s organizing forced Instacart to put tips back on top of pay. But the change Instacart made wasn’t enough – they’re still paying workers too little and their pay stubs are still a mystery. And these problems aren’t limited to Instacart workers. Gig workers on all apps are facing low pay and lack of transparency. So they are continuing to organize and a national campaign called  #PayUp to demand $15 plus expenses for each hour they work, tips on top, and pay transparency.


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

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.