PRESS RELEASE: Worker Power Coalition Celebrates State Budget Investments in Transformational Outreach & Workers’ Rights Enforcement
Sacramento, CA – The California Coalition for Worker Power (CCWP) applauded critical investments in worker outreach, empowerment and enforcement of workers’ rights through the state budget agreement announced this week:
Established to reach marginalized and high-risk workers during the COVID-19 pandemic with critical information on workers’ rights to safety and time off, the COVID-19 Worker Outreach Program connected with over 6 million workers in 42 languages through a combination of in-person, digital, and phone outreach; 1.9 million of those conversations were person-to-person. CCWP championed the extension and broadening of this highly successful community/state partnership which will now be known as the California Workplace Outreach Program. The budget devotes $25 million to CWOP.
Alexandra Suh, Executive Director of KIWA and Co-President of CCWP said: "Community-based outreach and engagement to workers saved lives during COVID-19 and this same approach has the potential to transform our economy by ensuring workers know their rights and are empowered to assert them. California is wise to build on the engagement and partnerships developed during the pandemic to tackle challenges that didn’t go away when the public health emergency ended: wage theft, exploitation, and unsafe workplaces.”
The budget also commits $35 million over five years to the Domestic Worker Education and Outreach Program, a partnership between the State of California and community-based organizations to educate domestic workers and employers on domestic workers' rights.
The budget addresses devastating gaps in workers’ rights enforcement, setting aside $18 million for a Workers Rights Enforcement Grant Program. According to the budget agreement, “...this program would provide reimbursements to local city attorneys and district attorneys for funds expended on workers’ rights enforcement and serves the public purpose of enhancing labor law enforcement to assist workers in combating wage theft, prevent unfair competition, and protect state revenue.”
The agreement allocates $7.4 million-- and double that amount in future years-- to investigate claims of retaliation against workers. The widespread practice of retaliation against workers undermines the strong laws California has adopted to ensure workers are paid fairly, equitably, and have safe workplaces, advocates say.
“California has strong laws on paper to prevent wage theft and exploitation but these and other employer abuses continue simply because bad bosses intimidate, bully and even fire workers who speak up, keeping the rest in fear of coming forward,” said Sheheryar Kaoosji, Co-President of CCWP and Executive Director of the Warehouse Worker Resource Center. “We are encouraged that California leaders heard the demands of workers from across California and took first steps toward addressing the imbalance of power in workplaces that keeps workers in silence.”
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The California Coalition for Worker Power (CCWP) is a coalition of worker centers, unions, and worker advocacy organizations dedicated to ensuring that every worker in California has the power to come together and improve their work conditions and their communities.
protect CA investments iN
Effective workplace laws require well-informed workers. Last year, California committed $50 million over two years to expand a historic worker outreach program that builds community resilience through workers’ rights education. Now the Governor proposes eliminating the program’s second year in 2024.
"I worked in care home with 6 different clients when I first arrived in 2016. I worked 24 hours a day without a day off and didn't even know how much I was getting paid. When I attended a "Know your Rights" training through PAWIS, I learned that I was a victim a wage theft and sued my employer. CWOP provided me with PPE and information and training about my rights when I contracted COVID."
- Lala Placides
Home care worker
Pilipino Association of Workers and Immigrants (PAWIS) member
IN A MOMENT OF CRISIS: A BREAKTHROUGH IN PROTECTING & EMPOWERING WORKERS
As the pandemic swept through our society, workers went from being invisible to being called “essential.” California took swift action to protect workers, creating an ambitious and innovative workers’ safety and rights outreach program: the California COVID-19 Workplace Outreach Project (CWOP).
CWOP relies on collaboration between the state’s Labor and Workforce Development Agency (LWDA) and 62 community groups with direct ties to our most vulnerable workers: immigrant workers, workers of color, and women workers in particularly high-risk industries:
Warehouses & logistics
Manufacturing (including garment work)
CWOP has focused on COVID including paid leave, COVID mitigation health standards, and anti-retaliation protections.
CWOP far exceeded expectations for its success. In 2021, CWOP communicated with 2.35 million workers. From February 2021 to May 2022, the community groups in CWOP had actual, 2-way interactions with 1.9 million workers about their safety and their rights, hitting 300% of the state’s goal. Groups communicated with workers in 17 languages. CWOP reached over 37,000 workers in just one “week of action” in 2022 while amplifying its message in 67 media outlets.
CWOP created valuable community outreach infrastructure through a broad, region-based structure. LWDA was able to rapidly disseminate crucial information through this regional structure in 38 counties that account for 96% of the state’s population.
IN YEAR ONE
PROTECT AND RENAME CWOP
Workers in California’s low-wage industries still face hazards and exploitation, and the pandemic continues. The pandemic brought these conditions into focus and galvanized innovative policy responses to these long-standing problems. We have succeeded in creating a highly effective new piece of our workplace fairness infrastructure and cannot afford to discard it.
In order to sustain an economic recovery and build resilient and equitable communities California must empower workers in low-wage industries to assert their rights by:
Preserving the second $25 million of the total $50 million committed to CWOP last year
Recognizing that the need for this critical education work is not confined to the pandemic, and as we move into recovery, we should continue educating workers about their rights broadly, renaming the program the “California Workplace Outreach Program”
WORKERS’ RIGHTS OUTREACH Q & A
Effective enforcement of basic workplace protections requires well-informed workers. The California Coalition for Worker Power (CCWP) proposes $50 million to continue and expand the California COVID-19 Workplace Outreach Project.
What is “CWOP”?
California COVID-19 Workplace Outreach Project (CWOP) was a central part of a $50-million campaign to support California’s most vulnerable workers understand and enforce their COVID-19 workplace rights. The Labor and Workforce Development Agency (LWDA) received funds to operate the program.
What was the impact?
CWOP exceeded expectations for its success. By August 2021, CWOP organizations had achieved over 450% of the state’s initial campaign goals in the first five months of the campaign. In 2021, CWOP held face-to-face conversations with 684,000 workers throughout California.
Key metrics included:
2.35 million total campaign touch-points and interactions
829,000 information materials (flyers, door hangers, and mailers) circulated
684,000 interactive conversations
More than 17 languages.
What we are proposing:
Expanding and extending the COVID-19 Workplace Outreach Program by $25 million a year for two years.
Include Non-COVID workplace rights like wage and hour protections, paid sick and family leave, anti-retaliation and health and safety,