Power in Partnership: Communities Fill Gaps in Labor Law Enforcement
CA Coalition for Worker Power For Immediate Release
June 8, 2023
Contact: Dallas Fowler (310) 429.5777
NEW REPORT: Innovative Partnerships Critical to Safe, Fair Workplaces
Los Angeles, CA – A new report from the Economic Policy Institute features California’s leadership in deploying innovative partnerships between labor enforcement agencies and community/labor partners to help workers understand and enforce their workplace rights. The report also calls for greater and sustained public and philanthropic support to fund these partnerships as labor enforcement agencies struggle to address widespread wage and safety violations with severely constrained budgets. “Power in Partnership: Communities Fill Gaps in Labor Law Enforcement,” was published today and authored by Rachel Deutsch and Terri Gerstein.
“Workers who are most likely to be exploited, including immigrants and low-wage workers, have also been the hardest for government agencies to reach and empower. Community enforcement plays an increasingly important role in letting workers know their rights and helping them navigate the process to get justice,” said Rachel Deutsch, report author.
The Covid Workplace Outreach Project, forged in the midst of the pandemic, is one example of the innovative California partnerships spotlighted in the report. As workplaces were hotspots for deadly virus transmission, CWOP reached 37,000 workers in a single week of action through caravans across California. The effort was so successful in reaching workers with information on Covid safety, sick leave, and vaccines in their native languages, legislative leaders are pushing to extend the partnership and rename it the California Workplace Outreach Project to broaden the scope beyond Covid.
With deep roots in their communities and trusted relationships with workers, community-based organizations can be effective in reaching workers with education about their rights, supporting them in making labor claims, and empowering them to shape programs and policies. A caregiver in San Jose worked from sun up to sun down caring for six clients in a residential care facility. She was expected to wake up in the middle of the night to assist clients with dementia and perform other tasks like cleaning and sewing for the employers as well as clients. She was paid just $60 a day and slept on a sofa. Given her low wages and need to send money to family back home, the worker received what she believed were advances on her pay and kept working to repay the debt. The reality was she was in bondage. Outreach from the Covid-19 Worker Outreach Project - CWOP informed this worker of her rights and got her started on the process of seeking justice.
“Trust is essential. Exploitative employers count on keeping workers fearful of government intervention,” said Andrea Gonzalez of Clean Car Wash. “That’s why organizations deeply rooted in communities are uniquely successful in reaching and empowering workers. Investing in community enforcement partnerships is essential to ending wage theft and abuse of workers.”
The report is the first to identify best practices for designing, funding, and implementing community enforcement programs. Importantly, the report identifies opportunities to ensure workers are not only served by the programs but have meaningful opportunities to give input on enforcement priorities.
Reach out to Dallas Fowler at 310.429.5777 for more information on the report or interviews with:
Local worker centers with experience in enforcement partnerships
Workers reached by community enforcement partnerships
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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.