Workers Rights Committee--Back in Action

The Los Angeles Chapter's Workers Rights Committee is back in action after a long hibernation. Starting in March, we have organized quarterly panels on topics of interest to labor attorneys, to organizers, and more broadly to workers and their advocates, while putting together a know your rights booklet for workers when picketing or protesting and organizing a happy hour to help introduce our members to each other. 

The first panel, on March 22nd, focused on how labor law (and labor lawyers) helped a workers center, in that case ROC-LA, beat off an employer's lawsuit targeting the employees leading a ROC campaign. The panel featured Tia Koonse from the UCLA Labor Center, Yanin Senechai from AAAJ, and committee member Eli Naduris-Weissman. Those of you who attended the workshop that Eli took part in at the LCC in Chicago last May will know how that lawsuit turned out and what it tells us about the prospects for labor lawyers helping workers centers use the NLRA.

The second panel, on June 29th, examined workers’ rights on the picket line and strategies for dealing with law enforcement while demonstrating. Carol Sobel of NPAP, Nam Le of UFCW 770, Mike Long of SEIU 721, and Jim Lafferty, the former ED of NLG-LA, all spoke, drawing on years of experience both in the streets and in court. We have developed a Know Your Rights pamphlet for picketers and protestors (see the article on page 1 for more about the one that the national Labor & Employment Committee has published) which we hope to distribute through the County Federation of Labor, the UCLA Labor Center and unions and workers centers around Los Angeles. The UCLA Labor Center deserves a great deal of credit for helping write the pamphlet and publishing it.

In September we presented a panel on the new minimum wage and wage theft ordinance in California and LA. This new ordinance not only raises the minimum wage to $15.00 over time, but creates a new enforcement mechanism that can, if used properly, make a dent in the thousands of cases of wage theft that occur every year in Los Angeles. We will also discuss the work it took to get it passed and how we can duplicate it in other communities.

Looking beyond that we are organizing a panel, cosponsored by the Black Workers Center in Los Angeles, for later this year or early next year examining the intersection of Black Lives Matter, initiatives such as Fight for 15 and the labor movement. We are also looking further down the road at CLEs and similar presentations on the new gig economy, strategies for organizing temporary workers, and the rights of health and safety whistleblowers. We are at the same time working to bring in as many employment lawyers and workers rights activists as possible, in addition to the labor lawyers and law students who make up the backbone of our Committee now.

And neither last and certainly not least, the Committee has also hosted a happy hour for worker advocates this July. One of the strengths of the Guild is that we have so many members working in different areas, but with common interests; the happy hour is another way to bring them together.

 

--Ben O'Donnell

 

To join the Workers Rights Committee, please email info@nlg-la.org

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