By Flor Rodriguez
Only July 1st, we celebrated because we felt a sense of joy! After a long struggle, the implementation of the wage theft ordinances is a victory. It is not something that was given to us but rather a struggle that we been fighting for for a long time. And, this victory was a victory of workers, workers who have shared their stories and have done the work on the ground. After years of struggles, it was workers who made their voice heard and let it be know: wage theft is a crime that should not be tolerated. So when we came together to celebrate, it was a celebration many years in the making.
At the same time, we know that the implementation of the ordinance on July 1st, was only the beginning. Our celebration, was also a way to rally the community for the work that lays ahead. The wage theft ordinance opens a variety of avenues for workers to bring forth a wage theft claim: 1)they can go to the Office of Wage Standards to file a wage claim for the those whose wage theft happened in the City of Los Angeles, (2) For those who work in unincorporated Los Angeles County or Santa Monica can now file wage claims at County of Los Angeles Department of Consumer & Business Affairs, (3) workers who also work in other parts of California can contact California Labor Commissioner or, (4) they can go to small claims court. With these hard fought mechanisms now in place, we continue to organize so that workers become informed and feel empowered to use them to file claims. On July 5th, for example, CLEAN Carwash began a train-the-trainer training where worker leaders will learn the in-and-outs of each of the channels for filing a wage theft claim. Then will educate a larger membership body at our general assembly who will in turn take the information back to their respective car washes throughout LA and beyond.
In addition, with the implementation of the city ordinances, various city and county offices are creating outreach materials. However, at CLEAN and our coalition partners, we know that outreach materials work best when they are more targeted. With the (Labor Innovations for the 21st Century) LIFT Fund support we were able to increase the communications capacity of the Coalition to Fight Wage Theft and create a range of popular education materials that are a true fit for community needs in terms of outreach and education. This, along with a Facebook and social media precessence become part of our tools that will help tackle wage theft.
With our trainings and our education materials we are working to empower workers because we know that’s where the real change will come; when worker knowledge and empowerment continues to ripple out until every worker knows their rights. Beyond the new ordinance and policy changes, once workers know their rights, there is no turning back: that’s where the real power begins.
Flor Rodriguez, is newly the Executive Director of the CLEAN Carwash Worker Center, a LIFT Grantee. After being active with the CLEAN Campaign since 2012 and creating Worker Center programs including the Detail Training Program, Flor became the Director. Flor formerly worked supervising the day laborer program at the Instituto De Educacion Popular del Sur de California (IDEPSCA). Flor is a member of the Steering Committee of the Los Angeles Coalition Against Wage Theft, also a LIFT grantee.
* This blog post is part of the blog series Blogging our Victories: An L.A. Story, featuring LIFT Fund worker center grantees, labor and research partners. Check out the LIFT’s webpage and follow us on Facebook and Twitter to see a past and upcoming blogs by Victor Narro, UCLA Worker Center, Maegan Ortiz, Director of IDEPSCA, and Kokayi Kwa Jitahidi, Policy Director at the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, among others. LIFT will also release a video featuring some of our esteemed bloggers and documenting their work towards this victory… stay tuned!