May Day Kick-off!

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Happy May Day! On April 30, 2014, EJC kicked off the spring with our first annual May Day event. As many of you know, May 1 was International Worker’s Day, and we celebrated the international labor movement by hosting a community briefing on the “Wage Theft Prevention Act”.

Staff Attorney, Andrew Hass gave an insightful presentation on the challenges many of our clients face as a result of loopholes in the existing DC Wage Theft Laws. He shared the stories of five clients, talked about the obstacles they faced when trying to recover their lost wages, and explained how current Office of Wage an Hour (OWH) practices led to the client either not receiving their wages in a timely manner or not receiving the wages they were entitled to at all. One story in particular Andrew discussed highlighted these issues. Vidal Chavez, a construction worker, was promised $20.00 an hour when he started his new job. After three weeks of work, Vidal was only paid for one week of work at a rate of $15.00 an hour. Vidal diligently filed his claim with OWH. OWH enforced the lost wages, however they were only able to recover the two weeks of pay at the minimum wage rate, $8.25. Vidal lost over $1000 in wages simply because he was unable to provide documentation of his employer’s promise to pay $20.00. Like any good story though, Andrew provided a happy ending. He explained how the new DC Wage Theft Prevention Act aims to address these loopholes and how the outcome for each client’s case, like Vidal’s, would have been positively impacted by the new legislation.

Ari Weisband, our Deputy Director, followed up Andrew’s presentation with a discussion about the substance of the Wage Theft Prevention Act. If passed the new legislation would strengthen the enforcement of wage theft in DC by creating formal hearings and enforceable judgments so victims can recover lost wages and damages. It would also increase penalties for employers who commit wage theft, provide better protection for workers who stand up for their rights, and it would provide greater access to lawyers for wage theft victims. The key to securing these rights for worker is actually getting this legislation passed.

In addition to educating our audience about the substance of the law, Ari talked about the dedicated journey EJC has taken to push the Wage Theft Prevention Act legislation through in the District and urged attendees to join the fight for this bill. He explained that EJC’s push for these rights can only be successful with the help of our supporters. The best way to support our campaign is for people to learn more about the bill, share their knowledge with others, and explain the urgency in passing this legislation because it is an essential step in getting justice for workers in DC.