The Low-Income Worker Housing Stability Project will aim to address what the Willamette Week* classified as the "thorniest problem" that Oregon faces: homelessness, and lack of affordable housing. Complementing what we already know to be true about employment law, we aim to concretely prove a connection between wage theft (and other forms of employment abuse) and housing instability. Then, we will muster evidence to prove that implementing a small, revolving loan fund, with the loan secured by the client’s ultimate civil recovery, would be an effective strategy to preserve family housing during the interim of fighting a wage theft case.
We are pleased to announce that Maggie Black has been hired to coordinate this project. Originally hailing from Fairbanks, Alaska, Maggie moved to Portland in 2011 and graduated with a BA in Spanish Literature from Reed College in 2015; she is fluent in Spanish and English. After having worked directly with people experiencing homelessness on housing initiatives, she is excited to further pursue the investigation of housing as a key player in the cycle of poverty— and particularly how violations in the workplace may trigger these issues. Together with NWJP staff, she will be researching the ways in which wage theft directly contributes to homelessness. Her project will include analysis of the devastating effects of loss of income leading to loss of housing, via community discussions; client testimonials; and frank, honest conversation regarding the often seemingly despairing intersectionality of wages and the rising cost of rent.
If you are someone who is interested in being part of the conversation or has personally experienced a loss of a home as a result of unjust workplace circumstances, please do not hesitate to reach out to Maggie or the rest of the staff at Northwest Workers’ Justice Project.
We are excited to tell you about Safe Jobs Oregon, a new Coalition that will focus on workers' occupational safety and health, both for traditional workers, as well as contingent, temporary, and other low-wage workers. Workplace injuries are increasing each year in industries like construction and agriculture, fields with high percentages of immigrant workers. Though workplace fatalities and serious injuries are decreasing overall, both are increasing among Latino workers, especially those that are foreign-born. At the same time, employers are moving away from offering full-time employment, instead relying on independent contractors, temporary workers and day laborers. These workers are often not covered by protections like workers’ compensation, unemployment insurance, and paid sick leave, yet they are often doing the most dangerous jobs.
We are comprised of representatives from organized labor, community groups, legal organizations, and others from around the state.
The field of worker safety is broad, so we have chosen to focus on a few issues to start off. One is retaliation when a worker uses the workers' compensation system. We frequently hear from workers who have been injured at work, and are fired or otherwise retaliated against for pursuing a remedy through the state’s workers’ compensation system.
Another issue is the danger of working at high temperatures without proper protections. California and Washington have both instituted “heat stress standards” which lay out conditions employers must meet such as providing additional water, access to shade, and sufficient rest breaks when temperatures are high. Oregon has decided not to enact similar rules, which puts workers at serious risk. We will work to have Oregon adopt a heat stress standard.
Safe Jobs Oregon will work to ensure that all workers have the right to safe workplaces and adequate remedies if they are hurt at work. Please contact Kate Suisman at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or if you would like to get involved.
Our multi-strategy approach to ending workplace abuse doesn't stop at policy advocacy or education. Because workers need all the tools available to recover their stolen wages, we have four on-staff attorneys ready to guide our clients through the process of asserting their federal and state employment rights and the hard-earned protections to which they are entitled.
We help workers in the low-wage sector, especially those who are immigrant and/or temporary. While we strive to take on as many clients as we can, we give preference to cases in which classes of workers are affected and those whose results will influence public policy.
In addition to our many other accomplishments, in the last 12 years, NWJP has recovered nearly $3 million in lost wages and damages for low-wage workers from all sectors.
For more information about our Legal Representation program or to make an appointment, please contact us.
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The social, economic and environmental justice issues we face today are deeply rooted in oppression, prejudice, and lack of evidence-based approaches to solving problems. Legal strategies, while helpful, aren't sufficient to right the wrongs that are now embedded in our seemingly unmovable power structures.
Understanding that it is vital for workers' well being to have strong laws on their side, we take on policy advocacy efforts at the state and federal levels through our work with the Oregon Coalition to Stop Wage Theft and the Low-Wage Worker Legal Network, and our participation and leadership in various state coalitions and campaigns.
In addition to our own policy advocacy efforts, we support state and national campaigns that seek to improve working and economic conditions for workers in Oregon and beyond.
Some of the campaigns and/or groups we currently support are:
Low-wage workers often want to unite and organize to take a stand against workplace abuses. NWJP aids these workers in their efforts.
NWJP helps low-wage workers understand their rights and how to take action to improve their working conditions.
By hosting law students and new law graduates, and entering into co-counseling agreements with local attorneys, we help increase expertise and awareness of low-wage workers’ issues in the legal community.
We are bringing international law to bear in our own casework, building a worldwide network of attorneys and advocates who are exploring similar strategies, and looking for opportunities to invoke international law’s procedural mechanisms to focus attention on U.S. employment practices.