Category Archives: News

From Michael’s desk: “You can’t pick strawberries over Zoom.”

You can’t pick strawberries over Zoom.”[1]

In the next few weeks, hundreds of thousands of agricultural workers will be leaving Mexico and Central America to come north to hand harvest the fruits and vegetables destined for our tables.  The huge role they play in our vital food chain and in sustaining a critical industry generating billions of dollars per year is so central to life and the economy in the United States that, along with nurses and doctors, first responders and ambulance drivers, they have been designated as essential workers who are not subject to the work and travel restrictions affecting most other workers.

They will travel north for 30 or 40 hours, crowded close together on cramped buses, to be deposited in labor camps. If the camp conditions comply with law, they may sleep in dormitory-style bunk beds no more than three feet apart. Commonly, in my experience, those camps are overcrowded, and two workers may have to share a single bunk.  Often workers will be taken in overcrowded buses to the fields each day and to stores on the weekends to buy food. Cooking facilities are shared, and quite rudimentary. The jobs farm workers do often require them to work in close proximity to other workers.  Hand washing and sanitary facilities are very limited, and often far from where workers are laboring. Days beginning in the very early morning, and long, exhausting hours of work are not particularly conducive to disease resistance.

While daily life of a farm worker is mostly segregated from the rest of the community, interaction with permanent farm staff and the need to buy food and other necessities will bring workers into contact with others, exposing them to the pandemic spreading through the United States.

Coming from isolated communities, workers may have little information about COVID-19 or how to protect themselves. Access to health care may be impossible. Fear of firing will make workers extremely reluctant to miss work due to feeling sick, or to complain of symptoms. Even having a place to isolate oneself to avoid infecting co-workers will often be impossible. Although we have created important relief programs for other workers who become ill or are otherwise hurt by the COVID crisis, most farm workers are not even eligible for those programs or even for subsidized health insurance for medical treatment.

Worker advocates have appealed to the federal agencies responsible for regulating temporary worker programs to adopt emergency rules to address this impending public health disaster—so far, to no avail.  Oregon OSHA has been pressed for temporary rules to address this situation, but is only considering whether to initiate a rule-making procedure.

But the buses are already rolling, now. Rolling to a foreseeable, tragic and unworthy debacle. Workers who are heroically performing work that is so essential to the community deserve better.

These are extraordinary times. This is just one example of the extraordinary hazards that low wage workers are imminently confronting. As a community we face awesome challenges. Even though we are dislocated, disrupted, working at home--communicating by Zoom--every one of us has a responsibility to reach deep to find what we can do to help. Lives are at stake.

NWJP staff is working overtime to do everything we can to advocate for safe, healthful and fair working and living conditions for those workers who are required to keep working in spite of the risks. Please join us, in whatever ways you can in your realm of possibility. Write to your governmental representatives, demand better of public enforcement and support agencies, donate to farm worker clinics, help with food banks, make face masks. Please do whatever you can.

It will take all of us to get through this.

 

 

 

 

[1] Farm worker advocate Lucas Zucker. https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-04-01/california-farmworkers-coronavirus

Recursos para los trabajadores durante la crisis del coronavirus COVID-19

Mientras que NWJP sigue tomando llamadas y preguntas de la comunidad, los siguientes recursos pueden contestar preguntas urgentes de trabajadores en Oregon.

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Actualizaciones sobre la vivienda

(A partir del 21 de diciembre de 2020)
El estado de Oregon tiene nuevas protecciones mas fuertes para ciertos inquilinos. Para chequear si califica para esta proteccion de desalojo mas fuerte, haga clic aqui o llame a la Alianza Comunitaria de Inquilinos al 503-288-0130 (Martes 6-7 PM y Sabados 1-2 PM).

El condado de Multnomah tambien ha extendido la moratoria de desalojo hasta a lo minimo el 2 de julio de 2021. Revise este folleto para aprender como escribir a su arrendador para usar el periodo de gracia.
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Tiempo de Enfermedad y Permiso Familiar para COVID-19

VIDEOS:

OregonLawHelp.org:

Departamento de Labor de los EE.UU.:

  • Permiso de Enfermedad Pagado y Permiso Extendido Familiar y Medico

Agencia de Labor e Industria de OR:

National Partnership for Women and Children:

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Salud y Seguridad en el Lugar de Trabajo para COVID-19

VIDEOS:

Administración de Seguridad y Salud Laboral de los EE.UU. (OSHA):

Ombudsman para Trabajadores Lesionados

  • Oregon Compensación de Trabajadores - Exposición a COVID-19 en el Lugar de Trabajo

Centro para el Control y la Prevención de Enfermedades:

Información Adicional en Español:

Consejo de Seguridad y Salud Laboral:

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Derechos de Discapacidad durante COVID-19

Comisión de Oportunidad Igual de los EE.UU.:

Agencia de Labor e Industria de OR:

Derechos de Discapacidad de Oregon:

Sistema de Acomodación de Empleo:

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Seguro de Desempleo por el COVID-19

VIDEO:

Legal Aid Services of Oregon

Departamento de Empleo de Oregon:

Oregon Law Center:

Causa:

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Derechos de Hora y Sueldo durante COVID-19

Agencia de Labor e Industria de Oregon:

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Recursos Adicionales para Trabajadores

Dos Materiales en Español:

  • Informacion para Campesinos: Sus Derechos y Como Protegerse

Otros:

Resources for Workers During the COVID-19 Crisis

Para español, haga clic aquí 

While NWJP continues to take calls and questions from the community, these resources may also answer pressing questions for workers in Oregon.

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Housing Updates

(Updates as of December 21, 2020)
The state of Oregon has new and stronger protections for certain renters. To see if you qualify for this stronger eviction protection, click here or call Community Alliance of Tenants at 503-288-0130 (Tuesdays 6-7 PM and Saturdays 1-2 PM).

Multnomah County has also extended the eviction moratorium until at least July 2, 2021. Check out this flyer to find out how to write your landlord to use the grace period.
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Sick and Family Leave for Covid-19

VIDEOS:

OregonLawHelp.org:

A Better Balance:

U.S. Department of Labor:

Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI):

Family Values at Work and National Employment Law Project:

  • COVID-19, Paid Leave, and Unemployment Flow Chart

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Workplace Health and Safety for Covid-19

VIDEOS:

The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health:

Staying Safe During COVID-19 - Worker Rights and Strategies

US OSHA:

Ombudsman for Injured Workers

  • Oregon Workers' Compensation - Exposure to COVID-19

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

OR OSHA

COSH Network

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Disability Rights for Covid-19

US Equal Opportunity Commission:

Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI):

Disability Rights Oregon:

Job Accommodation Network (JAN):

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Unemployment Insurance for Covid-19

VIDEO:

Legal Aid Services of Oregon

National Employment Law Project

Oregon Employment Department:

Causa Oregon:

 

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Wage and Hour Rights for Covid-19

U.S. Department of Labor:

Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI):

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Additional Resources for Workers

Employment Attorney Christina Stephenson Covid KYR Infographics
(NWJP does not endorse any candidate for office)

Dos materiales en Español  -

Comprehensive information on COVID 19 in 57 languages

Resources for domestic workers at National Domestic Worker Alliance

Mutual Aid (where you can request direct assistance, like grocery drops and other things) Map

From Michael’s desk:

Over the last several sessions of the legislature, advocates for low wage workers have had extraordinary success in expanding the legal rights of workers, having passed paid sick leave, fair scheduling, a substantial increase in the minimum wage, paid family and medical leave and stronger discrimination protections. These successes are remarkable, and a credit to legislative and grass roots champions alike. We are leaders in the country in establishing workers’ rights.

It has, however, been far more challenging to create effective remedies to enforce these, and other, longer established, workers’ rights. Partly, this is because the business lobbies have vehemently opposed creating effective private rights of action to put enforcement in the hands of workers, themselves. Too often, the legislature has acceded to this pressure. But even where workers have a right to take employers who violate rights to court, they face enormous difficulty in doing so.  We haven’t nearly enough lawyers who are willing and able to take on these cases, and employers are often choosing to organize themselves in ways that make actual collection of damages very difficult. This, in turn, makes it even harder to get a lawyer to take one’s case.

When unable to bring their own enforcement actions, workers must rely on help from public enforcement agencies that are woefully underfunded. For example, if BOLI’s enforcement resources were doubled, this would only put the agency at about the firepower it enjoyed in the 1993-95 biennium, the earliest year for which data is available. (Even BOLI’s 1993-95 staffing level was not the high water mark for the state’s wage enforcement capacity: Over a decade of budget cuts had already pummeled the agency. In 1981, 30 employees were cut from the bureau, and in the 1991-93 biennium, lawmakers let go 20 percent of the agency’s remaining staff.) In the years since, BOLI has been charged with enforcing important new laws mandating licensing labor contractors in construction and janitorial industries, pay equity, sick leave and fair scheduling, with no corresponding increase in enforcement resources. This has forced BOLI to limit the kinds of claims it is able to process. See www.ocpp.org/2019/03/28/boli-capacity-fight-wage-theft-eroded/.

Further, at the federal level the rapidly expanding use of forced arbitration and class action bans also is interfering with the ability of workers to receive the benefits of legal rights enshrined in the law. An employer need only stick fine print in its employment application that submits any disputes to forced arbitration, and forbids participation in a class or collective action. Workers often do not even see these provisions, or, because they desperately need work, ignore them. In recent years the United States Supreme Court has virtually closed the courthouse doors to workers’ claims that are subject to such provisions. A recent national study found that 24 million private-sector non-union workers in the United States earning less than $13 per hour were subject to forced arbitration in 2019. Forced arbitration allowed employers to steal $12.6 billion in wages from private-sector non-union workers earning less than $13 an hour who are subject to forced arbitration. See www.nelp.org/publication/forced-arbitration-cost-workers-in-low-paid-jobs-12-6-billion-in-stolen-wages-in-2019/.

Low wage workers find themselves at a crisis point in terms of being able to enforce rights enacted to protect them. In the end, “rights” without remedies are a cruel hoax; they are not real rights at all. At NWJP, we focus on achieving what we’ve begun to call “lived” justice. Lived justice happens when workers actually experience a remedy for the unfairness they encounter in the workplace. In the place of hollow, theoretical, rights, lived justice contemplates the availability of real, tangible, accessible and effective remedies to enforce those rights.

The mechanics of how to overcome obstacles to workers finding a remedy aren’t as flashy as carving out whole new protections, and can get a little wonky. But if workers are to truly benefit from the rights they have, or new rights we can create—if they are to live that justice—we all must give more attention to ensuring that adequate remedies are available to them.

 

Burgerville Workers Win More Elections!

The Burgerville Workers’ Union is an NWJP client, and the first fast-food union in the country. Because of incredible organizing by workers, BVWU has now won elections in five stores. In December, the Hawthorne and 12th location voted to join the bargaining unit. Then last month, two more shops voted to join the union, despite an especially hostile anti-union campaign.

The union continues with the hard work of negotiating a collective bargaining agreement. Meanwhile the boycott against Burgerville continues. With help from NWJP attorney Kate Suisman, and super-volunteer John Sutter, (link to profile) the union is engaged in productive bargaining with Burgerville that is already bringing real improvements to all Burgerville workers, including the right to tips. Worker organizing is a beautiful thing!

Northwest Workers’ Justice Project seeks Bilingual Paralegal*

The Northwest Workers’ Justice Project exists to support the efforts of low wage, immigrant and contingent workers to protect workplace dignity and to improve their wages and working conditions. We offer high-quality, direct legal assistance to workers and their organizations; support organizing efforts; educate workers, their leaders and the public about workplace rights; advocate for better employment laws; and promote greater access to low-cost employment legal assistance. Our office is in Portland, Oregon.

Position description:

*Paralegal certification is not a requirement for this position. On-the-job training will be offered to the successful candidate who displays appropriate basic skills.

NWJP seeks a full-time paralegal to help educate immigrant workers who are seeking assistance with employment legal problems about their rights as immigrants, evaluate their potential for immigration relief, and support them through all stages of workers’ rights litigation.

Duties may include:

  • Detailed client interviews on immigration histories and equities, and concerning workplace disputes;
  • Detailed fact investigation;
  • Work with staff to develop and execute outreach strategies to current and prospective clients and community organizations in order to overcome irrational fears about immigration enforcement and provide up-to-date, accurate information about what is actually happening in immigration enforcement. Outreach and community education  may include using Spanish media outlets.
  • Work with attorneys and immigration law partners to develop and implement immigration screening protocols;
  • Compile immigration and other resource materials for clients;
  • Work with clients to develop immigration enforcement crisis plans;
  • Case management and support, including document and file management, research, drafting legal documents, managing and maintaining client communications.

The position requires the ability to work well with co-workers and a variety of external partners including civil rights organizations, immigrants’ rights organizations, and community and other advocacy groups. 

The ideal candidate will possess a combination of the following skills and experience:

  • Fluent English-language skills and high proficiency in spoken and written Spanish required;
  • Cultural competence to help address legal needs of immigrant workers and ability to establish trusting relationships;
  • Passion for social justice;
  • Ability to work both independently and as a team player;
  • Strong organizational skills, responsible follow-through and flexibility around reacting quickly to changing priorities;
  • Ability to be detailed-oriented with excellent time management skills;
  • Strong oral and written communication skills;
  • Strong computers skills, including word processing, spreadsheets and Googles Apps;
  • Immigration and/or employment law experience preferred, but not required;
  • Willingness to flex work schedule to work weekends and evenings, as needed.
  • A valid Oregon driver’s license and access to a vehicle to travel to presentations outside of Portland.

How to apply:

Please send cover letter, resume, writing sample and three references to Corinna Spencer-Scheurich at jobs@nwjp.org. Review of applications will begin immediately and continue until the position is filled. Please send materials no later than February 5, 2019.

NWJP is an equal opportunity employer. We encourage applicants who will contribute to our diversity to apply.

Salary: Full-time position. Salary is commensurate with salary paid by Oregon legal services programs, which depends on experience. NWJP offers healthcare premium reimbursement.

California’s Immigrant Worker Protection Act Protects Oregon Workers

One of the challenges in supporting immigrant workers in the current political climate is the many unknowns about how anti-immigrant rhetoric will play out in our communities. We recently saw the impact of what can happen when workers have a little more information about what is happening in their communities and workplaces.

California recently passed a state law requiring, among other things, employers to notify workers if they receive notice that ICE plans to visit the employer to inspect the I-9 forms it has on file. I-9 forms contain information about an individual’s work authorization status, as well as other personal information, including their home addresses. While not technically an immigration “raid,” the inspections do sometimes result in worker arrests, in addition to potential fines for the employer.

In late February, a large florist company in Canby, Oregon, received such a notice of inspection from ICE. Because the company headquarters or parent company is located in California, it followed California law and notified its employees, including Oregon workers, of the upcoming inspection. That notice gave workers a leg up and time to prepare. As word spread, the community swung into action to support workers.

Organizations from Portland and the Willamette Valley organized a community forum for the affected workers. NWJP, along with Causa, PCUN, Latino Network, Oregon Law Center, ACLU, American Friends, AILA, UNIDOS, IMiRJ, and others, spoke to workers about what to expect during the inspection process, and how workers could protect their rights. Immigrant workers learned how to make a plan for the families in the event the worst should happen. We held an impromptu clinic to triage workers’ immigration-related needs and questions. Community organizations then held a series of follow-up meetings to continue working with the workers to provide more information and resources.

While it is still not clear what ICE will do with the information it collected in Canby, the California law worked to provide some protections for immigrant workers in Oregon that they would not otherwise have had. Specifically, the workers had notice of their heightened risk, and were able to take steps to educate themselves and make informed decisions about what to do next. They were able to talk to their families and make a plan for whatever comes next. And they had the experience of watching the community circle around them and say with its actions, “We care about you and your future, and we are here and ready to help.” The Immigrant Worker Protection Act is a model for what we could do in Oregon to protect our neighbors from the current terror that ICE enforcement activities seek to cause.

2019 Event Sponsorship

Sponsor NWJP's annual event to stand with us for dignity in the workplace!

2019 Celebration of Worker Justice

Wednesday, June 5th, 2019
5:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
The Eliot Center
1226 SW Salmon St.
Portland, OR 97205

Join us as an event sponsor today!

 

As an event sponsor, you will receive event and drink tickets as well as public acknowledgment (details below). You will also help NWJP to offer year-round support to Oregon's low-wage workers. Together, we will continue to protect workplace dignity and improve wages and working conditions.

Sponsorship  Level Amount Benefits
Friend of Fairness $250 Two event tickets
Two drink tickets
Public acknowledgment
Champion of Change $500 Four event tickets
Four drink tickets
1/8 page recognition in program
Defender of Dignity $1,000 Six event tickets (reserved seats)
Six drink tickets
1/4 page recognition in program
Guardian of Justice $2,500 Reserved table (eight tickets)
Eight drink tickets
1/2 page recognition in program
Workplace Warrior $5,000 Reserved table (eight tickets)
Eight drink tickets
Full-page recognition in program
Ready to become an event sponsor? 

 Return this form via email, snail mail, or fax.

Questions?
Please contact Chris Ferlazzo, Program Administrator, by email at chris@nwjp.org or by phone at 503-525-8454 ext 12.

Thank you for standing with NWJP to advance worker justice!

2019 Celebration of Worker Justice

Join us to honor and advance the rights of Oregon's low-wage workers!

2019 Annual Celebration of Worker Justice

Wednesday, June 5th, 2019
5:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
The Eliot Center
1226 SW Salmon Street
Portland, OR 97205

Featuring:
Gourmet dinner by Claeys Catering
Local beer and wine
A great silent auction
Live music

2019 Tribune of Worker Justice - Ramon Ramirez

Ramon has worked on behalf of Oregon’s farmworkers for decades, while lifting up not only the struggles of all workers and immigrants, but also those of the LGBTQ and other marginalized communities. From our very beginnings he has been one of NWJP’s closest allies, advisors, collaborators and friends.  Ramon has stepped down as the head of PCUN, and it is time that we honor this working class hero by presenting him with NWJP’s Tribune of Worker Justice Award.

Keynote speaker - Diana Tellefson Torres

Diana is the UFW Foundation’s Executive Director, and will speak about current national efforts to advocate for the “blue card” system to replace the seriously flawed H-2A program for temporary foreign workers and for amendments to the Fair Labor Standards Act to include overtime protections for agricultural workers.

 

TICKETS AVAILABLE NOW!

$55.00 - General Admission

GET TICKETS HERE!

If you prefer to purchase tickets by check, please complete this form.

MANY THANKS TO OUR 2019 EVENT SPONSORS!

(coming soon)

 

 

To become a sponsor, please complete this form, or email Chris