This weekend, many of us will get to spend a long weekend with loved ones, taking in the last days of summer.
During that time, let’s remember what Labor Day is about. On this day, we celebrate the hardworking men and women across the District and the country who help keep our communities running. And we honor the unions that help these workers come together to have their voices heard in the workplace.
Labor Day was created in the late nineteenth century, at a time when workers were often taken advantage of, not paid enough, or overworked. Many faced unsafe working conditions.
In the past century, we have made many drastic improvements to our laws to stand up for workers. But the mistreatment of workers is still all too prevalent.
At my office, we work every day to stand up for District workers who may not always have a voice, including by fighting wage theft and protecting workers’ rights. Since 2017, my office has opened over 50 wage theft investigations, and has recovered more than $3.2 million in restitution for workers.
The District has one of the most progressive workers’ rights laws in the nation, and my office works every day to ensure that employers who fail to pay their workers, or who do not pay their workers on time, are held accountable if they violate District law. And we put employers on notice that, if they don’t treat their workers fairly, they will be held accountable.
On Wednesday, I hosted a roundtable discussion to help workers understand their rights and explain how my office is protecting workers. During the discussion, we heard from area workers who recounted their personal experiences with businesses stealing their wages or tips or misclassifying them to increase profits at their expense.
The event also included Ron Meischker, Director of Industry Labor & Compliance at Eastern Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters, who spoke about wage theft and how it impacts workers in the construction industry; Veena Dubal, a law professor at UC Hastings College of the Law and a national expert on issues facing gig economy workers, who spoke about how technologies have impacted workers; and Yannik Omictin, Labor Program Coordinator with Many Languages One Voice, who spoke about the importance of labor protections for immigrant workers and workers of color.
In case you missed it, you can view it here.
To learn more about your rights as a District worker, click here.
Karl A. Racine
OAG is Holding More In-Person Clinics to Help DC Residents Access Rent & Utility Bill Help
If you or someone you know needs assistance applying for rental assistance support, my office is here to help. OAG attorneys and staff are partnering with local non-profit organizations to provide in-person volunteer support to help residents fill out the application for these benefits. The clinics have taken place in August and September in Wards 2, 7, and 8.
STAY DC helps DC residents pay their rent and utility bills during these challenging times. The program is meant to help families settle debts, pay landlords what they are owed and, ultimately, avoid a crisis if the District’s moratorium on eviction proceedings expires. But for many, the application process has been difficult. Partially because of application difficulties, as of late July, STAY DC still had more than 80% of its assistance funds, which can be distributed to eligible residents. Since we know many of our neighbors have struggled financially during the pandemic, we want to get that help to as many people and families as possible.
Following our clinics, just a few days ago we learned that the District has now given out nearly 70% of the $200 million in federal funds offered to help tenants cover rent and utility costs during the pandemic. That means the District won’t have to return any federal money and may get more resources to help struggling residents. Through this program, more than 15,000 residents have received emergency rental services. I’m proud that our office played a key role in making that possible by helping get residents enrolled in the program.
Four STAY DC clinics have already taken place. Due to the success of these clinics, we are adding more. They will take place on:
- Saturday, September 11th from 10 am – 2 pm at Church of the Redeemer, 1423 Girard Street NE, Washington, DC 20017 in Ward 5
- Saturday, September 18th from 10 am – 2 pm at East Washington Heights Baptist Church, 2220 Branch Ave SE, Washington, DC 20020 in Ward 7
- Monday, September 20th from 5 pm – 8 pm at Columbia Heights Education Center, 3101 16th St NW, Washington, DC 20010 in Ward 1
- Wednesday, September 22nd from 5 - 8 pm at THEARC, 1901 Mississippi Ave SE, Washington, DC 20020 in Ward 8
Residents interested in attending a clinic should take the following steps:
- Determine eligibility for STAY DC support.
- Register at this link to join one of the upcoming clinics to be paired with a volunteer who can assist. Residents can also walk up to a clinic without an appointment, but pre-registering will guarantee that someone will be available to help.
- Before going to an appointment, review the list of required documents and bring those documents to the appointment.
Time to Hit the Books!
On Monday, DC Public School students went back to school! My office has been busy with back-to-school events across the District this week, from Cure the Streets violence interrupters in Washington Highlands giving backpacks and food to families, to staff from my ATTEND program encouraging school attendance in Ward 7.
Workers’ Rights Q&A
OAG has resources for workers to help protect themselves against unscrupulous employers. The resources, which are available in English and Spanish, include comprehensive information about the District’s wage and hour laws and where workers can get help if their rights are being violated. OAG also provides free wage and hour logbooks, where workers can keep track of their wages and hours and help ensure they actually receive the pay they earn. Workers can print the logbook here.
Calling on Congress to Clarify the First Step Act & Apply Fair Sentencing Reforms
Yesterday, Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes and I co-led a bipartisan coalition of 25 attorneys general urging Congress to amend the First Step Act and extend critical resentencing reforms to individuals convicted of the lowest-level crack cocaine offenses. We are calling on legislators to take this needed step in the wake of the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Terry v. United States, which held that mid-level and high-level crack cocaine offenders could seek resentencing under the law, but that certain low-level offenders were not eligible. We are calling on Congress to clarify that the sentencing relief provided by the First Step Act applies to everyone convicted of crack cocaine offenses under the earlier, repudiated regime that had different sentencing regimes for crack and powder cocaine, including the low-level offenders who are currently unfairly being excluded. This law was intended to right historic wrongs, including discrimination in federal drug sentencing. Congress should help finish this critical work.
Holding an Area Company Accountable for Failing to Pay Workers Their Hard-Earned Wages
On Wednesday, during the workers’ rights roundtable discussion I held, I announced that my office filed suit against MJ Flooring, an area company that has provided cleaning services to several fire stations in the District, and its owner and president. We sued them for failing to pay the District’s minimum wage to employees who mopped, swept floors, and disinfected surfaces. At the time of the incidents, the minimum wage was $15 per hour. It is now $15.20 per hour. The lawsuit alleges MJ Flooring and its owner ignored this requirement and deprived workers of their hard-earned wages, and we are seeking back wages for the employees and penalties.
Supporting the Biden Administration Effort to Strengthen Protections Against Housing Discrimination
Last week, I urged the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to reinstate a rule protecting Americans from housing discrimination that was scrapped by the Trump administration. We led a coalition of 23 attorneys general in submitting a comment letter supporting HUD’s proposed reinstatement of its “discriminatory effects” rule. The rule, originally implemented in 2013 and effectively gutted by the Trump Administration in 2020, facilitates legal challenges to policies that lead to systemic inequalities in housing. The rule strengthens enforcement of the Fair Housing Act, and we hope HUD will consider adopting changes to make it even stronger in the future.