The city's new Office of Labor Standards today announced $1 million in grants it will hand out to community organizations for education about labor laws.
About. Fucking. Time.
This is the money the city council set aside back in November. It wasn't ready to go out when the minimum wage increase took effect in April. At that time, the office didn't even have a director. (The mayor announced he'd hired one in late May.) At that time, the Office for Civil Rights, which oversees the Office of Labor Standards, told me these educational grants would likely go out in June. We now know they'll go out in September.
The wait has been frustrating bureaucratic nonsense. The Office of Labor Standards is new, but some of the laws it enforces have been on the books for years ,and we know the city has a history of not enforcing them. And even though the minimum wage didn't take effect until April, it's not like the city didn't see that coming. Still, the office's new director, Dylan Orr, deserves props for finally getting this process going. He just started the job last week. Good on ya, Dylan.
The Office of Labor Standards enforces not just the new minimum wage law, but also laws about wage theft, paid sick and safe time, and how employers can use job applicants' criminal records. Much of that enforcement is complaint-based. That's where education becomes so important. If employees don't know they're supposed to get a raise or a certain number of sick days, they can't complain about a boss who isn't complying.
Doing that education through community-based organizations will focus the effort on the workers who need it most. In handing out this money, the city is looking for organizations that work with "low-wage working communities who experience the highest rates of workplace violations, including female workers, workers of color, immigrant and refugee workers, LGBTQ workers, and youth workers."
"People need to know what their rights are in order [for these laws] to be enforced," Orr says. "This is about reaching as many people as we can."
Of the $1 million, $700,000 will go out this year and the other $300,000 will go out next fall. The money going out this year will be split between (A) grants for educational events and outreach about the laws and (B) grants for organizations that can actually help people file complaints about labor law violations. The office has requested proposals from community groups and will hold a workshop for groups that want to apply on July 9. Those proposals are due by July 31, and the contracts will begin in September.
That's more than a year after the city council passed the new minimum wage law, nine months after they budgeted the money, and five months after the law took effect. But at least it's finally happening.