Support for Wage Campaigns by Worker Centers and Unions

Across the country, immigrant worker centers and unions are using employer violations of minimum wage and overtime laws to organize workers and transform industries.  These community-based campaigns are on the rise because growing numbers of low-wage and immigrant workers are being denied overtime and meal breaks, paid less than the minimum wage, and forced to work off the clock without pay. 

For more than a decade, NELP has supported this dynamic movement by co-counseling in litigation, assessing state and federal wage laws, and providing technical assistance.

NELP supports:

  • Workers centers in their collaborations with state and federal departments of labor. NELP-supported collaborations in Chicago, New York and California have used government partnerships to advance workers' rights in industries such as day labor, construction and restaurants.  These partnerships enhance state agencies' ability to do their job while providing worker centers with access to much-needed government power against workplace violations.  By partnering with public agencies, worker centers leverage their own scarce resources and enable them to make a difference in workers' lives.

  • Unions and worker centers in their efforts to collect data on workplace standards violations to help identify high-violation jobs that could be targets for campaigns, agency investigation, or private lawsuits.  NELP has been at the forefront of conducting research on high-violation jobs in the restaurant, day labor and domestic work sectors.

  • The production and dissemination of worker-friendly educational materials, to get the word out about labor standards and how to enforce them.  NELP drafts and disseminates bilingual "know-your-rights" guides for day laborers, domestic workers, and for workers seeking to use local small claims court systems to stop wage abuses.  NELP's Rights Begin at Home, Protecting Yourself as a Domestic Worker has been adapted for domestic worker groups in New York, California, and Illinois

  • Unions and worker centers engaged in direct litigation against target employers who flout the basic minimum standards.  NELP co-counsels and assists these lawsuits against home health care companies, delivery and retail establishments, and garment manufacturers, among others. 

See also our work in the area of Government Enforcement of Workplace Rights and Litigation.

For more information on our work in this area, please contact Cathy Ruckelshaus, cruckelshaus@nelp.org, Rebecca Smith, rsmith@nelp.org, Laura Moskowitz, lmoskowitz@nelp.org, or Raj Nayak, rnayak@nelp.org.

Other key resources:

National networks of worker centers pursing wage theft campaigns include Domestic Workers United, Interfaith Worker Justice, National Day Labor Organizing Network, and Restaurant Opportunities Centers United.  See also Janice Fine, Worker Centers: Organizing at the Edge of the Dream (Cornell U.P.: 2005).

Labor unions around the country are also focusing on wage theft.  For a listing, see Catherine K. Ruckelshaus, Labor's Wage War, 35 Fordham Urb. L.J. 373 (2008).