Campaign Coordinator

Caitlin Connolly

Washington, DC Office

Areas of Expertise
Home care, direct care workforce, eldercare workforce

Caitlin W. Connolly is the Home Care Fair Pay campaign coordinator, having joined NELP in 2015, working to ensure home care workers receive the labor protections afforded through the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Caitlin joined NELP after serving as the project director of the Eldercare Workforce Alliance, a coalition of 30 national organizations committed to providing older adults quality care by strengthening the workforce trained to care for them.  As senior project manager at the American Geriatrics Society, Caitlin worked on quality, research, and policy issues as well as part of the development team.  Prior to that, Caitlin spent eight years working with older adults, adults with disabilities, children, youth and families in low-income, supportive, and public housing. 

M.A. University of Massachusetts at Boston
M.A. Baruch College
B.A. George Washington University

Who’s the Boss: Restoring Accountability for Labor Standards in Outsourced Work

Who's the Boss: Restoring Accountability for Labor Standards in Outsourced Work

Executive Summary

Business outsourcing is on the rise, through practices such as multi-layered contracting, use of staffing or temp firms, franchising, misclassifying employees as independent contractors, and other means.  The label on a worker’s uniform and the brand on the outside of the establishment where the work occurs may not match the business name on the paycheck or the company that recruits and hires that same worker.  Lead companies that outsource distance themselves from the labor-intensive parts of their businesses and their responsibilities for those workers.  While some of these outsourcing practices reflect more efficient ways of producing goods and services, others are the result of explicit employer strategies to evade labor laws and worker benefits.  This restructuring of employment arrangements may well foreshadow a future of work different from the employer-employee paradigm around which many of our labor standards were constructed, but it should not spell the end of living wage jobs or business responsibility for work and workers. 

This report describes some of the organizational shifts in the way businesses operate, profiles some of the leading lower-wage service sectors where these outsourced structures have taken hold, and describes how these changes can result in poor working conditions and a lack of corporate responsibility. 

Anecdotal evidence suggests that the ambiguous legal status of many workers in contracted jobs is one of the central factors driving lower wages and poor working conditions in our economy today. 

  • Median hourly wages for workers in janitorial, fast food, home care, and food service, all sectors characterized by extensive contracting and franchising, are $10 or less;
  • Once outsourced, workers’ wages suffer as compared to their non-contracted peers, ranging from a 7 percent dip in janitorial wages, to 30 percent in port trucking, to 40 percent in agriculture; food service workers’ wages fell by $6 an hour;
  • These same sectors see routine incidences of wage theft, with 25 percent of workers reporting minimum wage violations, and more than 70 percent of workers not paid overtime;  and
  • Construction, agriculture, warehouse, fast food, and home care workers suffer increased job accidents compared with workers in other sectors.

Conscientious employers are harmed, too, as they are unable to compete with lower-bidding companies reaping the benefits of rock-bottom labor costs.  Local economies and the public lose out when paychecks shrink, taxpayer-funded benefits subsidize the low wages, and employers skirt payroll and other workplace insurance payments. 

Negative consequences of outsourcing can be mitigated somewhat through rigorous enforcement of existing federal and state laws to hold more entities accountable for degraded conditions under the broadly-defined workplace “joint employer.”

In addition, there are promising models in the states:

  • More than 30 states create a presumption in their laws that work creates an employment relationship with attendant rights and responsibilities;
  • Illinois, Massachusetts, California, and other states hold lead companies jointly accountable along with contractors, including staffing firms, in certain industries;
  • California requires responsible contracting in selected outsourced sectors, and
  • Worker advocates have negotiated innovative private codes of conduct to broaden responsibility for supply-chain working conditions.

While these approaches are promising, more needs to be done.  The United States should follow other countries and re-regulate staffing arrangements, making both parties responsible for working conditions and, in some cases, prohibiting outsourcing where accountability is not possible.  In addition, a small but growing number of worker advocates are bringing these practices to light and devising innovative campaigns to hold more firms accountable for the workers in their realm, especially in low-wage industries. 

The report concludes with a recommendation for a new and broader legal and policy framework that creates responsibility for working conditions down the domestic supply chain and in myriad contracting structures.  Under the framework, any subset of business players or creators of supply chains and outsourced arrangements that can impact the working conditions in those arrangements because they are still controlling key aspects of the business operations would be held responsible for the labor conditions.  By moving away from existing, more-limited employer liability paradigms under labor and employment laws, this policy frame better responds to the constellation of employment arrangements typifying many business operations today, aligns accountability with the capacity to know of and control the operations around work, and thereby creates a better chance that labor standards and protections will hold.

  1. I.               Introduction


Our economy is in the midst of a major restructuring in the way business operates, particularly in fast-growing service industries.  Whether the result of contingent work structures, outsourcing to contractors, the misclassification of employees as independent contractors, individual franchising, or other strategies, increasingly the businesses that individuals “work for” are not the ones they are “employed by”—a distinction that can hamper organizing, erode labor standards, and dilute accountability.

These organizational changes are an important part of the story of the “future of work” and have greatly contributed to the degradation of jobs and attendant income inequality in many sectors.

Some of these arrangements—broadly termed “outsourcing” (see box below for related terms)—truly reflect efficient ways of producing goods and services, while others represent explicit attempts by employers to evade their legal obligations to workers.  But all challenge nearly century-old workplace policies built around direct, bilateral employment relationships, and many discourage companies from taking responsibility for workplace problems.  In outsourcing work, all too often companies outsource responsibility as well—and by design or effect, create poor-quality jobs and undermine businesses trying to do right by their workers and the economy overall.

This report illuminates the scope and characteristics of companies’ decisions to outsource or use related structures in a variety of high-growth and lower-wage sectors that result in poor working conditions, with no accountability on the part of those companies.  It describes how this lack of responsibility in the face of complex supply chains, multi-tiered business arrangements, and inaccurate job labels harms workers, law-abiding employers, and the economy overall.  It details the culture of non-compliance that has emerged in many of our economy’s largest and fastest-growing sectors, as firms encourage intense low-bid competition by subcontractors, evade unions, and skirt baseline labor and employment standards.

Finally, the report chronicles policy responses to the problems under existing and new models, assessing successes and lessons learned, and proposes a new framework to encourage and require more accountability from those in a position to ensure fair working conditions. 


Myriad Forms and Evasions

The new forms of work arrangements and production can reflect legitimate structural change and a response to heightened competitive pressures.  Employers appropriately contract every day with independent businesses for specialty jobs that those businesses also perform for a variety of other customers.  These independent businesses invest capital in their firm and bring technical skills.  Lead companies cede control to them as specialists.  These arrangements are not the focus of this report. 

Other companies outsource work to separate middlemen entities, sometimes creating multi-tiered supply chains with complex structures, as Walmart and other big-box retailers have done.  Others insert temporary, staffing, or leasing firms to “payroll” their existing staff, who then become the “employees” of that staffing firm, as many warehousing and light manufacturing companies do.  Still others create nominal businesses by requiring their workers to be independent contractors, limited liability corporations (LLC), and even individual franchisees as a condition of getting a job, as janitorial, delivery, construction, and port trucking companies do.  These practices are the target of this report.


[insert box of terms here] Box: “Outsourced workers - related terms” duplicate part of box from p. 6 of 2006 GAO report]


These reconfigurations can create confusion on the part of workers and enforcement agencies; inserting a temporary, staffing, or other labor broker between employees and the firm can enable a lead company to claim that the direct contractor is the workers’ sole employer.  Workers who sign “independent contractor” or “franchise” agreements as a condition of getting a job are led to believe that they have no rights to workplace protections, and companies that pay off-the-books can be difficult to track down. 

Classic definitions of employment under applicable workplace protection laws do not capture enough of these often-convoluted structures, and allow companies to evade responsibility for workers who historically were considered to be in the businesses’ domain.  Outsourced workers can lose out on protections under core wage and hour, discrimination, and health and safety laws.  They may have no safety-net compensation for on-the-job injuries or layoffs.  They may lose access to career ladders, health care coverage, and retirement benefits available to direct employees.[1]  Many of the workers in these jobs are immigrants who are afraid to come forward to complain of unfair treatment.  And unfortunately, there is a close correlation between contracted occupations and those with the highest numbers of workplace violations.[2]

These arrangements can mean that workers and our economy lose out on the growth and opportunity that come from better jobs.  And law-abiding employers cannot compete with companies that use these structures to evade responsibility for the jobs in their overall businesses. 


Restoring Employer Responsibility

Baseline workplace protections remain an essential bulwark against degraded jobs and the resulting economic distress for workers, families, and communities.  The starting point for ensuring accountability for meeting these core labor standards is robust and strategic enforcement of existing broadly-defined labor laws.  There is much that can and should be done using these tools, including holding more entities and individuals responsible as “joint employers” and applying state laws that create a presumption of employment status for workers in these altered employment arrangements.  State-level “responsible contractor” provisions can also bring enhanced accountability and create strong incentives for companies to outsource responsibly. 

In addition, this report proposes a new framework, in which a broader subset of the players and creators implicated by these myriad layers and forms of employment arrangements are explicitly responsible for their workers.  This would include those entities that are in a position to ensure compliance with labor standards because they know of work being performed in and can exercise operational control over their business, broadly defined.  This more expansive reach would capture some but not all entities in a supply chain and hold them responsible for workplace violations in the chain. 

This framework moves away more purposefully from the more-limited employer responsibility paradigms in labor and employment regulation, instead creating more entities bound to care about what happens in the workplaces in their realm of control. 


II. Outsourcing, Contracting, and Beyond: An Overview


A.  Types of Structures

Companies that outsource use a variety of structures to do so, depending on the employer and the industry.  There are numerous variations to these basic arrangements, with individual iterations mattering for purposes of what individual or entity should be responsible.  We highlight here some paradigmatic structures to illustrate our reform prescriptions.

The simplest outsourcing models are those that entail only a firm-to-worker engagement, with an employer converting all of its employees to “independent contractors,” or requiring applicants to sign agreements purporting to make them “independent contractors,” “franchisees,” or limited liability corporations (LLC’s).  The case law and literature are replete with examples of employers in construction, cable and cell tower installation, janitorial, delivery services, and port truck driving that have used this model.[3]  This misclassification often occurs at the bottom of an outsourcing chain involving multiple layers of contractors between the workers and the lead company setting the terms of the arrangements.

[insert diagram of i.c./ franchisee/ LLC’s here – Figure 1]

Another widely-recognizable form of outsourcing is one in which an employer inserts an intermediary between itself and the workers and designates the intermediary as the workers’ sole “employer.”  These intermediaries may be “labor only” temporary or staffing agencies—which often provide workers who are anything but temporary—or specialized contractors who work within one specific industry.  Examples of the latter include farm labor contractors, drywall companies, and garment “jobbers.”  A variant of this type of two-tiered structure is companies that franchise their businesses to another, such as in the fast-food industry.

Extreme examples of this contracting can be found in some hollowed-out hotels and hospitals, where almost every segment of the business (housekeeping, catering, building services, recordkeeping, professional staffing) is outsourced to other entities, leaving a skeletal crew of direct employees. 

[insert figure of two-level contractors and temp/ staffing firm here- Figure 2]

In still other sectors, there are multiple layers of contractors, with the first-tier contractor operating as a broker that secures contracts and then contracts with a second tier of sometimes-undercapitalized subcontractors.  At the second tier, fierce competition means the subcontractors have little ability to comply with labor laws, but are nonetheless designated as the “employer” of the workers at the bottom of the chain.

These multi-tiered outsourcing arrangements are a simpler variant of the supply chains common in retail and garment.  On one end of the chain, one or more tiers of contractors make the products for a brand, often in other countries.  The brand or major retailer imposes price controls that make it next to impossible for contractors to pay workers producing goods at the bottom of the chain fairly.  Then, as products move further through the chain, the retailer’s tight control of prices pits bidding subcontractors against each other, creating unsafe and underpaid workplaces in warehouses, ports, and other logistics distribution centers.


[insert diagram of multi-tiered supply chain here- Figure 3]


  1. B.    Outsourced Industry Profiles 

The arrangements described above are manifested in a number of large and growing sectors, with resulting harm to the working conditions; a few are highlighted in this section. 


Contracting in the Janitorial Industry

The janitorial services industry generates approximately $47.2 billion in revenue per year, with revenues expected to rise in the recovery.[4]  In the past two decades, companies’ outsourcing of janitorial services has grown dramatically.[5]  As a result, janitors who often clean restaurants, hospitals, and offices are most likely not hired directly by the facility that they clean; instead, they work for a janitorial contractor.

Under a typical model of outsourced labor in the industry, a lead company contracts with a janitorial company to provide maintenance services at the lead company’s facilities.  The first tier janitorial company does not directly provide cleaning services, and instead hires second-tier subcontractors to provide cleaning services at a lower price.  The second-tier subcontractors provide the janitors to clean facilities.  Second-tier subcontractors are often able to make a marginal profit only by engaging in cost-saving strategies, including misclassifying janitors as independent contractors or selling “franchise” licenses to unwitting workers. Second-tier contractors save costs by evading payroll taxes, workers’ compensation, and minimum wage and overtime requirements at the cost of the janitorial workers.[6]  Industry analysts note that “non-employers”—those classified as independent contractors and franchises—account for 93 percent of all janitorial service companies.[7]

Violations of basic labor law protections are endemic in the janitorial industry, and job quality has decreased significantly since the emergence of these contracting and franchising models.  One academic study found that janitorial workers suffered a four-to-seven percent wage penalty from 1983 to 2000 as a result of outsourcing in the industry.[8]



Number of workers in the janitorial industry: 2,101,810[9]

Estimated percentage in contracted work: 37%[10]

Demographics: 18.4% African American; 3.9% Asian; 30.3% Hispanic[11]

Median wage: $10.86/hour; $22,590 annual[12]

Incidence of wage theft: 26% minimum wage violations; 71.2% overtime violation rates; 72.5% off-the-clock violations[13]


Franchising in the Fast-Food Industry

The franchising structure began in the 19th century after the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company and the Singer Company found that wholesalers neither wanted to distribute nor repair their products.  To address this void, the companies built a network of independent agents to be the exclusive sellers of their products.[14]  In the mid-20th century, Ray Kroc (the founder of McDonald’s) and others began using the franchise model in the fast-food industry.  Today, nearly all fast food in the United States is sold through this model.[15]


Publicly-traded fast-food companies including McDonald’s, Yum!Brands, Subway, Burger King, Wendy’s, Dunkin’ Donuts, Dairy Queen, Little Caesars, Sonic, and Domino’s are highly profitable.  In 2012, these companies collectively earned $7.44 billion in profits; paid $52.7 million to their highest-paid executives; and distributed $7.7 billion in dividends and buybacks to their shareholders.[16]

By contrast, fast-food franchisees themselves are in many cases unprofitable.  A 2007 study commissioned by the brands found that franchises have a higher failure rate on Small Business Administration loans than non-franchisees.  Like other contractors, franchisees can easily be replaced if their business fails. 

Franchise brands typically dictate the terms of agreements with their franchisees, including charging exorbitant fees for the right to operate their businesses.  Lead companies can exert significant control over the day-to-day operations of their franchisees.  The franchisors can dictate how many workers are employed at an establishment, the hours they work, how they are trained, and how they answer the telephone.  While the brands claim that they have no influence over wages paid to workers, they control wages by controlling every other variable in the businesses except wages.


Recent news reports say that McDonald’s computers keep track of data on sales, inventory, and labor costs, calculate the labor needs of the franchisees, set and police their work schedules, track franchisee wage reviews, and track how long it takes for employees to fill every customer order.[17]  Domino’s Pizza tracks the delivery times of its franchisee’s employees, holding them to the brand’s standards.[18]  McDonald’s reportedly acts as a labor broker for its franchisees, via a website that screens applicants.  Fast-food workers say that on occasion, McDonald’s has fired employees of its franchises, exercising a right commonly associated with employer status.[19]

Fast-food workers make a median hourly wage of $8.94.[20]  Two-thirds of core front-line fast-food workers are adults 20 and older, and 68 percent are the main earners in their families.  More than one-quarter are raising children.[21]  Compared to the overall economy, fast-food jobs are twice as likely as other jobs to pay so little that workers are forced to rely on public assistance (52 versus 25 percent).[22]  In fact, the low-wage business model at the 10 largest fast-food companies in the country costs U.S. taxpayers more than $3.8 billion each year to subsidize public benefits these workers are forced to rely on to meet their basic needs.[23]  In New York, 60 percent of fast-food workers say they are forced to rely on public assistance to cover basic needs.[24]

Even beyond the impact of low wages, fast-food workers’ earnings are depressed by extensive wage theft and violations of health and safety laws.  Nationally, nearly 90 percent of fast-food workers surveyed in early 2014 reported some sort of wage theft on the job.[25]  One survey of fast-food workers in New York found that 30 percent of the workers had late or bounced checks, 30 percent had overtime violations, and 36 percent had off the clock violations.[26]  A national study on health and safety conditions in the restaurant industry found that 95.3 percent of workers had been either cut or burned on the job; 24.5 percent came into contact with toxic chemicals on the job; 87.7 percent did not get paid sick days, and 63.6 percent cooked and served food while sick.[27]

Recently, fast-food workers have begun to highlight wages and working conditions in their industry.  In March 2014, the McDonald’s Corporation was sued in seven class action lawsuits filed in California, New York, and Michigan for violations of wage and hour standards, including requiring workers to work off the clock, failure to pay overtime pay for overtime work, and failure to provide workers rest and meal breaks.[28]  That same month, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced two settlements of claims against McDonald’s and Domino’s franchisees for failing to pay proper wages.  An earlier wage and hour claim brought by delivery workers was settled for $1.3 million after the Domino’s corporation was added as a defendant.[29]


Box: Franchising in Fast Food:

Number of workers in the fast-food industry:  3.8 million.[30]

Estimated percentage contracted (in franchisee stores):  76.3% as of 2007.[31]

Median wage: $8.94

Demographics:  70% are over age 19; 56.4% women; 41.5% people of color.[32]

Incidence of wage theft:  A recent nationwide poll of fast-food workers found that nearly 89% have been the victim of wage theft at their fast-food job, and most have experienced multiple forms of wage theft.[33]


Contracting in the Home Care Industry


[put home care worker profile someplace around here]


The home care industry employs two million home care workers and is both the fastest-growing sector of the American economy and one expected to add the most jobs throughout the decade.[34]  While few home care employers are subcontractors in the traditional sense, jobs in this industry are characterized by an attenuation of the employment relationship with multiple entities between the funding source and the worker.  Medicaid and Medicare (and other government programs) are the primary sources of funding for home care jobs and directly or indirectly set workers’ pay rates, funneling funds through one or more employer entities that issue workers’ paychecks and perform other employer functions.[35]  The result is often a complex work structure, where workers in publicly-funded programs relate to two, three or more entities for different aspects of their job, including home care agencies, fiscal intermediaries, quasi-public entities, and Medicaid recipients (the clients served by the workers).  In addition, the private-pay portion of the industry has seen an increase in for-profit franchises and “registries” that misclassify workers as independent contractors, and for-profit and non-profit agencies operate in the private pay and underground “gray market.”[36]


Wages and worker protections in home care are almost uniformly poor.  Medicaid and Medicare home care funds, already in short supply as governments seek to trim budgets, are further drained when home care agencies take their cut for overhead and profits, leaving little money for the workers.  On average, agencies take about half of the hourly rate they receive from the government or families, leaving workers with median wages of under $10 an hour.[37]  Many workers do not have health insurance, and over half of the personal care workforce relies on public assistance.  Another cause of low wages is workers’ 40-year exemption from federal minimum wage and overtime protections, which the U.S. Department of Labor recently closed through a rules change scheduled to go into effect in January 2015.[38]  But violations are high even in states that have covered home care workers under wage laws, because workers fear to report violations and responsible employers are elusive.


Unions have won state legislation establishing employers-of-record in several “independent provider” programs; these reforms allow workers to collectively bargain with a common state entity and have significantly boosted wages.[39]  But throughout the industry, workers are plagued by involuntary part-time work on the one hand, and excessive overtime, often without the required overtime pay, on the other; nonpayment of wages for travel time between client homes, training time and nighttime work, and other off-the-clock violations; and high injury rates.     



Number of workers in the home care industry:  2 million; of those, 630,000 estimated in Independent Provider programs

Part-time workers: 56%

Demographics: 32% African American; 17% Hispanic/Latino; 7% Other; 44% White; 24% Foreign-born

Median wage:  $9.38 

Incidence of wage theft:  17.5% minimum wage violations; 82.7% overtime violation rate; 90.4% off-the-clock violations[41]


[put hospital worker profile around here somewhere]


Contracting in the Food Service Industry


Food service contractors provide catering services and related food services at public institutions such as correctional, educational, and healthcare facilities, and to airports, hotels, recreation, and sports facilities.  Food service contracting is growing:  industry revenue is forecast to grow an average of 3.2 percent per year over the next five years, to $38.3 billion.  An estimated 423,000 workers will work for food service contractors in 2014.  Major players in the food service industry include Aramark, Sodexho, and Compass, which generate 90 percent of the sector’s revenue.[42]


Although food preparation and service work is one of the fastest-growing occupations in the United States, food service workers earn among the lowest wages in the country.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the median hourly wage for food service workers in 2013 was $9.15 per hour, or $19,020 per year.[43]  Institutions’ shift to food service contractors, moreover, often results in lower wages for workers performing the same duties as in-house employees.  One study of contracted food service workers found that workers previously employed by a public school district and then employed by subcontractors experienced pay cuts as great as $4.00 to $6.00 per hour.[44]



Number of workers in the food service industry: 11,914,590[45]

Demographics: 12.2% African American; 5.7% Asian; 24.4% Hispanic[46]

Median wage: $9.15/hr, $19,020 annual[47]

Incidence of wage theft: 23.1% minimum wage violations; 67.8% overtime violation rates; 72.9% off-the-clock violations[48]



Contracting in the Warehouse and Logistics Industry


[put warehouse worker profile from Schneider Logistics someplace around here]


Warehouse and logistics workers play a central role in U.S. commerce, transferring imported goods from shipping containers to warehouses and reloading goods for shipment to retail stores around the country.  However, recent reports show that warehouse and logistic workers face low wages, with few worker protections, as a result of outsourcing.[49]


Outsourcing has reshaped the warehouse and logistics industry with the use of “third-party logistics” (or 3PL) firms, highly integrated companies with the capacity to handle goods at several different points in a supply chain.  A reported 77 percent of Fortune 500 companies use 3PL firms.[50]  These third-party logistics companies, in turn, contract with staffing agencies, which hire temporary workers to unpack, load, and ship goods to retail facilities across the country.[51]


Third-party logistics firms encourage bidding wars among motor carriers and staffing firms, placing continual pressure on contractors to provide cheaper services.  These lower rates are passed on in the form of decreased prices for truck drivers (who are often misclassified as independent contractors) or decreased wages for warehouse workers.[52]  Workers employed at the bottom of this supply chain face deteriorated working conditions, with significant increases in wage and hour and health and safety violations as staffing agencies cut corners.  As one study of outsourced and temporary logistics workers in New Jersey found, more than one in five workers earned incomes below the federal poverty level; more than one in ten had reported an injury on the job, and over 40 percent had not received necessary safety equipment.[53]  A judge in a still-pending wage and hour class action suit against Walmart, Schneider Logistics, and several temp and staffing firms involving working conditions in California warehouses has found that Walmart and Schneider jointly employed warehouse workers, along with the direct lower-level subcontractors.[54]


Extensive outsourcing by some giant corporations, most notably Walmart, across multiple industries in their supply chains has placed labor costs in competition, driving down wages and eroding working conditions.  By aggressively outsourcing many labor-intensive parts of its business to the lowest bidders, and taking advantage of its huge size and market dominance, Walmart has engendered workers’ rights violations throughout its vast network of subcontractors—from the workers who process seafood sold in its stores[55] to the warehouse workers who ferry Walmart goods from suppliers to customers.[56]


Box or sidebar quote: As Walmart’s leadership once explained to Wall Street analysts, “The misconception is that we’re in the retail business, we’re in the distribution business.”[57]



Number of workers in the warehouse and logistics industry: 3,428,800

Median wage: $11.04/ hour; $22,970 annually

Incidence of wage theft: 25.2% minimum wage violations; 44.3% overtime violations for packaging and warehousing; 66.0% off the clock violations[59]



Outsourcing in the Agricultural Industry


[put agricultural worker profile someplace around here]


Farm work has long been characterized by an employment dynamic that has now spread to many other industries.  Profitable multinational interests—some involved directly in the growing of agricultural products and others that purchase these products—have for decades attempted to shed responsibility for workplace abuses by hiring farm labor contractors.  The farm labor contractors are often thinly capitalized and face fierce competition for agricultural employers’ business, leaving them little choice but to accept contract terms dictated by the growers.  At the bottom of this chain lies an overwhelmingly immigrant workforce of some two million farmworkers, whose physically demanding jobs are characterized by low wages, high accident levels, and no workplace benefits.


The share of workers subcontracted from a primary agricultural firm and employed by a farm labor contractor increased by 50 percent between the periods 1993 to 1994 and 2001 to 2002.[60]  Some estimates place the number of farmworkers employed by farm labor contractors as high as 80 percent.[61]  Earnings for workers employed by labor contractors are lower than those directly hired by growers.  A 1993 study in California found that annual earnings for workers employed by farm labor contractors are only 60 percent of those for workers hired directly by growers.[62]


For decades, farmworkers have been excluded from major labor-protective laws in the United States, including federal overtime pay and the National Labor Relations Act.[63]  Minimum wage violations are a longstanding problem that can be traced to the contracting system.




Number of workers in the industry: Approximately two million.[64]

Estimated percentage in contracted work:  As high as 80%.[65]

Demographics:  76% immigrant,[66] more than half undocumented.[67]

Median wage: $8.90 to $11.10 per hour.[68]

Incidence of wage theft: A 1999 DOL study found a compliance rate with the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Agricultural Worker Protect Act was between 50% and 65% for lettuce, tomato and onion growers.[69]


BOX: Guestworker programs:  a study in outsourcing [put someplace near agriculture]


The federal H-2A and H-2B “guestworker” programs allow employers to hire temporary foreign workers for seasonal jobs in agriculture and other industries.  In addition, recent investigations have uncovered a number of high-profile incidences of use of foreign students in the J-1 “cultural exchange” visitor program to provide cheap labor in Hershey’s warehouses and McDonald’s outlets, for example.[70]  Over 200,000 visas were issued in these three programs combined in 2012.[71]


U.S. guestworker employers rely on private individuals or agencies to find and recruit workers in their home countries.[72]  Abuses by recruiters, intermediary processing agencies, and host employers, ranging from wage and hour and housing violations to human trafficking, have been well documented.[73]  Lured with false promises of lucrative jobs and permanent U.S. residency, temporary foreign workers have signed over property deeds, dissolved life savings, and fallen into debt to pay up to $20,000 in “recruitment” fees—only to be placed in abysmal working and living conditions when they arrive in this country.[74]


Worker organizing and litigation, including by the National Guestworker Alliance, Centro de los Derechos Migrante, and the Southern Poverty Law Center, have brought national attention to the way in which employers use the H-2B program, in particular, to obtain cheap labor to be performed by a vulnerable and exploitable workforce.[75]


Contracting in the Staffing Industry


The temporary employment and staffing industry is composed of companies that offer workers to other companies, sometimes for a limited time.[76]  Workers in this industry are by definition outsourced workers, as the lead company contracts with the staffing firm for their labor.  Temporary and staffing agencies provide workers for companies in a variety of underlying industries and occupations, from business services to manufacturing and from clerical to production.[77] 


The staffing industry grew sharply in the 1990s, more than doubling as a share of overall employment by 2000 to 2.9 percent, or 3.8 million jobs.  In 2013, there were approximately 3.4 million jobs in the staffing sector, accounting for 2.5 percent of U.S. employment.[78]  But according to the American Staffing Association, the pool may be larger:  the industry says that every year a tenth of all U.S. workers finds a job through a staffing agency. [79]


While staffing industry employment still represents a relatively small share of the labor market, the sector plays an important role during recessions and recoveries, rising and falling more sharply than total employment (Table 1).  During the Great Recession, for example, U.S. employment declined from peak to trough by 6 percent while staffing employment dropped by 36 percent (Table 1, left).  Similarly, in the four years from when staffing employment hit bottom in August 2009, the sector grew by 41 percent, compared with just 6 percent overall (Table 1, right).


Staffing jobs made up similar shares of total employment changes over the Great Recession relative to the two prior recessions, when the sector’s share of jobs lost was higher than the share gained (Table 2).  Eleven percent of jobs gained since employment hit its low point in February 2010 have been in the staffing sector.  It may be too early to tell, but the strong growth of the sector along with its position among recovered jobs suggest it may hold a greater share of employment in the future.



Table 1: Percentage Change in Total and Staffing Employment Over Last Three Recessions[80]


Job Loss (High to Low)

Job Growth (4 Years From Low)






















Table 2: Staffing’s Share of Total Jobs Lost and Gained Over Last Three Recessions[81]


% of Jobs Lost

% of Jobs Gained










Source: NELP analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data


Employers in certain occupations and industries have increased their use of temporary and staffing models, creating a shift in the types of occupations dominating the sector.  In particular, the last 30 years have witnessed a transfer of temporary work from white-collar occupations, specifically office and administrative support occupations, to blue-collar occupations, like production and material-moving:  in 1990, four in ten (42 percent) workers in staffing were in office and administrative support jobs, whereas in 2013, these occupations made up just 21 percent of the industry.[82]  Of the 10 largest staffing firms in the United States in 2012, eight list industrial work as their largest staffing segment.[83]  This is consistent with other research documenting an increasingly heavy reliance by the manufacturing industry on staffing agencies.[84]


Temporary workers typically experience lower wages, less job security, and fewer workplace benefits compared to permanent, full-time employees.[85]  A 2012 UC Berkeley Labor Center study concluded that temporary workers in California, for example, are twice as likely as non-temps to live in poverty, face lower wages, and less job security.  Median hourly wages for temp workers were $13.72 as compared to $19.13 for non-temps.  Temp workers are also twice as likely to receive food stamps and be on Medicaid as other workers.  The Berkeley study concludes that temporary and outsourced arrangements erode wages and working conditions for workers in those positions.[86]  For temporary workers employed in manual occupations in particular, it may also mean being subject to unsafe working conditions and other abuses as host companies and temp agencies each blame the other for health and safety violations.[87]


Latinos make up 16 percent of employed workers, and African-Americans, 11 percent, but both groups are overrepresented in the staffing industry:  20 percent of workers are African-American and 20 percent are Latino.[88]  They also make up relatively large shares of workers in production, transportation and material moving occupations, which make up a significant share of jobs in the sector:  22 percent of these workers are Latino and 15 percent are African-American.


Breakdowns of racial and ethnic groups by occupation tell a similar story.  Employed African-American and Latino workers, especially men, are more likely than employed White and Asian workers to be employed in production, transportation and material moving occupations.  In 2013, 25 percent of Black men and 22 percent of Latino men were employed in such occupations, compared with 17 percent of White men and 13 percent of Asian men.


Box: Temporary and Staffing Work


Number of staffing agency workers in the United States: 3.4 million (2.7 million in temporary help services)

Estimated percentage of industry contracted:  100%

Median wage:  $12.40[89]

Demographics: African Americans and Latinos over-represented in temporary industries.[90]  Undocumented workers are also an increasing source for temporary labor.[91]



Contracting in the Port Drayage Industry


[put port trucker profile someplace around here]


There are an estimated 75,000 port truck drivers in the United States.[92]  These are the workers who transport around 250 million metric tons of imported goods worth $900 billion dollars from our ports to railheads or other logistics firms. 


Prior to deregulation of the trucking industry in 1980, port trucker jobs were family sustaining, union jobs.  After deregulation, new companies, mostly small and without assets, entered the industry, driving down rates and wages.[93]  The companies soon turned to a new business model:  they could cut costs by shifting liability to drivers, simply by calling them “independent contractors.”


Approximately 80 percent of port truck drivers are now labeled “independent contractors.”  Of these, approximately 80 percent, or 50,000 workers, are misclassified.[94]  The shift to an independent contractor model from an employee model is correlated with a 30 percent decline in wages between 1980 and 1995.  Current median net annual earnings for port drayage drivers are $35,000 for those classified as employees, and $28,783 for those classified as independent contractors.[95]


The port trucking business model includes passing the capital costs of the business onto its workers.  Trucking companies do not own their own trucks; instead, they require workers to sign contracts attesting that they are independent contractors, “leasing” themselves and their trucks back to the companies.  The companies retain nearly complete control over the work:  they tell the workers when, where, and how to perform the job, and require that workers render services to only one company at a time.[96]


In the past three years, workers have begun challenging their characterization as “independent contractors,” with positive results.  Nearly every relevant federal agency, including the U.S. Department of Labor, the Internal Revenue Service, and state agencies from Washington, New Jersey, and California, have held that port truck drivers should be properly classified as employees.[97]  The California Department of Labor Standards Enforcement has assessed more than one million dollars in back wages owed to 19 misclassified port truck drivers, with more decisions on the way.[98]




Number of workers in the port drayage industry:  75,000

Number of workers contracted:  60,000

Median Wage:  Contractors:  $11.91  Employees:  $14.71



Public Contracting


Under ever-increasing pressure to cut budgets and workers, both the federal government and the states have increased their reliance on the private sector to provide a variety of goods and services that have traditionally been supplied by the governments.  Federal spending on contracts for good and services rose 150 percent in recent years, from $206 billion in 2000 to $517 billion in 2012.[99]  According to the Economic Policy Institute, even before the Great Recession, federal contract workers represented 43 percent of all employees doing work for the federal government.[100]  A 2008 study by the Center for American Progress found that of the 5.4 million federally-contracted service workforce, an estimated 80 percent earned below the living wage for their city or region.  Four types of contracts were particularly likely to pay low wages:  utilities and housekeeping; property maintenance and repair; clothing and apparel; and food preparation.[101]  In many cases, contracting agencies award service contracts based solely on the lowest bid submitted, which gives contractors an incentive to cut costs by cutting compensation packages.


A recent survey of 567 workers in contracted jobs who provide food service, retail services, or janitorial services in various buildings occupied or controlled by the federal government, and 34 port truckers who haul loads under federal contracts, found that most (74 percent) earned less than $10 per hour.[102]  Few reported receiving paid sick days, employer-provided health insurance, or a retirement plan.  In fact, more than half of the workers interviewed reported receiving no benefits at all.


Many federal contractors are also frequent violators of core labor laws.  A recent Senate inquiry found that almost 30 percent of the top violators of federal wage and safety laws are also current federal contractors.[103]  A 2004 Department of Labor investigation found that in 80 percent of its wage and hour investigations, employers operating under the federal Service Contract Act had failed to pay legally-mandated minimum wages and benefits.[104]


Like many other workers in low-wage outsourced jobs, one in five of the food service, retail, and janitorial workers interviewed for the survey described above reported depending on Medicaid for their health care.  And 14 percent depend on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps) to meet their family’s food needs.[105]  A study of school cafeteria workers employed by private contractors found that these workers are nearly twice as likely as the workforce as a whole to participate in one or more public assistance programs:  36.3 percent compared to 19.7 percent.[106]


President Obama’s promulgation of an executive order requiring that wages on federal contracts must be no less than $10.10 an hour will help boost wages for many of these workers.[107]  A report of states and localities that had adopted contracting policies similar to the President’s executive order found that these policies reduced the hidden public costs of low-wage work, while delivering better-quality services for the taxpayer and encouraging more companies who paid decent wages to enter the bidding process.[108]


Box: Public sector outsourcing

Number of workers: 9,681,240.[109]

Estimated percentage in contracted work:  estimated 2 million low-wage jobs are publicly funded.[110]

Demographics:  57.7% female at state and local level; 42.2% in federal;[111] 30% more African Americans in public sector than other workers.[112]

Median wage: $26.41, but wide range of jobs, larger occupations within government sector range $9.00 to $23.44 per hour.[113]


III. Outsourcing Degrades Jobs, Harms Law-Abiding Employers and the Economy 


In many industries where outsourcing is on the rise, the intense pressure on contractors to compete fiercely for the work under the contract drives them to reduce labor costs, sometimes illegally, in order to underbid competitors.  This race-to-the-bottom dynamic, combined with a decreased ability of government regulators to detect violations among a sea of small players, has severe consequences not only for individual workers’ pay and job standards, but for the economy as a whole:  local economies are strained by the cumulative effect of lower wages on consumer spending and reliance on safety-net programs; local, state, and federal tax revenues suffer; public safety is undermined; and responsible employers attempting to play by the rules cannot compete.


A. Unfair Competition


In many sectors, including ones profiled above, outsourcing is now a deeply-entrenched business model that has transformed the industry.  In at least some segments of key industries, competing firms cannot survive unless they violate workers’ compensation laws, skimp on their unemployment insurance taxes, and pay less than the required minimum or prevailing wages; often, they achieve all of these by misclassifying workers as independent contractors, franchisees, or other non-employee labels.  Companies that misclassify their workers can save as much as 30 percent of their payroll costs.  Businesses that require workers to sign independent contractor or individual franchise agreements or pay off the books can underbid their law-abiding competitors, particularly in labor-intensive sectors like construction, delivery, and building services. 


In the construction industry, for example, general contractors facing stiff competition for contracts push heavily on subcontractors to reduce project costs, which leads—intentionally or not—to neglect for workers’ rights as subcontractors are forced to trim expenses.  As described by the authors of one recent report, the industry is “a fiercely competitive contract industry, characterized by slim profit margins, high injury and [workers’] comp rates, comprised largely of numerous small to medium-sized companies whose numbers and size may make them more likely to operate beyond the view of state regulators.”[114]  Janitorial cleaning contractors like Coverall, Jani-King, and Jan-Pro base their business models on calling their janitorial workers “franchisees,” requiring their workers to pay for the right to clean a particular building.[115]  The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage & Hour Division has named janitorial and construction as two of its top priority industries,[116] specifically citing high labor-standards-violation levels and use of contracting structures.[117]


In addition, employers that engage in independent contractor misclassification enjoy   l savings of as much as 30 percent of payroll, meaning that law-abiding firms treating their workers as “employees” struggle to compete, and in some cases are driven out of business.  Some businesses in labor-bidding sectors have backed more robust enforcement and other reforms to stem labor standards violations and the race-to-the-bottom, in hopes of leveling the playing field.[118]


The costs of these business models, and of independent contractor misclassification in particular, are shocking.  While the broader financial costs of outsourcing have yet been measured, federal and state governments suffer a hefty loss of revenues due to misclassification of employees as independent contractors, in the form of unpaid and uncollectible income taxes, payroll taxes, and unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation premiums.  Misclassification of this magnitude exacts an enormous toll:  researchers found that misclassifying just one percent of workers as independent contractors would cost unemployment insurance trust funds $198 million annually, and a 2009 report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) estimated that independent contractor misclassification cost federal revenues $2.72 billion in 2006.[119]


A wave of state-level studies on the costs of independent contractor misclassification over the past decade supplement federal data to paint a bleak picture of how this practice robs unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation funds of billions of much-needed dollars and significantly reduces federal,

Tracking the Low-Wage Recovery: Industry Employment & Wages

NELP is conducting on-going research to track the current recovery on multiple dimensions, including unemployment, wages, and occupational and industry growth patterns.

New Report:  The Low-Wage Recovery:  Industry Employment and Wages Four Years into the Recovery (April 2014)

This report updates NELP’s previous industry-based analyses of job loss and job growth trends during and after the Great Recession. The report shows that low-wage job creation was not simply a characteristic of the early recovery, but rather a pattern that has persisted for more than four years now.

We find that during the labor market downturn (measured from January 2008 to February 2010), employment losses occurred throughout the economy, but were concentrated in mid-wage and higher-wage industries. By contrast, during the recovery (measured from February 2010 to February 2014), employment gains have been concentrated in lower-wage industries. Specifically:

  • Lower-wage occupations constituted 22 percent of recession losses, but 44 percent of recovery growth.
  • Mid-wage occupations constituted 37 percent of recession losses, but only 26 percent of recovery growth.
  • Higher-wage occupations constituted 41 percent of recession losses, and 30 percent of recovery growth.

Today, there are nearly two million fewer jobs in mid- and higher-wage industries than there were before the recession took hold, while there are 1.85 million more jobs in lower-wage industries.

Service-providing industries such as food services and drinking places, administrative and support services, and retail trade have led private sector job growth during the recovery. These industries, which pay relatively low wages, accounted for 39 percent of the private sector employment increase over the past four years.


Click here for the full report

Click below for key charts from the report

   Click here to view full image

   Click here to view full image

   Click here to view full image


Anthony Mischel, Of Counsel

Tony Mischel joined NELP in 2011 after retiring from representing the California Director of Industrial Relations for 18 years. Before state service, he represented low wage workers at the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles' Employment Law Office/Labor Defense Network. He has spent 30 years exclusively practicing labor and employment law and has argued numerous case in California appellate courts. He now supports NELP's activities especially as they involve California low-wage workers. He is a graduate of New College School of Law (J.D.) and Brandeis University (B.A.) .

Senior Campaign Strategist

Arun Ivatury
202-887-8202 ext 366
DC office

Arun Ivatury leads the campaign to pass a minimum wage increase at the federal level and supports NELP’s broader work to ensure quality jobs for all working people. Arun comes to NELP after nearly 13 years at the Service Employees International Union and its local affiliates, where he worked in a variety of roles to organize and raise wages for some of the country's most vulnerable workers. As Deputy Director and then Organizing Director of SEIU’s Property Services Division, Arun oversaw a campaign that will allow 30,000 contract security officers to form a union and boost their wages. Arun also spent time on Capitol Hill as a legislative aide for a progressive member of the House of Representatives, where he gained insight into how activists and advocates can interact with lawmakers to lay the groundwork for real social change

M.A., New School for Social Research
B.A., Princeton University

Controller and Risk Management Director

Adama N. Kouyaté
(212) 285-3025 ext. 323
New York, New York Office

Adama N. Kouyaté joined NELP in 2013 as the Controller & Director of Risk Management. She is the co-owner of AnKOR Advisors, a boutique consulting company and has worked for several international organizations (International Peace Institute, The Rockefeller Foundation, Touch Foundation, TrustAfrica etc.) based in the US and in Africa. She brings 18 years experience in non-profit management in the areas of Finance, Administration and HR. She is fluent in French, English and five other African languages.

PhD Candidate, International School of management (ISM), Paris, France.
Master of Public Administration, New York University, Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service.
Bachelor of Business Administration, The Bernard M. Baruch College.

Executive Assistant

Georgette Brown,
202-887-8202, x. 364

Georgette Brown is the Executive Assistant to the Executive Director in the DC office. Prior to joining NELP she served as the Executive Assistant to the President and CEO of Voices for America’s Children. She has over twenty years of administrative and nonprofit experience.

Webinar on Framing and Messaging Good Jobs



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Thank you for supporting National Employment Law Project!

Thank you for your generosity and support. A tax receipt for your donation will be sent to you shortly. 

From all of us at National Employment Law Project. 


Raising the Minimum Wage & Tackling Long-Term Unemployment, February 2014

Raising Wages From the Ground Up, December 2013

NELP Convenes Minimum Wage Activists From Around U.S., November 2013

A Grand Slam for California's Workers!, September 20, 2013

Far Too Little for Way Too Long, September 6, 2013

Fair Labor Standards Act at 75 & More, July 2013

Advancing Workers' Rights in California, June 2013

Fighting for Living Wages in the Low-Wage Economy, April 2013

A New Wave of Action to Raise the Minimum Wage, March 2013

NELP on the Airwaves, February 19, 2013

Raise the Minimum Wage, Says President Obama!, February 14, 2013

Jobless Discrimination, Immigration Reform & More, February 6, 2013

100 Days for America's Workers, December 20, 2012

A Promise to Home Care Workers, December 13, 2012

Hurricane Sandy & More, November 2012

Recent Reports From NELP's Second Chance Labor Project, September 27, 2012

Recent Reports From NELP, September 17, 2012

Meet America's Largest Low-Wage Employers, August 2012

What's Wrong With This Picture, July 2012

Wage Theft Resources, January 31, 2012

Raising the Minimum Wage in 2012, January 23, 2012

Monthly Criminal Record Bulletin

City and County Ban the Box Guide

Thank you for supporting NELP!

Thank you for your generosity and support of our Awards Dinner. You will receive a confirmation for your donation and/or registration shortly.
If you have any questions, please contact Rebecca Andruszka at at 212-285-3025 x303.


Tracking the Recovery after the Great Recession

NELP is conducting on-going research to track the current recovery on multiple dimensions, including unemployment, wages, and occupational and
industry growth patterns.

New Report:  The Low-Wage Recovery and Growing Inequality (August 2012)

This report updates NELP’s previous analyses of job loss and job growth trends during and after the Great Recession.

We find that during the recession (2008 Q1 to 2010 Q1), employment losses occurred throughout the economy, but were concentrated in mid-wage
occupations.  By contrast, during the recovery (2010 Q1 to 2012 Q1), employment gains have been concentrated in lower-wage occupations, which
grew 2.7 times as fast as mid-wage and higher-wage occupations. Specifically:

  • Lower-wage occupations constituted 21 percent of recession losses, but 58 percent of recovery growth.
  • Mid-wage occupations constituted 60 percent of recession losses, but only 22 percent of recovery growth.
  • Higher-wage occupations constituted 19 percent of recession job losses, and 20 percent of recovery growth.

Moreover, the unbalanced recession and recovery have meant that the long-term rise in inequality in the U.S. continues.  The good jobs deficit is
now deeper than it was at the start of the century:

  • Since the first quarter of 2001, employment has grown by 8.7 percent in lower-wage occupations and by 6.6 percent in higher-wage occupations. 
  • By contrast, employment in mid-wage occupations has fallen by 7.3 percent.


Click here for the full report

Click below for key charts from the report

   Click here to view full image

   Click here to view full image

   Click here to view full image



Event Registration & Payment

Sponsorship Opportunities
Firebrand: $25,000
Includes admission for 20 at event and pre-event, name and logo on supporter slideshow, premium placement of a full-page greeting in program, special recognition in NELP’s 2012 Annual Report
Trailblizer: $10,000
Includes admission for 10 at event and pre-event, name on supporter slideshow, special placement of full-page greeting in program, special recognition in NELP’s 2012 Annual Report
Pioneer $5,000
Includes admission for 7 at event and 5 at pre-event, name on supporter slideshow and, half-page greeting in program, special recognition in NELP’s 2012 Annual Report
Innovator: $2500
Includes admission for 5 at event and 2 at pre-event, name on supporter slideshow and in program listing
Leader: $1000
Includes admission for 4, name on supporter slideshow and in program listing
Advocate: $500
Includes admission for 2, name on supporter slideshow
Sponsor Ticket: $250
Includes admission for 1, name will be listed on the supporter slideshow

Program Advertising

Full Page: $750 
Full Page Bleed 5.75" w x 8.75" h  
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Half Page: $400
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For Additional Guest Ticket(s) please indicate the number of tickets
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Payment Method
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For any questions about this form or the event, please contact Rebecca Andruszka, Development Director at 212-285-3025 x303 or

NELP 2012 Benefit




New York, NY

Thank you to everyone who supported this event!



Jacqueline Berrien
Chair of the U.S.
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Eric Schneiderman 
New York State Attorney General

Rebuild, Restore, Respect


Check out NELP's special preview of online auction.
Items are available for bidding until October 11.

 Thank you to our in-kind donors and auction sponsors:
Brooklyn Brewery
The Daily Show
Frances Perkins Center
Major League Baseball Players Association
Doris Rowe
Turnstile Tours
Urban Oyster

Event Chair: Luis A. Ubiñas, President, Ford Foundation
Event Co-Chairs:
Richard L. Trumka, President, AFL-CIO
Mary Kay Henry, President, SEIU
Debo P. Adegbile, Acting President and Director-Counsel, NAACP LDF, Inc.
Barbara Ehrenreich, author
Bob Herbert, Distinguished Senior Fellow, Demos
Adam Klein, Partner, Outten & Golden, LLP
Ai-Jen Poo, Director, National Domestic Workers Alliance

Host Committee
Stuart Appelbaum, Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union, UFCW
Jules Bernstein, Bernstein & Lipsett, P.C.
Sharon Dietrich, Community Legal Services.
Cynthia Estlund, New York University
David Goldberg, Donahue & Goldberg, LLP
David Jones, Community Service Society
Glenn Martin, The Fortune Society
David M. Prouty, Major League Baseball Players Association
Richard Winsten, Meyer, Suozzi, English & Klein, P.C.

For more information, please contact Rebecca Andruszka

To make a donation in honor of the event, please click below. 



About the Immigrant Worker Justice Project

NELP’s Immigrant Worker Justice Project works at the intersection of labor law and immigration law.  We seek to expand and defend the labor rights of all workers, and to ensure that immigrant workers can assert their labor rights in a climate of equality and fairness, free from fear of reprisal.  Our partners include workers centers and unions, immigrant rights groups, progressive lawyers and community organizations.  With them, we promote policies that expand the power of community organizing and protect immigrant workers’ labor, civil, and human rights.

See our project website for more information.

Immigrant Worker Justice Project Staff

Rebecca Smith, Immigrant Worker Justice Project Coordinator,, 206-324-4000

Eunice Cho, Skadden Fellow/Staff Attorney,,  510-663-5707

Tsedeye Gebreselassie, Staff Attorney,, 212-285-3025 x 314

Catherine Ruckelshaus, Legal Co-Director,, 212-285-3025 x 306

Haeyoung Yoon, Staff Attorney, Staff Attorney,, 212-285-3025x315

Immigrant Worker Justice Project Staff

Rebecca Smith, Immigrant Worker Justice Project Coordinator,, 206-324-4000

Eunice Cho, Skadden Fellow/Staff Attorney,,  510-663-5707

Tsedeye Gebreselassie, Staff Attorney,, 212-285-3025 x 314

Catherine Ruckelshaus, Legal Co-Director,, 212-285-3025 x 306

Haeyoung Yoon, Staff Attorney, Staff Attorney,, 212-285-3025x315


Unemployment Insurance: Keeping the Promise Today and Tomorrow

NELP's National Conference  ǀ  Washington DC, December 5-6, 2011

NELP’s 2011 national conference brought together local, state, and national leaders to chart an agenda that keeps workers and economic recovery front and center of state and federal unemployment insurance policies. Below, please find presentations and materials from many of the conference sessions; a full agenda can also be found here.


The Federal Landscape of Unemployment Insurance Challenges and Priorities

Federal UI Challenges and Priorities: An Overview (pdf). Judy Conti, National Employment Law Project
This plenary also featured: Danielle Gray, National Economic Council; Nick Gwyn, House Committee on Ways and Means; and Deidra Henry-Spires, Senate Finance Committee

Filling the Good Jobs Deficit: An Economic Recovery Agenda for Our States and Cities

Filling the Good Jobs Deficit: An Overview (pdf). Christine Riordan, National Employment Law Project
Filling the Good Jobs Deficit: Transportation and Manufacturing (pdf). Brian Lombardozzi, BlueGreen Alliance
Creating Good Jobs in Home Health Care (pdf). Carol Regan, Paraprofessional Health Institute


Defending State UI Programs: Responding to Proposals to Cut Benefits ǀ Moderated by Rick McHugh, NELP

Defending Your State UI Program: A Toolkit (pdf). Rebecca Dixon, National Employment Law Project
Defending Georgia's UI Program: Responding to Proposals to Cut Benefits (pdf). Elizabeth Appley, Georgia League of Women Voters
UI 101: Federal Law and Conformity Issues (pdf). Suzanne Schwartz-Simonetta, US Department of Labor, UI Legislative Services

Strategies for Reemployment and Layoff Aversion ǀ Moderated by Christine Riordan, NELP

Averting Layoffs through Work Sharing Programs (pdf). Neil Ridley, Center on Law and Social Policy
Subsidized and Transitional Jobs: Creating Work Opportunities for Long-Term Unemployed (pdf). LaDonna Pavetti, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
Georgia Work$: How Does an Unlawful Program Become a National Model? (pdf). George Wentworth, National Employment Law Project
This workshop also featured: Deborah Chalfie, AARP

The $38 Billion Question: What States and the Federal Government can do to Rescue Insolvent UI Programs ǀ Moderated by Mike Evangelist and Rick McHugh, NELP

UI Trust Fund Solvency: The Employer Perspective (pdf). Doug Holmes, UWC Strategic Services
Trust Fund Loans: Interest Charges and Credit Reductions (pdf). Mike Miller, US Department of Labor, Office of Unemployment Insurance
Unemployment Insurance Financing Issues (pdf). Wayne Vroman, Labor, Human Services and Population Center, the Urban Institute
This workshop also featured: Michael Leachman, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

Strategies to Support Families Confronting the End of UI Benefits ǀ Moderated by Maurice Emsellem, NELP

Strategies to Support Families Confronting the End of UI Benefits (pdf). Rebecca Dixon, National Employment Law Project
Food Stamps/SNAP: A Critical Household Resource Against Hunger (pdf). Pat Baker, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
This workshop also featured: Joseph Carbone, The WorkPlace, Inc., and Sandi Vito, 1199 SEIU Training and Upgrading Fund

Anatomy of Effective State UI Campaigns: Pennsylvania 2011 ǀ Moderated by Mike Evangelist, NELP

Some Tools in the Advocacy Communications Toolbox (pdf). Mitch Hirsch, National Employment Law Project
This workshop also featured: Sharon Dietrich, Community Legal Services Philadelphia

Preserving Strong State UI Programs through Research ǀ Moderated by Rebecca Dixon, NELP

Understanding State UI Tax Data (pdf). Rob Pavosevich, US Department of Labor, Office of Unemployment Insurance
Understanding UI Benefits (pdf). Claire McKenna, National Employment Law Project
The Impact of UI on the Labor Market (pdf). Heidi Shierholz, Economic Policy Institute
Unemployment Conflict (pdf). Arthur Delaney, Huffington Post

Forging a Fair and Balanced State Response to UI Overpayments ǀ Moderated by Claire McKenna, NELP

State Responses to UI Overpayments (pdf). Maurice Emsellem, National Employment Law Project
Unemployment Insurance Integrity Update (pdf). Gay Gilbert, US Department of Labor, Office of Workforce Security
Advocating for Workers in UI Overpayment Proceedings (pdf). Susan Nofi-Bendici, New Haven Legal Assistance
See also the following handouts from NELP: Table 1: UI Program Integrity Rates, and Table 2: State Waiver Provisions

Access and Eligibility: UI Advocacy at the Agency Level ǀ Moderated by George Wentworth, NELP

The Race to the Top: Efforts to Improve UI Access and Eligibility in Massachusetts (pdf). Monica Halas, Greater Boston Legal Services
2011 Changes to Florida Unemployment Compensation Law (pdf). Val Greenfield, Florida Legal Services
Unemployment Compensation Prepaid Cards (pdf). Lauren Saunders, National Consumer Law Center
This workshop also featured: Richard Blum, New York Legal Aid Society

NELP’s Free Webinar Series

Promoting Recovery by Raising the Minimum Wage
Thursday, December 8th, 2-3 PM EST -- Click here to register!
Our nation is facing not just a dire jobs deficit but also a wages deficit.  The anemic job growth that we are seeing is skewed towards low-wage industries, leaving more families than ever relying on $8 or $9-an-hour jobs to make ends meet.  And wages for all but the wealthiest have been stagnant or actually falling in real terms.  As state and local leaders search for recovery strategies, raising the minimum wage is a key approach for tackling these structural problems facing our economy.
In this webinar, you hear about exciting new minimum wage campaigns happening around the nation, and get up to speed on the latest economic research, the most recent public-opinion poll findings, and the most effective messages (especially in the context of economic recovery) that advocates are using in their campaigns to raise the minimum wage.  

Jen Kern, Minimum Wage Campaign Coordinator, NELP; Paul Sonn, Legal Co-Director, NELP; Anne Thompson, Policy Analyst, NELP


Improving Life Outcomes

Human care and development must be improved if we are to build a competitive 21st century economy.  The children we educate today will be the workers of tomorrow, and as our society ages we must also build systems to care for the elderly whose days at work are past. A strong foundation in social care is every bit as critical as a strong physical foundation, and has the potential for impressive job creation: according to some studies, investments in social care can create 1.5 times the number of jobs as the same investment in green energy.

At the same, social care jobs provide employment for those populations that are among the hardest hit by the Great Recession, such as women and African American and Latino workers without a college degree.

Job creation in social care leads to better quality of life for all. Early education and eldercare are top concerns for many families, but often strain family budgets and cause stress or low productivity at work for heads of households. These types of investments are critical to enabling workers to meet work- and family-related demands without compromising one or the other, ultimately resulting in a more productive workforce and competitive economy.

  • Focus on Education and Universal Pre-K: Pre-kindergarten education is overwhelmingly funded by state and local governments, leaving room for advocates to promote policies that lead to concrete job creation. For example, states can adopt a per-pupil funding structure and include pre-K within larger educational programs that govern grammar schools. States such as Iowa have taken creative financing approaches that phase in access to pre-K, while other states, such as West Virginia, require counties to partner with existing programs to develop a comprehensive pre-K plan.

  • Promote Home-Based Health Care: States can promote quality home care jobs through Medicaid by creating public bodies to coordinate consumer-driven programs, under which families of the person needing care recruit and hire home care workers. Other cities and counties, particularly in New York and California, have promoted quality home care jobs by adopting living wage policies for Medicaid home care workers. In fact, New York became the first state to implement such policy as part of a comprehensive initiative to modernize the program, improve jobs, and control costs.

Please see Filling the Good Jobs Deficit: An Economic Recovery Agenda for Our States and Cities, and sign up to receive monthly newsletters, for more information.

Strengthening Energy Security and Environmental Sustainability

Failing to address climate change is not only bad for the environment; it’s also bad for jobs. Multiple lines of research have shown that leaving climate change unaddressed will cause a net loss in in gross domestic product and jobs over the long run. In other words, our dependence on costly fossil fuels has put us on a path of unsustainable economic growth, and now is a better time than ever to get on the right track while putting workers back on the job.

By focusing on short-term job creation investments that promote alternative energy or maintain and expand water and recycling programs, we can lay the groundwork for such a shift. Not only we will accrue long-term public health and environmental benefits, but we’ll also fix some of the most gaping holes left in our labor market by the Great Recession.

Clean tech jobs, for example, are one of the fastest growing sectors in the green economy.  Driving demand for renewable energy such as wind and solar power can spur manufacturing growth, all while creating savings for households through reduced energy bills over the long-term.

  • Create Demand for Alternative Energy: Cities and states can do much to foster growth in renewable energy such as wind and solar power. Two cities in Ohio – Cleveland and Toledo – for example, have taken up measures to promote offshore wind development and solar power, respectively. States such as California have implemented strong renewable energy requirements to drive up demand and create jobs, while numerous cities – and, one state, Vermont – have used CLEAN programs to create and grow markets for utility companies delivering renewable energy.

  • Clean Up Water and Recycling Programs: Local communities face a crisis in dealing with the outputs of densely populated areas; our landfills are filling up and uncontrolled storm water carries chemicals and waste into our drinking water systems. Many communities are pursuing a variety of strategies to deal with these problems while creating jobs. Austin, TX has implemented pricing mechanisms that encourage recycling, and the Don’t Waste LA Coalition in California is advocating for policies that promote recycling by commercial property owners. Meanwhile, Philadelphia has developed an ambitious plan to address storm water runoff, while the state of Connecticut established a nitrogen credit to create an incentive to improve wastewater facilities.

Please see Filling the Good Jobs Deficit: An Economic Recovery Agenda for Our States and Cities, and sign up to receive monthly newsletters, for more information.

Mending Our Built Environment

Seemingly every week, we hear of new reports that tell us the roads, bridges, airports and rail lines we travel on, and the buildings we live and work in, are in a critical state of disrepair. Without question, our crumbling infrastructure needs work, for the sake of our long-term economic growth as well as our basic health and safety.

The good news is that we’re currently facing a truly unique opportunity: we can fix our infrastructure, create a more productive economy, and put people to work in good jobs, all at once. By adopting “fix it first” policies and relying on cost-benefit analyses that put job creation front and center, elected leaders can – and should – allocate existing funds to projects like mass transit, school maintenance and building retrofits.

These types of projects are labor-intensive initiatives that result in good jobs with good pay, many of which stay in the local economy for the long-term and offer concrete career pathways for workers, all while curbing climate change and building a more sustainable and productive economy.

  • Focus on Transit: Our transit systems are in a state of disrepair: an estimated one-third of our nation’s public transit systems are in marginal or poor condition, yet many are deferring maintenance and, even worse, making cuts and laying off workers. States and cities should instead use existing funds in smarter ways, and prioritize projects such as light rail, as the city of Denver has done, or bus rapid transit, as Las Vegas has done.

  • Fix the Schools: Poor air quality, a lack of safe drinking water, exposure to contaminants such as lead and asbestos, and outdated facilities and technology contribute to health and learning problems of future generations. In order to promote better learning and put people back to work, districts should prioritize measures that will make schools more energy efficient and prioritize upgrades that will create much-needed construction jobs.

  • Retrofit Buildings: Building retrofits are a triple-win: they increase energy efficiency, create good jobs for a large swath of the workforce struggling to find work, and require less ramp-up time than other infrastructure projects. Cities such as Portland, Oregon have created high-road models for residential retrofits that are now being taken up state-wide; another 23 cities and counties have authorized Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing to make energy and water improvements to commercial buildings.

Please see Filling the Good Jobs Deficit: An Economic Recovery Agenda for Our States and Cities, and sign up to receive monthly newsletters, for more information.

Job Creation and Economic Recovery

Putting America back to work is a national challenge, requiring a strong national response that includes bold programs to open up new employment opportunities and tax reforms to stop the irresponsible giveaways to big corporations and the wealthiest individuals.  But there are also solutions we can deploy at the state and local levels to address the good-jobs deficit.  In Filling the Good Jobs Deficit: An Economic Recovery Agenda for Our States and Cities, NELP explores how to create family-supporting jobs and promote true economic recovery for our workforce.

NELP’s Recovery Agenda rests on three pillars:  (1) support for programs that put a wide range of workers onto payrolls quickly and that improve the quality of life in our communities; (2) stronger workplace protections for low-wage workers and raising the wage floor to reduce income inequality; and (3) do no harm to those hit hardest by this recession by protecting programs to help workers ride out economic downturns

In these pages, NELP highlights innovative policy solutions from around the country that can move us beyond talking about jobs to actually putting people back to work.

  • Mending Our Built Environment

    Mass transit, school maintenance, and energy-efficient retrofit projects can put our local economies back on track.

  • Strengthening Energy Security and Environmental Sustainability

    Recycling programs, improved storm water systems, and supporting alternative energy generation can create good jobs and improve public health for benefits in the short and long term.

  • Improving Life Outcomes

    Commitments to quality universal pre-kindergarten education and dignified care for the elderly ease the burden for today’s working people, better prepare tomorrow’s workers for success, and could put millions of people to work today in important caregiving professions.

For more information on our work in this area, please contact Anastasia Christman,, or sign up to receive monthly newsletters on economic recovery efforts.

Development Director

Rebecca Andruszka
(212) 285-3025
New York, New York Office

Rebecca Andruszka joined NELP in 2011. As Development Director she leads all fundraising efforts and long-term fundraising strategy. Prior to this, she was US External Relations Director at Ubuntu Education Fund, a South African community organization. She was previously Development & Communications Manager at Funders Concerned About AIDS, a funder affinity group. Rebecca graduated from the United Way of New York City’s Junior Fellows Program in Winter 2007. She is active in a number local social justice organizations, particularly Younger Women’s Task Force, where she is NYC Chapter Director.

B.A., New School
M.A., Hunter College

NELP 2011 Awards Dinner:  An Evening to Honor Work


NELP 2011

Awards Dinner

November 9
Washington, DC

Click here to dowload Invitation


Bob Herbert, award-winning former New York Times columnist
To be named the inaugural NELP-Beth Shulman Fellow

Patricia Smith, Solicitor of the U.S. Department of Labor
To receive the Frances Perkins Legacy Award

Rebuild, Restore, Respect


Join us! 

Wednesday, November 9 @ 6pm

The Renaissance Mayflower Hotel, Washington, DC

RSVP here

For more information, contact

Not going to the Dinner but want to donate, click below 



Deputy Program Director

Anastasia Christman
(202) 887-8202
Washington, D.C. Office

Anastasia Christman, Senior Policy Analyst, joined NELP in 2011, after nine years of working with the Service Employees International Union. She has worked with labor unions and community groups to design responsible development policies and to promote living wage jobs in service industries. She has lobbied at the federal, state and local levels on behalf of working people. She earned a PhD from the University of California, Los Angeles, in 2000.

Transforming Communities


Keynote Address
What Works With Job Creation and Economic Development
Tim Bartik, Senior Economist, Upjohn Institute | pdf

Keynote Address

Building an Economy that Works for All

Harold Meyerson, Editor-at-Large, American Prospect

Alternative Ownership: Business Creation and Employee Ownership

  • Bill McIntyre, Evergreen Cooperatives, Cleveland
  • Deborah Saul, Monroe Publishing, Monroe, MI
  • Jay Simecek, Ohio Employee Ownership Center, Kent | pdf
  • Minsu Longiaru, Michigan ROC/Colors Restaurant, Detroit

Innovative State Workforce Policies

  • Carolyn Peckham, Wisconsin RISE | pdf
  • Mike Goldman, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development/Minnesota AFL-CIO
  • Peter Ruark, Michigan League for Human Services | pdf

Organizing to Win

  • Art Reyes III, Michigan Voice
  • Barney Oursler, Pittsburgh United
  • Rick Carter, FACT, Flint

Tools for Building Thriving Communities

  • Craig Coney, Career Alliance, Genesee County Land Bank Employment Initiative | pdf
  • Glenn Puit, Michigan Land Use Institute
  • Guy Stockard, Michigan State Housing Development Authority, Section 3 Program | pdf

High Road Sector Partnerships

  • Deena Schwartz, Public Private Partnerships | pdf
  • Leroy Nicholson, Alabama State Partnership | pdf
  • Rhandi Berth, Wisconsin Regional Training Partnership | pdf


Building a Community Wage Theft Campaign

  • Becki Smith, National Employment Law Project | pdf
  • Leone Bicchieri, Chicago Workers' Collaborative
  • Sulma Arias, National People's Action | pdf  

  Community Benefit Agreements

  • Barney Oursler, Pittsburgh United
  • James Hunter, Sugar Law Project, Detroit
  • Venus Chapman, D4, Detroit | pdf

Flint Programs Showcase

  • Antoinetta Williams, AARP 50+ Employment Program, Flint
  • Isaiah Oliver, Mott Community College, Youth Services | pdf
  • Jonathan Jarrett, Mott Community College, Adult Career Pathways | pdf
  • Phil Walker, Flint Strive

Wage Theft: Enforcement Strategies

  • Marc Poulos, Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa Foundation for Fair Contracting
  • Marilyn Widman, Allotta, Farley & Widman, Toledo

High Performance Workforce Practices for Manufacturing Communities

  • Erin Kauth, Michigan Human Resources Development, Inc.
  • John Paradore, Lima Automotive Task Force | pdf
  • Kristin Dziczek, Center for Automotive Research | pdf
  • Walt Lodes, Michigan Human Resources Development, Inc.

Reentry Services and Employment Rights of People with Criminal Records

  • Kelly L. Bidelman, Oakland and Macomb County Offices/Legal Aid & Defender Association | pdf
  • Madeline Neighly, National Employment Law Project | pdf
  • Robb Burroughs, Michigan Council on Crime and Delinquency | pdf

Highlighting New Programs of Significance: Earn & Learn and Community Trade Adjustment Assistance

  • Alicia Booker, Career Alliance | pdf
  • Ed Strong, Corporation for a Skilled Workforce | pdf


Policy Analyst

Claire McKenna, Policy Analyst
(212) 285-3025 x322
New York City Office

Areas of expertise
Unemployment Insurance

Claire joined NELP in 2010. She researches and advocates in support of state and federal policies for unemployed workers. Prior to joining NELP, she worked at the Institute for Children, Poverty, and Homelessness where she researched the effects of poverty and other forms of instability on children's development.

M.P.A., Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, New York University
B.A., Fordham University

Web and Campaign Associate

Mitchell Hirsch, Web and Campaign Associate

After being laid off from a long-standing job in the retail industry, Mitchell Hirsch turned full-time to his life-long passions of politics and journalism. He was named 2010 CREDO Mobile/Netroots Nation Blog Activist of the Year for his work on Working America’s Main Street Blog, and joined NELP in 2010.

Communications Director

Norman Eng, Director of Communications
212-285-3025 ext. 317
New York City Office


Norman Eng joined NELP as communications director in the fall of 2010. Previously, he was media relations director at the New York Immigration Coalition, where he served as a media strategist, policy advocate, writer, editor, and spokesperson for that organization. Norman has been quoted in The New York Times, New York Daily News, National Public Radio, NY1, El Diario La Prensa, and numerous other mainstream and ethnic media outlets.


Senior Finance & Administrative Specialist

Manny Mercado
(212) 285-3025 x310
New York City Office

Manny Mercado joined NELP in 2010 as Finance and Administration Assistant.  Prior to joining NELP, he managed Odyssey Capital, a property management and entrepreneurial enterprise; and served as accountant for Chelsea Piers Sports and Entertainment for eleven years.  He is a graduate of Pace University, where he was student government treasurer and president of Alpha Chi Epsilon Fraternity.  With over fifteen years of accounting and business experience, it is his privilege to contribute his efforts and be part of the NELP family. 

B.B.A., Pace University 

Managing Director

Patricia J. Kozu
(212) 285-3025 x307
New York City Office

Pat Kozu joined NELP in 2010. She oversees the finance, development, communications, technology, HR, program operations, and administrative functions. Prior to this, she was Vice President, Finance and Administration at the F.B. Heron Foundation. Previously, she held senior operations, finance and marketing positions at Citibank, American Express, Nabisco, The New School, and several entrepreneurial ventures. She serves on the board of the Nonprofit Coordinating Committee of New York, is on the steering committee of the Asian Women Giving Circle, and is a member of the U.S.-Japan Council. She volunteers as a mentor to Baruch College students.

B.S., University of Washington
M.S., New York University
Associate Professional Certificate, New York University

Pro Bono Attorney

Andriette Roberts, Pro Bono Attorney
212-285-3025, ext 322
New York City Office

Area of Expertise
Unemployment Insurance

Andriette joined NELP in 2009, where she conducts legal research on state and federal unemployment policies and writes about federal legislation for

J.D., Hofstra University School of Law
B.A., Clark Atlanta University

Minimum Wage Campaign Coordinator

Jen Kern, Minimum Wage Campaign Coordinator
(202) 887-8202 x364
Washington, D.C. Office

Areas of expertise

Minimum Wage and Living Wage · Campaign Assistance

Jen recently joined NELP to coordinate work on building a campaign to increase the federal minimum wage.   Jen’s background is in providing technical assistance and support to labor and community organizers for grassroots organizing campaigns around worker justice issues.  For 15 years, Jen worked in the national office of ACORN, including ten years as the director of ACORN’s Living Wage Resource Center, which served as a clearinghouse for the national living wage movement and provided direct organizing support for the campaigns driving the effort.  Immediately before joining NELP, Jen spent a year and a half at American Rights at Work on the campaign to pass the Employee Free Choice Act, working to coordinate workers’ rights organizing strategies with state consultants, labor leaders, and allies on the state and national levels.

B.A., Grinnell College

Senior Staff Attorney

Michelle Natividad Rodriguez
(510) 663-5705
Oakland, California Office

Areas of expertise
Criminal Records and Employment

Michelle joined NELP in 2010.  She currently works on eliminating unfair barriers to employment of people with criminal records.  Before joining NELP, Michelle was a Senior Staff Attorney at Public Advocates, a non-profit legal advocacy organization, where she advocated for low-income communities and people of color primarily in the area of educational equity.

J.D., Columbia Law School
B.A., University of Texas at Austin

Senior Staff Attorney

Rebecca Dixon
(202) 525-0969

Areas of Expertise:
Unemployment Insurance

Rebecca joined NELP in 2010.  She is an experienced policy analyst whose work includes research, analysis, and advocacy in support of state and federal unemployment insurance reform.  Prior to joining NELP, she worked as a policy analyst for the Mississippi Economic Policy Center where her focus was unemployment insurance and family economic security.

J.D., Duke University School of Law
M.A., Duke University
B.A., Duke University

Deputy Program Director

Haeyoung Yoon
(212) 285-3025 x315
New York City Office

Areas of Expertise
Immigrants and Work · Wage and Hour Protections · Enforcement of Workplace Standards

Haeyoung Yoon joined NELP in 2010.  Prior to joining NELP, she was Executive Director of CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities and taught at the Immigrant Rights Clinic at the New York University School of Law.  She has litigated on behalf of immigrants and low-wage workers to enforce labor standards and civil rights.  She has also worked with worker centers and community groups for legislative and policy changes. 

J.D., City University of New York, School of Law
M.A., Harvard University
B.A., Barnard College, Columbia University

Policy Analyst

Christine Riordan
(212) 285-3025 x302
New York City Office

Areas of Expertise
Labor Market Research and Unemployment Insurance

Christine joined NELP in 2008, where she conducts analysis on unemployment and job trends, and researches state and federal unemployment insurance policies. Prior to joining NELP, she worked as a labor researcher at NYU Wagner and as a labor organizer with UNITE HERE.

M.U.P., Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, New York University
B.A., University of California, Los Angeles


Digital Communications Specialist

Andrew Bowe
(212)285-3025 x327
New York, NY Office


Andrew Bowe joined NELP in 2013. As a Digital Communications Specialist he manages the organization’s websites, databases, and communicates with vendors. Prior to this, he worked in the Research Department at SEIU 32BJ. Before joining SEIU 32BJ, he received his Master’s Degree at The New School where he focused his studies on building digital media campaigns.


M.A. The New School
B.A.  University of Colorado - Boulder


NELP 2009 Unemployment Insurance Reform Conference

On December 7-8, 2009, leaders from 40 states came together in Washington DC to build on the successes of the Recovery Act, and to chart an agenda for immediate and long-term policy agenda to benefit jobless workers. See below for informative materials from the conference.

Moving UI Modernization in the States:

Maurice Emsellem, NELP: Modernizing the State Unemployment Insurance Systems: The Basics of the Recovery Act’s Federal Incentive Funding Program
Handout: American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Incentive Funding Allotments, by State
Handout: Report: Federal Stimulus Funding Produces Unprecedented Wave of State Unemployment Insurance Reforms
Handout: Number of Workers to Benefit, and Amount of Benefits to be Paid, in States without UI Modernization Reform Provisions
Handout: Cost of Extended UI While in Training, by State
Handout: Draft Model Unemployment Insurance Modernization (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Incentive Awards) Language
Handout: Implementing the Model Provisions of the Unemployment Insurance Modernization Act in the States

Financing & Trust Fund Solvency:

Taking on the State UI Solvency Challenge:
Andrew Stettner, NELP: Confronting the UI Solvency Crisis
Robert Pavosevich, US Department of Labor: Unemployment Insurance: State Trust Fund Solvency
Wayne Vroman, The Urban Institute: Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund Solvency
Handout: Status of State UI Trust Funds, November 2009

The Basics of Responsible State UI Financing:
Sharon Dietrich, Community Legal Services of Philadelphia: UI Solvency: What’s An Advocate To Do?
Handout: Facts on Pennsylvania’s Unemployment Compensation Financing (Sharon Dietrich, Community Legal Services of Philadelphia)
Handout: Business’s Unemployment Compensation Cut-Backs Would Be a Bad Idea for Pennsylvanians (Sharon Dietrich, Community Legal Services of Philadelphia)

UI Best Practices:

Model State Legislation Responding to the Recession:
Monica Halas, Greater Boston Legal Services: Shared Work Programs and Other Recession Legislation
Karen Lee, Washington State Employment Security Department: Workforce Development Legislation in Washington State
Handout: Model Legislation for State Unemployment Insurance Programs During a Recession

From Rapid Response to Reemployment:
Robert Bower, Massachusetts AFL-CIO: Rapid Response
Louis Jacobson, Hudson Institute: Better Policies for Jobless Workers
Lynn Minnick, NELP:From Rapid Response to Reemployment: Better Policies for Jobless Workers

Challenging Employer Abuses that Cheat Workers and Trust Funds:
Deborah Chalfie, Change to Win: Change to Win: The American Dream for America’s Workers
Thomas Crowley, US Department of Labor: Employee Misclassification & Unemployment Insurance Audits
Joe Walsh, Iowa Workforce Development: Dealing with Uncooperative TPAs
Handout: Backgrounder: Worker Misclassification Cheats Everyone (Deborah Chalfie, Change to Win)

UI Administrative Infrastructure:

Honoring the Promises of Timely Payment of Benefits:
George Wentworth, NELP: Honoring the Promise of Timely Payment of UI Benefits
Handout: Honoring the Promises of Timely Payment of Benefits-Court Documents (Cynthia Rice, California Rural Legal Assistance)

Building a 21st Century Infrastructure:
Jim Garner, Kansas Department of Labor: Meeting the Needs of UI Claimants in “The Great Recession”
Joseph Vitale, National Association of State Workforce Agencies: Building a 21st. Century UI Infrastructure and Service Delivery System

Improving Access to State UI Benefits:
Nancy Dunphy, New York Department of Labor: NYS Practices to Reach Low Wage Workers


I was laid off in 1998. I was the manager of a new recycling yard in Prescott Valley, Az. I have run out of extensions and I am 2 months behind on my rent. My last check was for 170.00 in mid Feb. I was making around 400 a week at my job, and expected more as the business grew, so the 192 a week unemployment checks were less than half of my wage.
Have I been looking for work?..Of course I have!..any job, even McDonalds, would pay far better than unemployment...there are just no jobs here right now.
I have been forced to put my car up for sale which will make it even harder to find work!..
If a new extension doesn't come soon, I will be in a tent with a sick wife. I am 57 years old and my wife is 59 and homelessness at our age would not only be very hard, it would likely kill my wife.
I really don't know what to do at this point...I am recycling aluminum cans and we are living on about 40 dollars a week that this provides, plus food stamps....
We are only paying 350.00 per month for our small rental,
this includes utilities, so we are definitely not living beyond our means!..How do I tell my sick wife that we are losing the little that we have.
 I have worked on ranches, in construction, managed 2 recycling yards, and cooked in restaurants. I never believed that a hard working, willing man would ever be in the situation we are now in.

Senior Staff Attorney

George Wentworth
New York and Connecticut Offices
Areas of expertise
Unemployment Insurance – Enforcement of Workplace Standards
George Wentworth joined NELP in September, 2009 after 35 years of service with the Connecticut Department of Labor (CTDOL). As Director of Program Policy, he served as General Counsel to the Labor Commissioner for 20 years. In that role, George oversaw the development of all legal policy within the agency, supervised the agency’s in-house legal staff, coordinated regulatory activities and interpreted a wide range of workplace statutes. He was the chief drafter of Connecticut’s unemployment insurance (UI) regulations. At NELP, George works with state organizations advocating for strong unemployment insurance programs and has testified before a number of state legislatures. He has also been a part of NELP’s efforts to insure a meaningful federal response to the national crisis of long-term unemployment.

Selected Publications

  • “Unemployment Insurance Financing in Crisis: How Should States Respond to Trust Fund Insolvency” co-authored with Rick McHugh, Andrew Stettner & Mike Evangelist (NELP -May 2010)
  • “It’s Not a Recovery Without Jobs” co-authored with Christine Owens, Politico (September 28, 2010)
  • “Remembering the Unemployment Line” Huffington Post (November 30, 2010)


J.D., University of Connecticut School of Law
B.A., St. Bonaventure University

Conference Logistics


The conference will be held at the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) School of Law. The campus can be easily reached by the Red Line off of the Van Ness-UDC Station.

Click here for directions to UDC 

Click here for Metrorail map

Click here for the conference agenda with detailed campus map


We reserved 50 rooms at the Omni Shoreham Hotel, Washington, DC, at reduced rates. Call the Omni Shoreham Directly (202) 234-0700 to make your reservation. To take advantage of the reduced rates, you must reference the National Employment Law Project (NELP) when making your reservation (note: reduced rates are not assured after October 15).  The Omni Shoreham is a union hotel located on 2500 Calvert Street NW (at Connecticut Ave.), off of the Woodley Park/Zoo/Adams Morgan stop on the Red Line. It is two train stops away from UDC, where the conference will be held. The distance is also walkable (1.5 miles).

Click here for the hotel website 

Click here for map and directions to the hotel  


Conference participants are responsible for making their own travel arrangements. The Omni Shoreham Hotel is 8 miles from Reagan National Airport and 30 miles from Dulles International Airport.

Wage Conference 2009

Reclaiming Our Wages:
A Conference on Organizing, Public Policy and Workers' Rights

November 6-7, 2009, University of the District of Columbia School of Law, Washington D.C.

Across the country, millions of workers are routinely paid less than the minimum wage, denied overtime pay, and retaliated against for speaking up. In the face of weak enforcement, growing numbers of employers ignore even the most basic laws governing wages. Making matters worse, some of these laws exclude the most vulnerable workers from protection, and immigration threats are increasingly being used to discourage workers from reporting violations and to stifle organizing efforts. These trends hurt workers, responsible employers, and the economy as a whole.

On November 6-7, 2009, the National Employment Law Project convened a two-day conference in Washington D.C., where more than 200 advocates from across the country discussed the ground-breaking ways in which they are working to expand wage and hour protections and strengthen enforcement. The conference highlighted recent organizing victories and promising policy models, and provided an opportunity for groups to strategize future work at both the local and federal level. It brought together diverse groups - immigrant worker centers and other community-based organizations, unions, faith-based groups, legal and policy advocates, applied researchers, and state and local government officials - all working to ensure the right to fair pay.

Agenda:  Click here for the final agenda and here for the conference's steering committee.

Participant list:  Click here for the full participant list, and here for presenter biographies.

Conference materials:  Conference presentations and materials will be uploaded to NELP’s Wage and Hour Clearinghouse (; membership is free for non-profits.

For any questions, contact Telesh Lopez, conference coordinator at:, or at 212-285-3025, ext. 311.

This conference was generously supported by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the General Service Foundation, the Public Welfare Foundation, and the Solidago Foundation.




NELP is frequently quoted in the media as an expert resource on a wide range of workplace issues. NELP experts are available to provide insights, analysis and data to the press. In addition, NELP disseminates new research and updates on policy developments. To be added to NELP's press list please email

Press Inquiries

For press inquiries only, please contact Tim Bradley at Berlin Rosen Communications at 646-452-5637 or*

  • Unemployment Insurance or Criminal Records: Maurice Emsellem, or (510) 663-5700.
  • Immigrants and Work: Rebecca Smith, or (360) 534-9160.
  • Wage Standards and Subcontracted Work: Cathy Ruckelshaus, or (212) 285-3025 x 307.
  • Minimum and Living Wages: Paul Sonn, or (212) 285-3025 x 351.
  • Research on Low Wage and Unregulated Work: Annette Bernhardt, or (212) 285-3025 x 350.

* Worker inquiries should be directed to or 212-285-3025.

WebSlips: NELP’s Web Request Page

  1. 1. Uploading a new document to the web (and posting associated "New at NELP")

    1. a. Urgent Documents: Click here if the document needs to be uploaded within 1-6 hours. This form will also allow you to submit a New at NELP announcement for your document.

    2. b. Non-Urgent Documents: Click here for non-urgent documents, which are uploaded twice a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays. This form will also allow you to submit a New at NELP announcement for your document.

  2. 2. Posting an announcement on “New at NELP” (without new document upload) or Media Picks

    1. Click here to post Media Picks (video or images) or an announcement on New at NELP that does not involve a new document – for example, an announcement that links to a document already up on our website, or to another website (e.g. conference agenda). For an announcement that involves uploading a new document, choose one of the options under #1 above.

  3. 3. Adding or modifying text on a NELP web page

    In order to change existing website text or add new text, follow these steps:

    1. a. Copy the existing text from the webpage into a Word document.

    2. b. Make your changes or additions in that document using redlining (the "track changes" function in Word)

    3. c. Click here to send the document to the web team with the subject header “Web Request,” and make sure to give us the link for the webpage that you are modifying.

  4. 4. Reporting errors on our website, such as missing documents, broken links, etc.

    1. Click here to email the web team with the subject header "Web Error."

  5. To Contact NELP's Web Team on any other issue, email all of us at


The site is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal advice

Materials on this website are published by NELP to provide visitors with free information regarding the laws and policies described. However, this website is not designed for the purpose of providing legal advice to individuals. Visitors should not rely upon information on this website as a substitute for personal legal advice. While we make every effort to provide accurate website information, laws can change and inaccuracies happen despite our best efforts. If you have an individual legal problem, you should seek legal advice from an attorney in your own state. If you have a suggestion or corrections, contact us at

Changing Workforce / Changing Economy

intro text coming soon.. 

Chapter 1 - Low-wage Worker Access

Chapter 2 - Access for Women and Working Families

Chapter 3 - Eligibility for Nonstandard Workers

Chapter 4 - Build Income Security

Chapter 5 - Maximize Training Opportunities

Chapter 6 - Financing for Long-term Solvency

Chapter 7 - Accessibility and Fair Administration

Unregulated Work in the Global City

By Annette Bernhardt, Siobhan McGrath and James DeFilippis

Unregulated Work in the Global City was motivated by a simple premise: the many laws on the books to protect the working poor mean little if they are not enforced. Over three years of intensive research, we documented a city where jobs pay less than the minimum wage, and sometimes nothing at all; where employers do not pay overtime for 60-hour weeks, and deny meal breaks that are required by law; where vital health and safety regulations are routinely ignored, even after injuries occur; and where workers are subject to blatant discrimination, and retaliated against for speaking up or trying to organize.

Our research suggests that unregulated work is not confined to isolated, short-lived cases of exploitation at the fringe of the city's economy. Instead, the report finds that the systematic violation of federal, state and local law is threatening to become a way of doing business in major low-wage industries. It identifies the types of laws that employers are violating, the business strategies that result in violations, the workers who are most affected, and the policy changes that are needed to renew the promise of workplace protections. The report focuses on New York City, but we are convinced that the conditions it describes exist throughout the American economy.

Download the full report: click here

Download individual industry profiles:

Great Lakes Economic Revitalization Summit

Under construction

NELP Announces Merger with Brennan Center’s Economic Justice Project

Over the past year, the National Employment Law Project and our allies have begun to sense a new window of opportunity.  Increasing economic anxiety and the growth of a progressive economic policy and organizing infrastructure have created the most significant opening in decades for new action to restore our nation's promise of economic opportunity and to protect working families in an era of globalization.

While we are excited about this historic moment, we also know that taking advantage of it requires capacity that matches opportunity. That is why I am delighted to announce that NELP is merging with the Economic Justice Project of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law School .  Bringing the Brennan Center team into NELP greatly expands our capacity to deepen ties with grassroots and national partners, promote a broader and more comprehensive policy agenda, and strengthen our advocacy for low-wage and unemployed workers in Washington , the states and local communities.

The Brennan Center 's Economic Justice Project is led by two of our movement's leading thinkers, Dr. Annette Bernhardt and Paul Sonn.  Paul is nationally recognized as a preeminent legal strategist for the living wage movement.  By bringing his unparalleled expertise into NELP, the merger will enable us to integrate the Brennan Center 's crucial efforts to raise the wage floor into our broader employment agenda.  Similarly, Annette is one of the nation's leading researchers and policy experts on issues related to low-wage and unregulated work.  She will play an incomparable role in nurturing NELP's further development into a well rounded research and policy organization.  They, along with the additional staff they bring with them into NELP, will enrich our work enormously.

Over the months and years ahead, the expanded NELP will take a comprehensive approach to the core problems of the 21st century labor market.  Our agenda will include:

  • Restoring the wage floor through minimum wage advocacy at the federal, state and local levels;
  • Improving enforcement of workplace protections for the nation's most vulnerable workers, including immigrants and low-wage workers;
  • Promoting the creation of good jobs through accountable development;
  • Strengthening the social insurance systems designed to assist unemployed and displaced workers and boost economic growth; and
  • Reducing arbitrary barriers that curtail job opportunities for millions, including persons with criminal records.  

In pursuing these goals, we will continue to use the strategy that has been a trademark of both organizations:  policy innovation backed up by legal analysis and economic research, done in close partnership with community-based, state and national allies and government reformers.

With the added scale that the merger brings to NELP, we are positioned to become an even stronger voice for working families in every forum - from the media to the legislative arena to grassroots organizing campaigns. NELP's staff and board of directors are tremendously excited about what we will be able to accomplish with our new colleagues in the years ahead.   I look forward to talking with you, our partners, in the coming months, as we develop plans for helping our nation seize this opportunity for change.


Christine L. Owens
Executive Director 

NELP Newsletters

NELP in the Media

“Full Time, Part Time, Good Jobs, Bad,” New York Times, August 26, 2013

Critics: Wal-Mart wage hikes aren’t enough for workers,” Boston Herald, February 20, 2015

Walmart's Wage Increase To $9 Is Nice, But Not Enough,” Gothamist, February 20, 2015

Wal-Mart gives 500,000 employees a pay raise ,” NPR, February 19, 2015

With pay raise, Wal-Mart misses minimum wage movement's $15 mark ,” Fortune, February 19, 2015

Walmart pay hike has limited reach,” Politico, February 19, 2015

Wal-Mart's wage hike still too little too late,” LA Times, February 19, 2015

How Walmart’s Pay Hike Puts Pressure on McDonald’s,” Time, February 19, 2015

Walmart to raise wages for 500,000 US workers,” BBC, February 19, 2015

Walmart Is Finally Raising Its Minimum Wage,” Mother Jones, February 19, 2015

UPDATE 4-Wal-Mart, under pressure, boosts minimum U.S. wage to $9 an hour,” Reuters, February 19, 2015

Wal-Mart Stores Inc Raises Workers Wages: Is The Pay Hike Really A Big Deal?,” International Business Times, February 19, 2015

City council won’t make contractors stop screening for criminal past,” Tampa Tribune, February 19, 2015

The Obama Years,” New York Times, February 19, 2015

A Better Way to Help the Long-Term Unemployed,” National Journal, February 18, 2015

Why the New Law Combating Wage Theft in Chicago is a Big Deal,” In These Times, February 17, 2015

Will Uber and Lyft make your job obsolete?,” CNN, February 10, 2015

Unemployment Has Changed. Unemployment Benefits Haven’t.,” Five Thirty Eight, February 4, 2015

The Paths to Full Employment, Path 1: Fair-hiring practices for those with criminal records,” Washington Post, January 27, 2015

Middle Class Shrinks Further as More Fall Out Instead of Climbing Up,” New York Times, January 25, 2015

California's troubled jobless agency works out glitches,” LA Times, January 23, 2015

McDonald's sued over claims workers were fired from store with 'too many black people',” The Guardian, January 22, 2015

To Drive Economy Toward Equality, Obama Requests More Spending,” NPR, January 21, 2015

Opinion: Give the unemployed a second chance ,” CNN, January 19, 2015

Overworked and underpaid: New York workers fight for a real minimum wage,” Al Jazeera, January 16, 2015

Minimum wage increases to take hold in 20 states,” Al Jazeera, December 31, 2014

Minimum wage to rise in 21 states this week,” USA Today, December 30, 2014

Protesters nationwide call for $15 minimum wage,” USA Today, December 5, 2014

Fast-food nation: Workers stage nationwide protests,” CBS, December 5, 2014

EEOC Champion of Vulnerable Workers Deserves Reconfirmation,” Huffington Post, December 1, 2014

Why Immigration Reform Helps American Workers, Too,” New York Magazine, November 26, 2014

Obama's executive action is about labor policy, not just immigration,” Al Jazeera, November 20, 2014

Restaurants are feeling the heat in crackdown on wage theft,” LA Times, November 18, 2014

These 10 Companies Pay Americans The Least,” Huffington Post, November 7, 2014,

Job Growth, but No Raises,” New York Times, November 7, 2014

Companies Paying Americans the Least,” Wall Street 24/7, November 7, 2014    

Minimum Wage Hikes: Where Voters Gave Themselves a Raise,” NBC, November 5, 2014

At the polls, workers win some and lose much more,” Al Jazeera, November 5, 2014,

Arlington bars initial queries about criminal records in applications for county jobs,” Washington Post, November 4, 2014

Finding A Job With A Felony Conviction Is Hard. California May Make It Easier.,” FiveThirthyEight, November 3, 2014 

Next Time Someone Says Fast Food Isn't A Real Job, Remember This,” Huffington Post, October 27, 2014

Timely Compliance With Home-Care Rule Needs Year-End Effort,” Bloomberg, October 24, 2014 

FedEx Ground Says Its Drivers Aren't Employees. The Courts Will Decide,” Bloomberg, October 16, 2014 

U.S. to delay enforcing rule for home-care workers,” AP, October 7, 2014 

LA officials give initial OK to $15.37 minimum wage for hotel workers,” MSN, September 24, 2014

Wage board appointed by Gov. Cuomo will consider raising pay for tipped workers,” NY Daily News, September 12, 2014

Walmart orders underpaid staff to cough up for new uniforms. Is it legal?,” The Guardian, September 12, 2014

Home care workers join the ‘Fight for $15’,” MSNBC, September 4, 2014

State wrongly denied hundreds of thousands of jobless claims, audit confirms,” LA Times, August 28, 2014

Why American workers feel increasingly poor,” CBS, August 18, 2014

Better-paying jobs stage a comeback,” Washington Post, August 18, 2014

4 Reasons Why New Jobs Are Paying Less,” Huffington Post, August 14, 2014

Fast food workers score a big win against McDonald’s,” Washington Post, July 29, 2014

Supreme Court delivers blow to public unions ,” Fortune, June 30, 2014

Job applications put ex-offenders in tight box,” Al Jazeera, June 24, 2014

5 Supreme Court decisions to watch for,” CBS, June 19, 2014

3 million Americans now without unemployment benefits due to congressional gridlock,” Washington Post, June 9, 2014

'Ban the Box': More States and Cities Help Ex-Cons Finally Land Jobs,” NBC, June 8, 2014   

US job market appears weaker despite recovery of positions lost to the Great Recession,” US News, June 8, 2014

Workers' Wages Sink as 'Domestic Outsourcing' Grows,” NBC, June 5, 2014

State-level minimum wage increases leave domestic workers behind,” Al Jazeera, June 4, 2014

Seattle Adopts $15-an-Hour Minimum Wage,” Newsweek, June 3, 2014

Women In Sales Must Work 103 Extra Days A Year To Make As Much As Men,” Huffington Post, June 2, 2014

Are tipped workers getting left behind?,” CBS, May 29, 2014

Minimum Wage Increases Advance From California to Seattle,” Bloomberg, May 29, 2014

Wage Theft Is Grim Business,” Huffington Post, May 19, 2014

Working At McDonald's Is Starkly Different In These 3 Countries,” Huffington Post, May 15, 2014   

Opinion: Why fast food workers need be be paid more,” CNN, May 15, 2014

The National Restaurant Association Spends Big to Keep Wages Low,” Huffington Post, May 13, 2013

U.S. Companies Often Assume Black Job Applicants Do Drugs,” Huffington Post, May 7, 2014

Rising use of 'perma-temp' workers is stirring up a legislative fight,” LA Times, May 7, 2014 

Why The Minimum Wage Will Go Up,” Forbes, May 6, 2014

Faith Leaders Leading the Fight Against Income Inequality in New York,” Huffington Post, May 6, 2014

The rise of dumb pay at America's largest corporations,” CNN Money, May 2, 2014  

Most jobs created in this recovery are low-wage, study finds,” Market Watch, May 2, 2014

Lower-wage industries make up half of annual job gains,” Market Watch, May 2, 2014

Seattle Minimum Wage Would Reach $15 in Mayor’s Proposal,” Bloomberg, May 1, 2014     

17 Facts to Show to Anyone That Still Believes the US Economy Is ...,” Fox, April 30, 2014

Low-wage jobs drive the recovery, says new report,” MSNBC, April 28, 2014

The Housing Market's Drag on Good Jobs,” Business Week, April 28, 2014

How The Government Killed The Middle Class, In 1 Chart,” Huffington Post, April 28, 2014

The low wage jobs explosion,” CNN Money, April 28, 2014

U.S. job growth is coming in all the wrong places,” Washington Post, April 28, 2014

Another bad sign for America's middle class,” CBS, April 28, 2014

White House Ignores Calls To Pay Interns,” Huffington Post, April 28, 2014

NELP’s 2008 Great Lakes Economic Revitalization Summit

Economic Revitalization. Manufacturing Renewal. Shared Prosperity. These are the common challenges facing progressive leaders in the manufacturing heartland stretching from Western New York to Eastern Iowa. This webpage gathers resources addressing these challenges developed by our partners and guests concerned with building an economy that works for low-income and middle class families in this region and across the U.S.

As part of this effort, we invited labor representatives, public officials, workforce and economic development practitioners, and policy experts to join us for an economic revitalization summit to share best practices and explore shared regional solutions on April 17, 2008 in Cleveland, Ohio.

Participating staff from policy organizations included National Employment Law Project, Policy Matters Ohio, Keystone Research Center, Fiscal Policy Institute, Steel Valley Authority, Progressive States Network, Center for Economic and Policy Research, Economic Policy Institute, Brookings Institution, Apollo Alliance, and Center on Wisconsin Strategies. Labor representatives from Illinois, Michigan, and Ohio attended, as did workforce and economic development public officials from Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and New York.

This webpage includes summit presentations, related presentations provided to us by other experts, and valuable links to resources that address the key questions facing economic policymakers today: How do we keep and develop good jobs that will support middle class families?

Click here for our Summit Agenda.

Rapid Response, Peer Networks, Early Warning Programs and Layoff Aversion

Many states in the region are working to implement better practices in the core workforce development programs, including more effective rapid response, using peer networks and labor management committees. Many states in this region and elsewhere are interested in expanding beyond these core dislocated worker programs by establishing early warning networks and layoff aversion programs based upon the model developed by Pennsylvania's Steel Valley Authority. Presentations from the conference included Federal Requirements and Best Practices in Rapid Response and SVA Early Warning Networks and Layoff Aversion.

Manufacturing Revitalization and Retention

The conference included presentations by Stephen Herzenberg, Keystone Research Center, Bob Baugh, Director of AFL-CIO Industrial Union Council, Dan Swinney, Center for Labor and Community Research, and economist Sue Helper, of Case Western, author of a recent Economic Policy Institute paper on manufacturing policy.

Regional Cooperation on Federal Issues and Economic Development

A goal of many summit participants and policy partners is to increase communication and cooperation among manufacturing states in the Great Lakes region. Topics for potential cooperation include: (1) working with other states in our region to develop and promote a federal manfacturing and regional economic development agenda, (2) developing better information and data on regional supply chains, labor markets, and firms to assist states and the region in grappling with these issues, and (3) increasing the use of best practices in workforce and economic development with better information sharing and cooperation among states in the region. To explore these and other emerging regional issues, several conference participants have agreed to continue working together on these topics.

For more information regarding our follow up efforts, contact Andy Stettner, Deputy Director, National Employment Law Project at

See also our work in the area of economic and workforce development, including additional publications and links of interest to those concerned with economic revitalization.

Close the Gaps in the Unemployment Insurance system

Extended Jobless Benefits

Normal state unemployment benefits are capped at 26 weeks of assistance. During tough economic times, the federal government steps in to provide extended benefits to long-term unemployed workers who need additional assistance to find jobs. Federal jobless benefits are vital to helping jobless workers and their families avoid the severe economic distress that comes with long-term unemployment.

When the economy slips into recessions, federal extended benefits circulate hard cash into local economies where local businesses lose customers due to job loss. In fact, economists have found that extended unemployment benefits provide one of deliver one of the strongest dollar-for-dollar stimulus of any government responses to recessions.

During the “Great Recession” of 2009, the spotlight has been on federal extended benefits. Please look to the right column for NELP’s latest information on extended jobless benefits.

NELP’s web portal provides extensive information for workers and the latest NELP advocacy initiatives to improve the extended benefits program in the states and in Congress.

For updates on NELP’s Fall 2009 Campaign to Extend Jobless Benefits Visit:

For more information on our work in this area, please contact Maurice Emsellem,

Last Year for States to Modernize Unemployment Insurance with Recovery Act Incentive Funds

In February 2009, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) made $7 billion available to states to modernize their unemployment insurance programs. Since that time, both red and blue states have claimed nearly two-thirds of the total incentive funding, thus filling the gaps in the unemployment safety net while also helping to jump start their economies. However, time is running out fast to take advantage of the federal program. States only have until August 2011 to change their laws to qualify for the Recovery Act funds.

As a result of the reforms thus far adopted by the states, over 200,000 additional jobless Americans will have gained eligibility for benefits through the ARRA unemployment modernization program. These federal modernization funds have been making their way to the states just when they need the help most—to pay benefits, boost state unemployment trust funds and help more jobless families weather an extremely difficult jobs market.

Although a total of 39 states can now claim $4.3 billion in incentive funding, $2.7 billion remains unclaimed by the states with less than a year to go before the program expires. Eighteen states, including six that have already claimed one-third of their allotment of incentive funds, have so far left funds on the table. These funds provide states with a critical opportunity to bring their 1930’s era unemployment insurance programs in line with needs of today’s changing workforce

The map below documents the status of modernization funding: 33 states have moved to get full funding; 6 have draw down partial fundng and 12 that have not qualified for any of their allotment.

UI Modernization Map

State Legislative Updates

NEW September 3, 2010 NELP report documents unprecedented bi-partisan wave of unemployment insurance reforms in 2009 and 2010

Learn More about the Unemployment Insurance Modernization
Read NELP's fact sheet on Unemployment Insurance Modernization (updated December 2010)
What is my state's Unemployment Insurance Modernization Amount?
Resources for your state Unemployment Modernization campaign
Introduce legislation in your state implementing the UI Modernization (Updated February 18, 2010)
NELP Model Language for Unemployment Insurance Modernization Provisions
Find U.S. Department of Labor Answers to the most commonly asked questions about implementing the Alternative base period
Find U.S. Department of Labor Answers to the most commonly asked questions about implementing the other modernization provisions

UI Modernization Webinar:  NELP PowerPoint

UI Modernization Webinar:  DOL PowerPoint

Building a Modern Unemployment Program for North Dakota’s New Workforce

US Department of Labor Guidance on UI Modernization and other ARRA Provisions
UI Program Letter 32-09 " U.S. Department of Labor explains how states can still use modernization grants for administrative purposes.
UI Program Letter 27-09 (January 29, 2010) The U.S. Department of Labor encourages states to apply for UI incentive funds.
UI Program Letter 14-09 (November 30, 2009) US Department of Labor provides background advisory on Unemployment Modernization and other UI-related Recovery Act programs

Broad Spectrum of Groups Support the UIMA
Read about the broad support for UI modernization
Women's advocates strongly support modernization
Governors show Bipartisan support of Unemployment Insurance Modernization

UIMA in the News
About-Face: More States Accept Stimulus Funds,” NPR, August 17, 2010
"Anti-Stimulus Crusader Mark Sanford Quietly Accepts Funds He Pledged To Reject,” Think Progress, August 11, 2010
RI to get more than $15.6M for unemployment aid,” Associated Press, August 9, 2010
“State labor secretary lobbying for changes to modernize unemployment program,” Scranton Times Tribune, May 14, 2010
“Md. gets $127 million for unemployment fund,” Baltimore Sun, May 7, 2010
“Neb. goes after jobless aid,” Omaha World-Journal, April 9, 2010
“Democrats Aim to Boost Benefits,” Journal Gazette, February 18, 2010
“Unemployment Insurance: Updating Virginia’s System” Richmond Times Dispatch, February 17, 2010
“Va. Senate Favors Accepting Stimulus Jobless Funds,” Richmond Times Dispatch, February 10, 2010
“Stimulus Funds for Jobless?,” Omaha World Herald, February 8, 2010
“Unemployment Benefits Extended to Those Whose Spouse Relocates,” Denver Post, January 31, 2010
“Fed Money Available for Ala. Unemployed,” Birmingham Business Journal, January 29, 2010
"Schwarzenegger Agrees to Federal Conditions to Bolster Unemployment Fund," LA Times, February 25, 2009
"Stimulus Bill Would Bestow New Aid to Many Workers" New York Times, Feb. 14, 2009
"Stimulus would bring welcome relief to California," Los Angeles Times, January 28, 2009
"Not your grandfather's workforce, but it's still his unemployment insurancesystem,"Salem (OR) News, January 24, 2009
"States urged to help more jobless workers,", January 21, 2009

Editorial pages support UI modernization
“Unemployment Insurance Deal is Good for Business,”
Baltimore Sun, March 1, 2010 (editorial)
"Right Approach to State Aid," The New York Times, March 1, 2009 (editorial)
"What Part of ‘Stimulus' Don't They Get?"
New York Times, Feb. 24, 2009 (editorial)
"The Governors and Handouts" The Baltimore Sun, February 24, 2009(editorial)
"Take the Stimulus Money," Charleston Post and Courier, February 24, 2009 (editorial)

Support NELP

Why NELP?  DonateNow

The National Employment Law Project (NELP) is dedicated to improving conditions for workers across America and to protecting working families from the vagaries of the global economy. Since NELP's government funding was eliminated in 1994, we have depended on the generosity of foundations, individual and institutional donors. Your donations will enable NELP to:

·       restore the minimum wage to its historic level -- and make sure every worker is paid what they are due;

·       ensure that millions of jobless workers access the income support and retraining they need to get back on their feet;

·       push for model policies that raise the quality of jobs throughout our economy; and

·       eliminate barriers to employment opportunities faced by individuals with criminal records, immigrants and others locked out by discriminatory laws and practices.

Read more about NELP's recent work in our 2013 Annual Report.

How to donate

The National Employment Law Project is a 501(c)(3) organization, and contributions to NELP are deductible to the full extent of the law. Please donate generously to NELP by clicking here or by sending a check to:

National Employment Law Project
75 Maiden Lane,
Suite 601 
New York, NY 10038

Make a cy-pres award to NELP:
In recent months, several law firms have designated unclaimed workers'rights judgments to NELP to keep fighting the underlying issues at stake intheir cases. To learn more about making a cy pres award to NELP and its National Wage and Hour Clearinghouse, please click here.

Don't just take our word for it:
"Millions of low wage workers suffer from substandard wages, unstable employment or mistreatment at their jobs. By securing core employmentprotections, NELPis at the forefront of efforts to help low income families succeed in the workplace." Peter Edelman, Georgetown University LawCenter

"With the help of NELP we were able to negotiate an unemployment bill that protected eligibility and increased benefits significantly at a time when ourfund was insolvent." Herb Johnson, Missouri AFL-CIO State Labor Federation

"Immigrants perform indispensable work for the economic and culturalwealth throughout the nation, but face blatant abuse every day. NELP provides the legal expertise that immigrant organizing groups need to effectively defend the labor and human rights of our communities. In this relationship, NELP has aprofound sense of respect for the decisions that workers and their organizersmake." Pablo Alvarado, National Day Laborer Organizing Network.




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NELP advances workers' rights by partnering with people like you – individual workers, policymakers, unions, community groups, worker centers, legal advocates, state public policy advocates, government agencies and immigrant rights organizations – who have a shared concern for the rights of worrkers. So, get involved!

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Join Our Listservs

We also host a variety of e-mail discussion groups aimed at lawyers, researchers, and other advocates working in our fields:

  • Immigrant Employment Rights Discussion Group: Protecting the employment and labor rights of immigrant workers in low-wage industries.
    Subscribe to Listserv:
    Contact NELP:,

  • UI Advocates Discussion Group: Promoting unemployment insurance (UI) reform benefiting low-wage workers, women, and part-time workers, including discussions of state-based advocacy strategies, tactics, and resource needs.
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  • Criminal Records Discussion Group: Reducing barriers to employment of people with conviction histories, with a focus on federal, state, and local policy reforms and strategies to enforce civil rights and consumer protection laws that apply to criminal background checks.
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  • WIA Advocates: Discussing the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), job training, rapid response, and dislocated worker programs, including Trade Adjustment Assistance.
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  • Employment Rights Discussion Group: Fostering communication among legal services advocates for low-wage workers.
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  • National Wage & Hour Clearinghouse
    For more information, please visit:
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  • Jobs

    Staff Attorney


    Grants and Funding Appeals Writer
    Washington, DC or New York, NY

    Wage Justice Campaign Strategist / Senior Campaign Strategist
    Washington, DC

    TAA Coordinator

    Lindsay Webb, TAA Coordinator
    (734) 369-5615
    Ann Arbor, Michigan Office

    Areas of expertise
    Dislocated Worker Programs (Trade Adjustment Assistance)

    Lindsay Webb joined NELP in 2006, where she advocates for dislocated workers in the manufacturing sector in the Midwest.  Her experience with the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program began at the United Auto Workers Legal Department, where she worked as a law clerk filing TAA petitions for certification and helping to organize post-certification worker rights and responsibilities meetings.  Lindsay also serves as an elected member of the Toledo City Council.
    J.D., University of Toledo College of Law
    B.A., University of Toledo

    Dislocated Worker Facilitator

    Lorene Randall, Dislocated Worker Facilitator  
    (810) 265-5596
    Ann Arbor, Michigan Office

    Areas of Expertise

    Economic and Workforce Development


    Lorene joined NELP in 2008 after working with AFL-CIO Michigan Human Resources Development Inc. as a Peer Counselor assisting with TAA/TRA. As a Training Specialist she worked with various unions assisting with leadership development and diversity training.  She is involved with Flint Area Churches Together and other grassroots organizations. Her goal is to ensure that workers are equipped with knowledge and training for the future.
    Graduate:   Wayne State School of Labor and Michigan State University School of Labor and Industrial Relations

    Policy Analyst

    Diana Polson, Policy Analyst
    212-285-3025 ext 353
    New York City

    Areas of expertise
    Labor Market Research


    Diana Polson joined NELP in 2008 with the rest of the Economic Justice team from the Brennan Center for Justice. She is a Ph.D. Candidate in Political Science at CUNY Graduate Center with a particular focus on low-wage work, poverty and new forms of community-labor organizing. Previously, Diana has been an organizer around economic justice issues and has provided research assistance for both a study on comparative working time policy and the use of human rights in New York City. At NELP, she is the Survey Project Coordinator for a study on the growth of workplace violations in low-wage industries in New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles.


    M.A., CUNY Graduate Center
    B.A., University of Virginia

    Workforce Development Specialist

    Lynn Minick, Workforce Development Specialist
    (317) 838-9220
    Indianapolis, Indiana Office

    Areas of expertise

    Economic and Workforce Development · Rapid Response and Economic Dislocation Services

    Lynn Minick joined NELP in 2006, after working for nearly 20 years promoting workforce development and training initiatives with the AFL-CIO Working for America Institute and the Indiana AFL-CIO Labor Institute for Training.  Since joining NELP, he has participated in NELP's Economic Adjustment Initiative, focusing on dislocated workers in Midwest states suffering from layoffs in the auto industry.  Lynn collaborates with these states to promote innovative models of rapid response, including layoff aversion, and to increase access to training and other services provided by the Trade Adjustment Assistance program and the Workforce Investment Act.  He was a member of the International Association of Machinists for over 33 years and is currently a member of the NELP Staff Association, NOLSW, UAW, LOCAL 2320.


    Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis (toward B.A.)

    Selected Publications

    ·    What to Do When the Layoff Notice Arrives (AFL-CIO Working for America Institute: 2002)

    ·    Helping Government Help Dislocated Workers (AFL-CIO Working for America Institute: 2002)

    ·    What Every Union Leader in the Building Trades Needs to Know About the Workforce Investment Act (Connections, AFL-CIO Working for America Institute: 2002)

    ·    Basics:  Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (AFL-CIO Working for America Institute: 2001)

    Senior Staff Attorney

    Sarah Leberstein
    (212) 285-3025 ext. 313
    New York City Office

    Areas of expertise
    Care Giving Workforce • Enforcement of Workplace Standards • Nonstandard Workforce • Wage and Hour Protections

    Sarah joined NELP in 2008 on a two-year Equal Justice Works fellowship. Sarah works with community based organizations, worker centers and unions to enforce and expand labor rights for home health care, domestic, and child care workers. She also advocates for policy reforms promoting the workplace rights of non-standard workers and enforcement of wage and hour and workplace laws. Prior to law school she worked as an organizer for the Service Employees International Union.

    J.D., Fordham Law School
    B.A., Wesleyan University

    Senior Staff Attorney

    Tsedeye Gebreselassie
    (212) 285-3025 ext. 314
    New York City Office

    Areas of expertise
    Living Wage and Minimum Wage • Immigrants and Work • Wage and Hour Protections

    Tsedeye joined NELP in 2008. She works on researching, developing and promoting policies that raise job standards and expand workplace protections for low-wage and immigrant workers. She graduated magna cum laude from New York University School of Law, where she was a Root-Tilden-Kern public interest scholar and an articles editor on Review of Law and Social Change. Prior to joining NELP, she clerked for Judge Ellen Bree Burns of the U.S. District Court of Connecticut. Prior to law school, she worked as a labor and community organizer for New York’s Working Families Party.

    J.D., New York University School of Law
    B.A., Brown University

    Selected Publications 
    The Road to Responsible Contracting, 31 Berkeley Journal of Employment & Labor Law 459 (2010)


    Staff List

    Bukola Ashaolu, Information Technology Systems Manager

    Andrew Bowe, Digital Communications Specialist

    Georgette Brown, Executive Assistant

    Anastasia Christman, Deputy Program Director

    Caitlin Connolly, Campaign Coordinator
    Areas of expertise: Home Care Fair Pay

    Judy Conti, Federal Advocacy Coordinator
    Areas of expertise: Unemployment Insurance • Criminal Records and Employment • Enforcement of Workplace Standards • Civil Rights

    Rebecca Dixon, Senior Staff Attorney
    Areas of expertise: Unemployment Insurance

    Maurice Emsellem, Program Director
    Areas of expertise: Criminal Records and Employment • Unemployment Insurance

    Norman Eng, Communications Director

    Tsedeye Gebreselassie, Senior Staff Attorney
    Areas of expertise: Living Wage and Minimum Wage • Immigrants and Work

    Mitchell Hirsch, Web & Campaign Associate
    Areas of expertise: Unemployment Insurance

    Arun Ivatury, Senior Campaign Strategist

    Adama Kouyate, Controller & Risk Management Director

    Sarah Leberstein, Senior Staff Attorney
    Areas of expertise: Care Giving Workforce • Enforcement of Workplace Standards • Nonstandard Workforce • Wage and Hour Protections

    Yannet M. Lathrop, Researcher & Policy Analyst
    Areas of expertise: 
    Minimum Wage 

    Heather McGrew, Interim Director of Finance & Administration

    Rick McHugh, Senior Staff Attorney
    Areas of expertise: Dislocated Worker Programs (Trade Adjustment Assistance) • Unemployment Insurance • Minimum Wage and Living Wage

    Claire McKenna, Policy Analyst
    Areas of expertise: Unemployment Insurance

    Manny Mercado, Senior Finance & Administrative Specialist

    Lynn Minick, Workforce Development Specialist
    Areas of expertise: Economic and Workforce Development • Rapid Response and Economic Dislocation Services

    Anthony Mischel, Of Counsel

    Michelle Natividad Rodriguez, Senior Staff Attorney
    Areas of expertise: Criminal Records and Employment

    Christine L. Owens, Executive Director
    Areas of expertise
    : Living Wage and Minimum Wage • Labor Market Research • Workplace Equity

    Catherine Ruckelshaus, General Counsel & Program Director
    Areas of expertise
    : Immigrants and Work • Enforcement of Workplace Standards • Nonstandard Workforce • Wage and Hour Protections

    Steffan Samlal, Computer Technician

    Rebecca Smith, Deputy Director
    Areas of expertise
    : International Human and Labor Rights • Immigrants and Work • Enforcement of Workplace Standards • Unemployment Insurance

    Paul Sonn, General Counsel & Program Director
    Areas of expertise
    : Minimum Wage and Living Wage • Economic and Workforce Development

    Irene Tung, Senior Policy Researcher
    Areas of expertise
    : Labor Market Research

    George Wentworth, Senior Staff Attorney
    Areas of expertise: Unemployment Insurance • Enforcement of Workplace Standards

    Haeyoung Yoon, Deputy Program Director
    Areas of expertise: Immigrants and Work • Wage and Hour Protections • Enforcement of Workplace Standards

    Federal Advocacy Coordinator

    Judith M. Conti, Federal Advocacy Coordinator
    (202) 887-8202, ext. 354
    Washington, D.C. office

    Areas of Expertise

    Unemployment Insurance · Criminal Records and Employment · Enforcement of Workplace Standards · Civil Rights

    Judy joined NELP in 2007 after spending seven years as the Co-Founder and Executive Director of the D.C. Employment Justice Center, a legal service provider devoted to workplace justice in the D.C. metropolitan area.  Judy has developed NELP’s presence in D.C., working to bring the expertise and experience of NELP and its allies to the halls of Congress and relevant agencies.  She has lobbied on issues of income security, job training for workers who have lost jobs due to globalization, and the needs of workers who have criminal records serving as a barrier to full employment.  Before joining NELP, Judy’s work has been widely recognized with awards from the American Bar Association, the Washington Area Women’s Foundation, the Hispanic Bar Association of D.C., and the Echoing Green Foundation.

    J.D., College of William and Mary
    B.A., Williams College

    Deputy Director

    Rebecca Smith, Deputy Director
    (206) 324-4000
    Seattle, Washington Office

    Areas of expertise

    International Human and Labor Rights • Immigrants and Work • Enforcement of Workplace Standards • Unemployment Insurance

    Rebecca Smith joined NELP in 2000, after nearly 20 years advocating for migrant farm workers in Washington State. At NELP, she has worked to defend and expand the labor rights of low-wage workers and subcontracted workers under wage and hour laws and unemployment insurance laws. She has also worked to apply international human rights laws to help protect immigrant workers in the United States, and with immigrant worker organizing groups to enforce U.S. labor laws. She has testified before Congress and several state legislatures and published on these issues. In 2003, she received the United Farm Workers of America’s Aztec Eagle Award, in addition to the Golden Door Award from Northwest Immigrants' Rights Project in 1999 and special recognition by the Foreign Minister of Mexico for her work on behalf of undocumented workers before the Interamerican Court of Human Rights.  

    J.D., University of Washington Law School
    B.A., Washington State University
    B.A., University of Washington

    Selected Publications

    ·    “Human Rights at Home:  Human Rights as an Organizing and Legal Tool in Low Wage Worker Communities,” Stanford Journal of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (2007)

    ·     “Solutions, Not Scapegoats:  Abating Sweatshop Conditions for All Low-Wage Workers as a Centerpiece of Immigration Reform,” New York University Journal of Legislation & Public Policy (2007)

    ·    “Low Pay, High Risk:  State Models for Advancing Immigrant Workers’ Rights,” New York University Review of Law & Social Change (2004)

    ·    “Interamerican Court of Human Rights Amicus Curiae Brief:  The United States Violates International Law When Labor Law Remedies are Restricted Based on Workers’ Migrant Status,”  Seattle Journal for Social Justice (Spring/Summer 2003)

    Senior Staff Attorney

    Rick McHugh
    (734) 369-5616
    Ann Arbor, Michigan Office

    Areas of expertise

    Dislocated Worker Programs (Trade Adjustment Assistance) · Unemployment Insurance · Wage and Hour Protections · Living and Minimum Wages


    Rick McHugh joined NELP in 2000.  Before joining NELP, he represented low-income workers seeking to access their government benefits as a legal services attorney, and he was a lawyer for the United Auto Workers, where he represented laid-off workers seeking to access unemployment benefits and Trade Adjustment Assistance.  At NELP, he has successfully worked with advocates in the Midwest and other states to improve the state unemployment insurance programs.  In 2005, he established the Economic Dislocation Initiative serving Midwest states suffering from major layoffs in the auto industry.  He has testified before Congress and several state legislatures and published a number of articles on the unemployment insurance program and other worker rights issues. 


    J.D., University of Michigan School of Law
    B.A., Wabash College

    Selected Publications

    ·    Getting Certified for Trade Adjustment Assistance: A Guide for Unions, Workforce Agencies, and Community Groups (National Employment Law Project: 2005)

    ·    “Unemployment Insurance and Voluntary Quits: How States' Policies Affect Today's Families,”  Clearinghouse Review (May-June 2003)

    ·    Laid Off and Left Out: Part-Time Workers and Unemployment Insurance Eligibility (National Employment Law Project: 2002)

    ·    “Recognizing Wage and Hour Issues on Behalf of Low-Income Workers,”  Clearinghouse Review (September-October 2001)

    General Counsel & Program Director

    Paul K. Sonn, General Counsel & Program Director
    (212) 285-3025 x.351
    New York City Office

    Areas of expertise

    Minimum Wage and Living Wage · Economic and Workforce Development

    For fifteen years Paul has worked on new approaches for promoting living wage jobs.  His work has been profiled in the New York Times Magazine, the Nation, and the New York Law Journal.  From 1999-2008, he was co-director of the Economic Justice Project at New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice.  From 1994-1999 he was a Skadden Fellow and then assistant counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

    J.D., Yale Law School
    A.B., Dartmouth College

    Selected Publications

    • Government Paves the Way: A Decent Work Agenda for the Obama Administration, American Prospect (Sept. 21, 2009) 
    • Restoring the Minimum Wage for America’s Tipped Workers (2009) 
    • The Road to Responsible Contracting (2009) 
    • “New Directions for the Living Wage Movement,” in The Gloves Off Economy, Cornell Univ. Press (2008)

    General Counsel & Program Director

    Catherine Ruckelshaus, General Counsel & Program Director
    (212) 285-3025 ext. 306
    New York City Office
    Areas of expertise
    Immigrants and Work · Enforcement of Workplace Standards · Wage and Hour Protections · Nonstandard Workforce

    Cathy Ruckelshaus joined NELP in 1995, after working for the Employment Law Center in San Francisco.  For over 20 years, she has litigated and advocated for policy reforms promoting the workplace rights of immigrant and non-standard workers (part-time, temporary and subcontracted workers), enforcement of wage and hour and workplace laws, and anti-discrimination and family and medical leave laws.  She has litigated class action lawsuits in state and federal court and authored several amicus briefs before the U.S. Supreme Court and U.S. Courts of Appeal.  In 2003, she was honored by the Association of the Bar of the City of New York for successfully litigating on behalf of New York City’s immigrant workers, and in 1989 she was a Skadden Fellow. 

    J.D., Stanford Law School
    B.A., Princeton University

    Selected Publications

    ·    “Labor’s Wage War,” Fordham Urban Law Journal (2008)

    ·    “Solutions, Not Scapegoats: Abating Sweatshop Conditions for All Low-Wage Workers as a Centerpiece of Immigration Reform,” New York University Journal of Legislation & Public Policy, (2007)        

    ·    “Down by Law:  New Ideas for Defeating Sweatshops,” New Labor Forum (Spring/Summer 1999)

    ·    “Enforcing Fair Labor Standards in the Modern American Sweatshop: Rediscovering the Statutory Definition of Employment,” UCLA Law Review (1999)

    ·    The Family & Medical Leave Act:  An Advocate’s Guide (National Employment Law Project: 1996)

    Program Director

    Maurice Emsellem, Program Director
    (510) 663-5700
    Oakland, California Office

    Areas of expertise
    Unemployment Insurance · Criminal Records and Employment

    Maurice Emsellem joined NELP in 1991, after working for the Legal Aid Society in New York City.  At NELP, he has worked on collaborations with organizers and advocates that have successfully modernized state unemployment insurance programs, created employment protections for workfare workers, and reduced unfair barriers to employment of people with criminal records in state laws and in city hiring practices.  He has testified before Congress and numerous state legislatures, promoting innovative policy reforms.  He was a Soros Justice Senior Fellow in 2004 and a Stanford Public Interest Law Mentor in 2003.  

    J.D., Northeastern University School of Law
    B.A., University of Michigan

    Selected Publications

    • Innovative State Reforms Shape New National Economic Security Plan for the 21st Century (National Employment Law Project: 2006)

    • "The Challenge of Employment in the Era of Criminal Background Checks," in The Gloves Off Economy: Workplace Standards at the Bottom of America's Labor Market, Cornell Univ. Press (2008)

    • "Easing Downward Mobility," (March 8, 2007)

    • “Work Reform: The Other Side of Welfare Reform,” Stanford Law & Policy Review (Winter 1998)


    Policy Co-Director

    Annette Bernhardt, Policy Co-Director
    (212) 285-3025 x 350
    New York City Office

    Areas of expertise

    Labor Market Research · Enforcement of Workplace Standards · Immigrants and Work · Economic and Workforce Development

    Annette Bernhardt co-directed the Economic Justice Project at New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice, which merged with NELP in 2008.  She coordinates NELP’s policy analysis and research support for campaigns around living wage jobs, enforcement of workplace standards and accountable development. A leading scholar of low-wage work, she has helped develop and analyze innovative policy responses to the changing nature of work in the United States. She has published widely in journals such as the American Journal of Sociology, the American Sociological Review, and the Journal of Labor Economics, among others. She received Princeton University’s Richard A. Lester Prize for the Outstanding Book in Labor Economics and Industrial Relations and Cornell University’s Center for the Study of Inequality Distinguished Book Award, among others.

    Ph.D., University of Chicago
    B.A., Barnard College

    Selected Publications

    ·    The Gloves-Off Economy: Workplace Standards at the Bottom of America's Labor Market (co-edited, Cornell University Press, 2008)

    ·    “The State of Worker Protections in the United States: Unregulated Work in New York City,” International Labour Review (co-authored, 2008)

    ·    “Bad Service Jobs: Can Unions Save Them? Can They Save Unions?” in Justice on the Job: Perspectives on the Erosion of Collective Bargaining in the United States (co-authored, 2006)

    ·    What Do We Know About Wal-Mart? An Overview of Facts and Studies for New Yorkers, Brennan Center for Justice (co-authored, 2005)

    ·    Low-Wage America: How Employers are Reshaping Opportunity in the Workplace, Russell Sage Foundation (co-edited, 2003)

    ·    Recession and 9/11: Economic Hardship and the Failure of the Safety Net for Unemployed Workers in New York City, Brennan Center for Justice (co-authored, 2003)

    ·    Why Privatizing Government Services Would Hurt Women Workers, Institute for Women’s Policy Research (co-authored, 2002)

    ·    Divergent Paths:  Economic Mobility in the New American Labor Market, Russell Sage Foundation (co-authored, 2001)

    Executive Director

    Christine L. Owens, Executive Director

    Areas of Expertise  

    Living Wage & Minimum Wage · Labor Market Research · Workplace Equity


    Christine Owens joined NELP as its Executive Director in January 2008.  Over her long career as a workers’ rights advocate, she has held a variety of public interest and public sector positions advancing employment rights and opportunities for women, people of color and low wage workers.  In 1997, she joined the national AFL-CIO as a senior policy analyst specializing in workplace equity issues, and in 2001, was appointed Director of Public Policy.  At the AFL-CIO, she worked closely with NELP and numerous national and grassroots economic policy and worker advocacy groups, along with national unions and state labor federations, to promote reforms such as minimum wage and living wage hikes, pay equity for working women, and state UI coverage expansions. Before joining the AFL-CIO, she founded and ran the Workers Options Resource Center, which coordinated the efforts of a broad-based coalition of national and community organizations to win the 1996 federal minimum wage increase.

    J.D., University of Virginia
    B.A., College of William and Mary

    Selected Publications

    ·    The Wal-Mart Tax: A Review of Studies Examining Employers’ Health Care Cost-Shifting (AFL-CIO: 2005)

    Industry Studies and Other Labor Market Research

    Finding ways to support good jobs means that we need to understand industries - their economics, their employers and their workers. We partner with allies to conduct in-depth research on industries such as restaurants, hotels, retail, grocery stores, construction, taxis, and others.

    Other Labor Market Research:

    We also focus on analyzing long-term trends in the U.S. labor market; our research has examined topics such as firm restructuring and changes in the organization of work, trends in job security and upward mobility, and factors driving the growth of low-wage service jobs. Recent examples include:

    For more information on our work in this area, please contact Annette Bernhardt,

    Other key resources:

    Organizations providing national research on low-wage labor markets include:

    Economic Policy Institute

    Center for Economic Policy Analysis

    Center on Wisconsin Strategy (COWS)

    UC Berkeley Labor Center

    State groups interested in collaborating on policy research can be found by searching the Economic Analysis Research Network (EARN)

    In New York City, organizations providing applied labor market research include:

    Fiscal Policy Institute

    Center for an Urban Future

    Community Service Society

    Pratt Center for Community Development

    Urban Agenda

    Urban Justice Center

    Research on Unemployment

    The nature of unemployment has changed in recent decades. In the past, unemployment was typically caused by temporary layoffs after which workers would return to their jobs, or at the least, their same occupation. Today, the unemployed are often forced to leave their previous occupation and re-orient their careers as they struggle to find scarce quality job openings. Workers need more time to search for work and upgrade their skills, and as a result the duration of unemployment has increased significantly. Longer spells of unemployment correspond with greater economic hardship. NELP has conducted extensive research on long-term joblessness, including our report on the rising stakes of job loss and a major survey of unemployed workers' experiences.

    Moreover, in good times and bad, unemployment is part and parcel of the career path of many low-wage workers, as firms churn through employees and as family needs conflict with jobs that don't provide time off for illness or sick children. NELP has documented these dimensions of unemployment as part of our effort to close the gaps in the unemployment insurance system.

    NELP researchers monitor the status of employment and unemployment in the economy, including same-day analyses of the Labor Department's monthly employment situation release and weekly and monthly unemployment insurance claims reports. NELP's direct experience working with the unemployed and the unemployment insurance program gives us a unique analytic perspective. In addition, NELP publishes in depth reports that examine the changing nature of joblessness, and staff frequently testify in Congress about unemployment.

    See also our policy work on Federal Extended Benefits and Unemployment Insurance, and the helpful statistics section of

    For more information on our work in this area, please contact Andrew Stettner,

    Other key resources:

    Bureau of Labor Statistics

    UI Claims Data

    Economic Policy Institute

    Research on the Growth of Unregulated Work

    Low-wage labor markets in the United States have undergone substantial changes during the last decade. In industries ranging from construction and food manufacturing to grocery stores, restaurants, janitorial services and home health care, new forms of work organization have generated labor practices that are effectively beyond the reach of government regulation -- what we call "unregulated work.” In these jobs, workers routinely face violations of minimum wage and overtime laws, unsafe working conditions, discrimination, and retaliation for speaking up or trying to organize.

    Advocates and policy makers have lacked reliable data on the magnitude of the problem, the industries that are the biggest culprits, and the workers who are most affected. The resulting information vacuum has significantly hampered policy responses, whether at the federal, state or local level. In response, the National Employment Law Project is partnering with researchers, legal advocates and community groups to document this labor market trend. Using a mix of new research tools, including both quantitative and qualitative methods, these collaborations have generated original data and analysis on what is effectively a world of work without laws.

    A Landmark Survey of Workplace Violations in America’s Largest Cities

    NELP collaborated with the Center for Urban Economic Development at the University of Illinois-Chicago and the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment at UCLA on an ambitious worker survey with the goal of obtaining accurate and statistically representative estimates of the prevalence of workplace violations. In 2008 we surveyed 4,387 workers in low-wage industries in the three largest U.S. cities: Chicago, Los Angeles and New York City. Using an innovative and rigorous methodology developed by Cornell University sociologist Douglas Heckathorn, we were able to reach vulnerable workers who are often missed in standard surveys, such as unauthorized immigrants and those paid in cash.

    The result is a landmark survey that offers, for the first time, a window into the current state of worker protections in urban low-wage labor markets, where millions of workers are subject to severe and widespread violations of employment and labor laws.

    The Gloves-Off Economy: Workplace Standards at the Bottom of America’s Labor Market

    Increasing numbers of employers are breaking, bending or evading long-established laws and standards designed to protect workers, from the minimum wage to the right to organize. In 2008, labor scholars, academics, advocates and several NELP staff members joined forces to examine this “gloves-off” economy, in the first comprehensive analysis of this problem and the creative solutions being explored in communities and industries across the United States.

    Unregulated Work in the Global City: A Profile of 13 Industries

    From 2003 to 2006, we conducted intensive field research in New York City to better understand unregulated work, including 330 interviews with employers, workers, legal services providers, community groups and government officials, as well as secondary analysis of industry and government datasets. Our in-depth research report includes detailed findings, policy recommendations, and an appendix of 13 industry profiles.

    For more information on our work in this area, please contact Annette Bernhardt,

    Other key resources:

    Good Jobs, Bad Jobs, No Jobs: Labor Markets and Informal Work in Egypt, El Salvador, India, Russia, and South Africa, Global Policy Network

    Hopeful Workers, Marginal Jobs: LA's Off-The-Books Labor Force, Economic Roundtable

    On the Corner: Day Labor in the United States, by Abel Valenzuela, Nik Theodore, Edwin Melendez, and Ana Luz Gonzalez

    Behind the Kitchen Door: Pervasive Inequality in New York City’s Thriving Restaurant Industry (WIEGO)

    Home is Where the Work Is: Inside New York’s Domestic Work Industry (WIEGO)

    Transportation Worker Background Checks

    In the effort to identify terrorism risks after the September 11th attacks, Congress instituted a new system of criminal background checks in the nation's transportation industry. A progression of federal mandates has been put in place to screen the millions of workers employed in the aviation, maritime and ground transportation industries.

    Like most background checks, many of these screening policies fail to provide basic protections to limit abuse of the process. For example, they often fail to consider the age and seriousness of offenses, and do not allow workers to demonstrate rehabilitation. Overbroad exclusions unfairly deny employment to individuals who present no security risk and deprive the transportation industry of qualified workers.

    However, the Maritime Transportation Security Act (MTSA) of 2002, which mandated that all port workers go through a background check to obtain the newly-required Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC), includes several significant protections that go much further than most federal background checks to create a more fair and accurate screening process. Specifically, the MTSA:

    • Imposes more reasonable limits on the age and seriousness of the offenses that may disqualify an individual from the required security clearance; and

    • Provides for a "waiver" process that takes into account evidence of rehabilitation, as well as an appeal process that allows workers to challenge inaccuracies in their background check that lead to initial disqualification.

    NELP is the nation's foremost authority on the rights of workers subject to the new federal background checks for port workers and truck drivers. We are playing a leading role in promoting similar procedures as a model for all federal and state criminal background checks. In addition, NELP is partnering with port security officials, port truck drivers, longshore workers,and many of the unions representing these workers to help ensure that workers take full advantage of their rights when they apply for the TWIC card by:

    • Successfully representing numerous workers who were initially denied a TWIC card by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) (the agency implementing the TWIC program)

    • Testifying before Congress on proposed reforms to make the TWIC process more fair and accurate for workers and their employers.

    For more information about our work in this area, please contact Madeline Neighly,

    Other key resources:

    Transportation Security Administration Information on the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC)

    Transportation Security Administration Information on Hazmat Endorsements

    Employment Rights of Workers with Criminal Records

    Workers with a criminal record - even a minor record dating back many years- often have a difficult time finding employment, especially given the proliferation of criminal background checks. For example, a major survey of Los Angeles employers found that over 60% of employers would "probably not" or "definitely not" be willing to hire an applicant with a criminal record.  

    Although employers may (to varying legal degrees) consider a worker's criminal history as part of the application process, employers often fail to comply with a range of federal and state laws that provide fundamental protections against abuse of criminal background checks.  As a result, far too many hard-working people are wrongly denied employment, often in growing industries with serious labor shortages.

    Of special importance, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)has concluded that because African American and Latino workers are arrested and convicted more often than whites, hiring policies that exclude workers with a criminal record may discriminate in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In addition, the nation's federal consumer protection law (the Fair Credit Reporting Act) requires accuracy in background checks conducted by private screening firms, and mandates that employers provide a copy of background check reports to workers before any adverse employment decision is taken.

    In partnership with community groups and legal advocates, NELP has initiateda new program to enforce these critical employment protections by: 

    • Making presentations to regional EEOC offices, workforce development specialists, public defenders, unions and other key organizations to help spread the word about civil rights and consumer rights protections.

    • Educating employers about the EEOC's Title VII standards that apply to people of color who are denied employment based on an arrest or conviction record. 

    • Offering legal assistance in special cases to workers who want to enforce their anti-discrimination rights by filing Title VII discrimination complaints with the EEOC. 

    For more information about our work in this area, pleasecontact Madeline Neighly,, or Michelle Natividad Rodriguez,  

    Other key resources:

    CommunityLegal Services of Philadelphia

    Privacy Rights Clearinghouse

    Equal Employment Opportunity Commission


    City Hiring Initiatives

    In cities across the country, record numbers of people with a criminal record are now struggling to turn their lives around and get a fair shot at employment in their communities.

    Taking on this challenge, cities such as Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Minneapolis, San Francisco and St. Paul have created a more fair application process, so that people who have a criminal record are judged on the merits of their skills and experience, not just their criminal history. Opening up city hiring policies in this way is a critical first step toward convincing private employers to do the right thing and give proper consideration to job applicants with a criminal history.

    These cities have created a more fair and efficient screening process by removing the question on their job applications which asks about an individual's criminal record, and instead waiting until the final stages of the hiring process to conduct a criminal background check. As a result, workers are encouraged to apply for city and county jobs, and government employers are able to access a broad applicant pool of workers best qualified for the job.

    Working in partnership with local officials and advocates, NELP has been at the forefront of this effort to create model city hiring standards that promote employment of people with a criminal record. Expanding on these innovative policies, NELP has played a critical role by:

    • Documenting the growing number of city and county hiring reforms as part of a comprehensive resource that also includes all official city and county policies, local expert contacts, press stories, campaign material, and more.

    • Providing intensive assistance to city human resources officials and local advocates to help navigate the legal and technical issues necessary to develop new hiring policies.

    • Gathering data and other helpful background information to evaluate the local hiring policies and make recommendations for improvement.

    For help in developing similar initiatives in new cities, please contact Maurice Emsellem,

    See also our work on Economic and Workforce Development policies, which can be leveraged to increase employment opportunities for workers with criminal records.

    Other key resources:

    All of Us Or None

    National League of Cities

    Federal and State Policy Reforms

    Especially since September 11th, more federal and state laws have imposed broad new mandates denying employment to large numbers of qualified workers who have a criminal record. While criminal background checks can be necessary to protect public safety and security, often these new laws go too far in prohibiting current workers and new applicants from working in growing industries with labor shortages, like health care and trucking.

    For example, many occupational screening laws impose a lifetime barrier to employment for anyone with a felony criminal record, no matter the age or seriousness of the offense and without taking into account any evidence of rehabilitation. In addition, criminal background checks for employment routinely rely on records that are inaccurate or seriously out-of-date without providing basic protections for workers to verify and correct their records.

    NELP is a leader in the effort to create model federal and state laws that protect public safety and security while also ensuring more fair and accurate criminal background checks by:

    • Testifying in Congress and in the states to place reasonable limits on the age and seriousness of disqualifying offenses and include special "waiver" procedures allowing workers to prove they have been rehabilitated.
    • Promoting reform of employment-based criminal background checks generated by the FBI to protect the millions of workers whose FBI records have not been updated to show that their arrests have been dismissed and to prevent the FBI from reporting petty juvenile and adult crimes(H.R. 5300)
    • Educating and assisting workers to take full advantage of key worker protections in federal and state occupational screening laws.

    For more information on our work in this area, please contact Maurice Emsellem,

    Other key resources:

    H.I.R.E. Network

    The Sentencing Project

    Council of State Governments Reentry Policy Council

    Health and Safety for Immigrant Workers

    Immigrant workers in the United States often labor in difficult and dangerous jobs.  As a result, they have higher rates of workplace injuries and fatalities in industries such as agriculture, manufacturing, industrial laundries and nail salons.  Workplace fatalities among foreign-born workers, particularly in the construction industry, have been growing at a time when the rate of fatalities for all workers has actually been declining.

    Many of the tragic accidents that befall immigrant workers are preventable.  Barriers such as language, fear of exposure to immigration authorities, and lack of attention to safety by their employers are among the obstacles immigrant workers face in keeping themselves safe on the job.

    NELP works with community groups, legislators and lawyers to help provide a safe workplace for all workers. 

    Through training and strategic intervention in court cases, we ensure that immigration status does not keep workers from accessing workers' compensation.  We highlight the real solutions - creative, community-based approaches to workplace safety - such as:

    See also our work in the areas of Immigrant Workers' Rights and Remedies and Enforcement of Workplace Standards.

    For more information on our work in this area, please contact Rebecca Smith,

    Other key resources:

    Worksafe, A California Coalition for Workplace Safety and Health Protection

    Immigrant Workers at Risk: The Urgent Need for Improved Workplace Safety and Health Policies and Programs, AFL-CIO (2005)

    Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect, AFL-CIO (2008)

    Human Rights Campaigns

    Worldwide, millions of immigrants who have left their home countries in search of work are subject to officially-sanctioned discrimination and unredressed workplace abuses.  Protection of basic workplace rights for immigrant workers is eroding in the United States, despite a ruling by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights that "the migratory status of a person can never be a justification for depriving him of the enjoyment and exercise of his human rights, including those related to employment."   Industries across our economy, including farm work, domestic work, day labor, home health care and the hospitality industry, benefit from labor law exemptions that leave many workers behind.

    In this climate, NELP believes that using a human rights framework and message is a key tool for ensuring that immigrant workers achieve equal treatment in the United States.  We collaborate with grassroots community groups, immigrant rights organizations and academics to shine an international light on disenfranchised workers within the U.S., and on the organizations that support their campaigns for equality.

    Several workers' rights campaigns in the U.S. owe their success to their use of a broader human rights message - such as United Workers of Baltimore's historic human rights campaign on behalf of workers at Camden Yards, and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers' anti-slavery campaigns in Florida. 

    NELP's work in this area begins in communities, where our workers' rights curriculum has shown that human rights principles resonate powerfully.  In addition:

    • We have litigated on behalf of immigrant workers in international bodies, including in the landmark 2003 Inter-American Court of Human Rights decision establishing that all workers are entitled, as a matter of human rights, to equal protection of labor laws.

    • Our reports have provided analysis and real life stories to international treaty monitoring bodies, including reports to the UN's Committee on Migrant Workers, Human Rights Committee and Committee on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination.

    • Our human rights work links the overarching frame of human rights law to existing campaigns of those locked out of labor law protections - and, in turn, brings together the campaigns of individual industries under the umbrella of universal, inalienable rights.  Examples are New York's Domestic Workers' Bill of Rights Campaign, the Restaurant Opportunities Center's attempts to stop discrimination in the restaurant industry, and community efforts in Arizona by the National Day Labor Organizing Network affiliate to stop illegal raids against day laborers.

    See also our work in the areas of Worksite Immigration Enforcement and No-Match, Immigrant Workers' Health and Safety, and Enforcement of Workplace Standards.

    For more information on our work in this area, please contact Rebecca Smith,

    Other key resources:

    National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights

    US Human Rights Network

    American Civil Liberties Union Human Rights Project

    Platform on International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants

    December 18

    U.S. NGO responses to the U.S. 2007 Combined Periodic Reports to the International Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD)

    CERD Concluding Observations, February 2008

    Juridical Condition and Rights of the Undocumented Migrants, Inter-American Court of Human Rights, September 17, 2003

    Report of U.S. Civil Society Organizations and Advocates in Response to the United States of American Second and Third Periodic Report to the United Nations  Human Rights Committee, 87th Sess., July 2006

    Immigrant Workers’ Rights and Remedies

    Immigrant workers, especially the undocumented and short-term guestworkers, face enormous obstacles in their efforts to enforce workplace rights. These workers are often their family's only source of support in a world of poverty and injustice. They arrive in the US isolated by language, culture and geography. And their immigration status can be used as a club by unscrupulous employers who wish to take advantage of them.

    A 2002 U.S. Supreme Court ruling resulted in a storm of litigation around the country that has left our system of workplace protections in tatters. For example, undocumented workers are not entitled to compensation when they are fired in violation of their right to organize a union on the job. In some states, the right to workers' compensation has been curtailed for undocumented workers. And in at least one state (New Jersey), undocumented workers have no recourse for on-the-job discrimination.

    The 180,000 low-wage temporary guestworkers in our country face equally steep barriers, arriving in the country in debt to labor recruiters and traffickers who often lie to them about what they will find here. These workers, frequently housed in isolated labor camps and denied by law the right to change jobs, fall victim to forced labor and labor trafficking.

    Through litigation, policy design and support for organizing campaigns, NELP has been a national leader in developing strategies that support the rights of all workers, whether born in the U.S. or abroad. We do so out of the conviction that if labor rights are extinguished for some, those rights are degraded for all. And that if employers who violate labor laws get a free pass, then we only create a larger underground economy, which in the end hurts us all.

    NELP's approach has several prongs:

    • We provide policy models for states agencies to establish a clear firewall between immigration and labor law enforcement, as has been done by the New York Attorney General, the California Legislature, and the Washington State Human Rights Commission.

    • We provide support to advocates seeking to keep immigration status out of the courtroom through legal analysis, training and intervention in key cases -- such as our amicus brief in Rivera v. NIBCO, and our manual, No Free Pass to Harass: Protecting the Rights of Undocumented Immigrant Women Workers in Sexual Harassment Cases.

    • We advocate for equal labor rights for guestworkers, as in our comments as part of the Low Wage Immigrant Worker Legal Network opposing changes to the H2B guestworker system that would reduce government oversight of the program.

    • We offer support and advice to organizing campaigns where immigration status might be used to retaliate against workers, or is being used to hold up settlement.

    • We make certain that immigrant workers have the identity tools they need to open bank accounts, drive cars and pay their taxes.

    See also our work in the areas of Worksite Immigration Enforcement and No-Match, Human Rights Campaigns, Immigrant Workers' Health and Safety, and Enforcement of Workplace Standards. In addition to the resources listed here, NELP hosts the password-protected National Wage and Hour Clearinghouse at

    For more information on our work in this area, please contact Rebecca Smith,

    Other key resources:

    NLRB General Counsel, Procedures and Remedies for DiscriminatesWho May Be Unauthorized Aliensafter Hoffman Plastic Compounds, Inc. (Jul. 19, 2002)

    U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Rescission of Enforcement Guidance on Remedies Available to Undocumented Workers Under Federal Employment Discrimination Laws (Jun. 27, 2002)

    U.S. Department of Labor, Application of U.S. Labor Laws to Immigrant Workers: Effect of Hoffman Plastic decision on laws enforced by the Wage and Hour Division.

    Southern Poverty Law Center, Close to Slavery: Guestworker Programs in the United States(2007)

    American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations

    American Rights at Work

    National Immigration Law Center

    Worksite Immigration Enforcement and No-Match

    In poll after poll, the American public supports real immigration reform that brings undocumented workers out of the shadows. But public policy is pursuing an "enforcement only" approach - costly and disruptive worksite raids that separate families and criminalize workers. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) activities disrupt organizing campaigns and undermine workers' exercise of their labor rights. Immigrants are penalized, rather than protected as victims of labor violations.

    At the same time, attempts to require employers to verify workers' immigration status through flawed federal databases are on the rise. Twelve states now require employers to use the error-prone "E-Verify" system. The result is that law-abiding employers are confused by government rules and initiatives, which encourage them to use error-filled data systems to determine their employees' immigration status. And unscrupulous employers are finding ways to manipulate the system to deport workers who complain about labor violations.

    NELP responds with the following strategies:

    • We work with U.S. citizens and immigrant workers to challenge proposals to turn Social Security "no-match" letters into an immigration enforcement tool -- by bringing workers' stories of abuse to the public eye, and by advising employers, unions and workers on the proper response to these letters.

    • We advise advocates on strategy when ICE enforcement follows assertion of workplace rights -- as in a recent court order in New Orleans, where day laborers detained after making a minimum wage complaint were certified for U-visas as victims of crime.

    • We work to ensure that the existing firewall between immigration enforcement and labor law enforcement, intended to keep ICE out of labor disputes, is honored.

    • We work with advocates and community groups to ensure that state policymakers understand that employer sanctions in general, and electronic verification in particular, are not a fix to our broken immigration system.

    • We highlight for policymakers the myriad studies that have documented the confusion, discrimination, and misuse that results from reliance on flawed databases to verify immigration status.

    See also our work in the areas of Immigrant Workers' Rights and Remedies, State and Local Anti-Immigrant Legislation, and Enforcement of Workplace Standards. In addition to the resources listed here, NELP hosts the password-protected National Wage and Hour Clearinghouse at

    For more information on our work in this area, please contact Rebecca Smith,

    Other key resources:

    US Department of Labor and Immigration and Naturalization Service, Memorandum of Understanding to Enhance Worksite Enforcement Sanctions and Labor Standards

    California Immigrant Policy Center, Resources on Rapid Response

    Low-Wage Immigrant Worker Coalition, Stop No-Match website

    National Immigration Law Center, Social Security no-match letter toolkit

    National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, Over-Raided, Under Siege: US Immigration Laws and Enforcement Destroy the Rights of Immigrants

    State and Local Anti-Immigrant Legislation

    In recent years, cities and states around the country have proposed hundreds of bills targeting undocumented workers - denying them compensation for injuries, making it criminal for them to work, or sanctioning employers who hire them. In a worsening economy of job loss, rising health care costs and the mortgage crisis, some state and local governments have turned to these bills as a misguided attempt to fix our broken immigration system.  But such policies overlook the real problems affecting all workers:  employers who fail to pay a decent wage and provide a safe workplace, and enforcement systems that are failing to shut down violations of labor laws.  In addition, these policies also raise serious constitutional questions. 

    Since the first days of this phenomenon in 2005, NELP has been working to help activists and lawmakers understand the real issues in our economy and in labor law coverage and enforcement.  NELP's More Harm than Good helps re-frame the debate and provides policy models for real reform, supporting our allies in developing state legislation to protect immigrant and US-born workers alike:

    See also our work in the areas of Enforcement of Workplace Standards, Worksite Immigration Enforcement and No-Match, and Immigrant Workers' Rights and Remedies

    For more information on our work in this area, please contact Rebecca Smith,

    Other key resources:

    Progressive States Network

    Center for Community Change

    American Immigration Lawyers' Association

    Immigration Policy Center

    National Immigration Law Center


    Because government enforcement resources are limited, private lawsuits brought by workers and advocates are a key component of our nation's system for enforcing workplace standards.  NELP brings and supports strategic wage and hour litigation in a range of industries including garment, janitorial, home health care, delivery services, and retail. 

    • In partnership with workers centers and unions, NELP has engaged in direct co-counseling on a range of wage and hour cases supporting organizing drives and industry reforms.  These include a successful class action case brought on behalf of home health care workers not paid for the time spent traveling between households in Pennsylvania, and a range of cases for cafeteria and retail workers required to work off the clock and through meal and rest breaks. 

    • NELP has used its expertise in subcontracting and independent contractors in most of the leading circuit cases establishing joint employer relationships in the FLSA, and in major litigation involving independent contractor relationships.  The broad scope of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and most state wage-and-hour laws means that more employers should be held responsible for unpaid wages, including joint employers and subcontractors.  In addition, too many employees are called "independent contractors" by their employers and deemed outside of the protection of wage and hour rules.  We also promote model litigation in these areas via the National Wage Hour Clearinghouse, and provide technical assistance to practitioners.  

    • Garment, day labor, retail, construction, agriculture, home health care and janitorial jobs are among the lowest-paying in our country, and are also seeing growing wage and hour violations.  These jobs are dominated by immigrant workers often afraid to come forward to complain of underpayment.  NELP brings direct litigation and assists others around the country bringing lawsuits in these under-enforced jobs dominated by immigrant workers. 

    Leading NELP-supported Joint Employer and Independent Contactor Decisions:

    • Lopez v. Silverman, 14 F. Supp.2d 405 (SDNY 1998), holds for the first time that a garment manufacturer is responsible for the unpaid wages of its contractors.

    • Ansoumana et al v. Gristede's Operating Corp., 201 F.R.D. 81 (SDNY 2001) and 255 F. Supp.2d 184 (SDNY 2003), approves "hybrid" class action and FLSA opt-in class and finds joint employer liability for minimum wage and overtime violations by retail stores hiring immigrant delivery workers via labor brokers.

    • Zheng v. Liberty Apparel, 355 F.3d 61 (2d Cir. 2003), finds garment manufacturer jointly responsible for unpaid wages of its subcontractor's workers.

    • Reyes v. Remington Seed Co., 495 F.3d 403 (7th Cir. 2007), finds seed corn company responsible for unpaid wages of its farm labor contractor's workers.

    • Coverall North America v. Com'r of Div. of Unemployment Ins., 447 Mass. 852 (MA. S.J.C. 2006), finding immigrant janitorial "franchisees" eligible for unemployment insurance.

    See also our work in the area of Immigrants and Work.

    For more information on our work in this area, please contact Cathy Ruckelshaus,

    Industry Strategies

    Violations of core worker protections are growing in low-wage industries across our economy, ranging from home health care and restaurants to domestic work and day labor.  But the types of violations involved vary depending on the industry's economics, workforce, and employment structure.

    As a result, NELP often designs industry-specific strategies to address workplace violations.  We partner with immigrant worker centers and unions to develop targeted solutions to ensure that workers in these critical front-line jobs are paid properly and treated fairly.

    NELP is currently targeting four low-wage industries:

    • Domestic Work: Many workers in private households, including domestic workers and home health care workers, are exempted from basic workplace protections such as minimum wage and overtime rules.  NELP works to promote new state protections for these workers who fall through the cracks in federal rules, and to enforce existing state and federal laws when they are violated.

    • Home Health Care and Child Care Workers: Some employers illegally misclassify household workers as "independent contractors" in an attempt to evade their legal obligations to their employees.  In several states, NELP has partnered with unions and community groups to enforce workplace standards regardless of an employer's misuse of the "independent contractor" label.  We have also closed archaic loopholes that exclude home care workers from federal minimum wage and overtime protections.

    • Day Labor: Day laborers experience some of the highest rates of workplace violations in the country, and they encounter substantial barriers to enforcing the laws in place to protect them.  NELP has teamed up with worker centers and legislators around the country to respond to this problem by designing model day labor protection legislation and promoting its passage.

    • Restaurants and Food Service: The restaurant industry is notoriously difficult to monitor, even as minimum wage and overtime violations become more common.  In response, NELP works with community groups and worker centers to raise labor standards for restaurant workers - including those who earn tips - and helps design state and local policies to improve the enforcement of workplace protections.

    See also our work in the area of Industry Studies and Other Labor Market Research and Research on the Growth of Unregulated Work.

    For more information on our work in this area, please contact Cathy Ruckelshaus,, Rebecca Smith,

    Other key resources:


    Direct Care Alliance

    Domestic Workers United

    National Day Labor Organizing Network

    Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute

    Restaurant Opportunities Centers United

    Service Employees International Union


    Independent Contractor Misclassification and Subcontracting

    Growing numbers of employers call their employees "independent contractors" and subcontract key functions to other companies in order to side-step responsibility for minimum wage and other worker protections.  Because U.S. employment and labor laws assign responsibility and rights to "employers" and "employees," employers seek to evade workplace rules through two devices: (1) they call their "employees" "independent contractors," and (2) they insert subcontractors between themselves and their employees.  When these tactics succeed, construction workers, day laborers, home health aides, janitors and many others find themselves without workplace protections.  

    NELP is a leading expert on independent contractor evasions and improper use of subcontracting arrangements, and works with allies to end abuse of these rules, which harm workers, state and federal treasuries, and responsible employers alike.

    • At the federal level, NELP is working to promote federal bills aimed at independent contractor abuses.  Three separate pieces of federal legislation are pending, to strengthen the federal tax code's treatment of employers who misclassify workers as independent contractors and to create tighter recordkeeping rules.  NELP helped to strategize and develop these proposed policies, drawing on progress made at the state level to fight independent contractor abuses.

    • NELP researches and reports on state legislative, administrative and executive activity around the growing problem of independent contractor misclassification.  States are on the forefront of addressing this problem, by commissioning studies to document violations and losses to the state coffers, issuing Executive Orders that establish inter-agency task forces, and passing laws to close the loopholes.  NELP's Summary of State Independent Contractor Reforms is one recent example. 

    • NELP promotes state agency enforcement and private litigation aimed at subcontracting abuses by holding "joint employers" accountable for workplace standards violations.  NELP helps state agencies identify strategic practices and draft regulations to tighten definitions of responsible employers.  NELP also engages in direct litigation and amicus and appellate support in wage-and-hour joint employer cases, including recent circuit cases to find joint employer liability in the Second, Seventh, and Ninth Circuits. 

    • NELP's Subcontracted Work Initiative brought together unions, academics and practitioners from a wide variety of job sectors for two national conferences to study the mechanisms of subcontracting in garment, agriculture, janitorial, hospitality, health care and other jobs, and generated a report with policy recommendations for reform. 

    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,

    Other Key Resources:

    National Alliance for Fair Contracting

    United Brotherhood of Carpenters

    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,, Rebecca Smith,, Laura Moskowitz,, or Raj Nayak,

    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).

    Strengthening Government Enforcement of Wage Laws

    Because violations of minimum wage and overtime laws are growing in low-wage industries across the country, government must play an active role in protecting workers and ensuring that they are paid the money they are owed.  But while our nation's economy and our workplaces have changed fundamentally in recent decades, our federal and state government enforcement efforts have largely failed to keep pace.  The United States Department of Labor and most state labor departments still focus on investigating individual claims, using their scarce resources to tackle low-impact smaller cases.

    NELP and our allies work with state agencies at every level of government to modernize outdated enforcement strategies and pursue more strategic, proactive enforcement.  We help agencies design enforcement plans that not only address individual claims but also send a strong signal to employers that it is unacceptable to violate minimum wage and overtime laws.  In the process, we level the playing field for employers who play by the rules and pay workers the wages they are owed.

    In particular, NELP pursues several concrete strategies for reforming the way that government agencies enforce wage-and-hour laws:

    • Overhauling state labor departments:  We lead coalitions of community groups, worker centers, legal advocates, and labor unions in pursuing key reforms to improve the way that state labor departments enforce existing wage-and-hour laws, for example, through recommendations to the New York State Department of Labor.

    • Strengthening state enforcement authority:  We help community groups and state enforcement agencies around the country design and propose legislation to enhance their tools for enforcing important worker protections.  See especially our report, Justice for Workers: State Agencies Can Combat Wage Theft.

    • Modernizing federal enforcement strategies: We develop reforms for the United States Department of Labor, drawing on best practices from state labor departments and proven legislative reforms.

    • Encouraging community collaborations:  We build bridges between state agencies and community groups, worker centers, and labor unions so that the agencies can take advantage of these "eyes and ears" on the ground to better target resources and understand industry practices.

    • Designing enforcement strategies for attorneys general:  We advise state attorneys general - states' chief legal officers - on best practices for pursuing meaningful wage-and-hour investigations for workers most in need of protection.

    For more information on our work in this area, please contact Cathy Ruckelshaus,

    Other Key Resources:

    Jennifer Brand, Adding Labor to the Docket: The Role of State Attorneys General in the Enforcement of Labor Laws (2007)

    New York State Department of Labor, Investigation Marks New Proactive and Systemic Approach to Rooting Out Violations (2008)

    United States Department of Labor, 1999-2000 Report on Initiatives (2001)

    National networks of worker centers that engage government agencies on wage theft campaigns include Domestic Workers United, Interfaith Worker Justice, National Day Labor Organizing Network, and Restaurant Opportunities Centers United

    Labor unions around the country are encouraging government enforcement efforts as well.  For a listing, see Catherine K. Ruckelshaus, Labor's Wage War, 35 Fordham Urb. L.J. 373 (2008)

    One City/One Future: Redefining Economic Development in New York City

    Across the nation, cities are exploring new strategies for ensuring that economic development delivers the good jobs, affordable housing and livable communities that local residents need.  In New York City, NELP partnered with the Pratt Center for Community Development and New York Jobs with Justice on a major coalition-based policy initiative to make economic development more equitable and accountable. This coalition, called One City/One Future, recently released its landmark policy blueprint providing a roadmap for how the city can rebalance its approach to economic development to share the benefits of growth more broadly.

    Strong Growth But Widening Inequality

    Like many cities, New York has seen strong and sustained growth since the 1990's.  Unfortunately, that same growth has also fueled an intensifying level of inequality that is undermining the city's social and economic fabric.  The number of working poor continues to grow alongside an unprecedented concentration of wealth.  Those who can afford rents displace those who cannot.  Some neighborhoods shoulder the city's environmental burdens, while others benefit from the creation of new open spaces.  And race-based inequality and segregation persist.

    Publicly-sponsored economic development, while a key engine of growth, has too often contributed to these trends.  Whether in the form of large subsidized projects or the more standard incentive packages for private developers, economic development continues to create low-wage jobs in a high-cost city; to escalate real estate prices, thus driving out manufacturers, small businesses, and affordable housing; to strain an aging and inadequate infrastructure; and to take place without meaningful community input and planning.

    A Blueprint for Growth That Works for All New Yorkers

    To respond, NELP and its allies launched the OneCity/One Future initiative in 2004.  This collaboration brought together more than 100 civic leaders, neighborhood advocates, community development organizations, labor unions, local development corporations, environmentalists, and others to chart a new course for making economic development work for all New Yorkers.

    Our focus is on reorienting the city's economic development programs to focus on leveraging New York's comparative advantage as a "strong growth" city to deliver good jobs and services in diverse, livable, and affordable communities.  Maintaining our city's economic engine is essential, but it should be done within a social contract that promises to share prosperity, reduce inequality, increase opportunity, and fully involve all stakeholders in determining the city's future.

    After an intensive research and policy development process, in early 2009, One City/One Future  released its landmark policy blueprint for reforming economic development in New York, and brought together hundreds of community advocates, labor leaders, elected officials and others for a release forum promoting this vision of equitable and accountable growth. 

    For more information on our work in this area, please contact Annette Bernhardt,

    Other key resources:

    Partnership for Working Families

    Good Jobs First

    Midwest Economic Adjustment Initiative

    Midwestern states, especially Ohio and Michigan, face continued and significant job losses due to the ongoing restructuring of automotive and other manufacturing firms. Addressing economic dislocation and plant closings is a significant challenge for impacted workers, their communities, and state and local agencies.

    NELP is promoting best practices for responding to major layoffs, particularly strategies funded through the "rapid response" program of the federal Workforce Investment Act.  We support the use of state rapid response teams, labor or community/management committees, and peer networks to assist impacted workers.  These practices are critical in connecting impacted workers to employment and related services.  NELP provides resources that describe the nuts and bolts of developing effective rapid response policies to assist workers and communities, including this detailed overview of best practices in rapid response.

    But manufacturing decline is not inevitable. States can use their rapid response dollars and other state resources to assist distressed firms and avoid layoffs altogether, through layoff aversion  strategies like employee ownership or market conversion.  More broadly, NELP advocates for renewal of the manufacturing sector as a key part of an innovative economy that provides shared prosperity and addresses major challenges such as alternative energy and climate change. 

    To promote best practices on adjustment policies and spur a more coordinated approach to the challenges facing the Midwest, NELP has hosted two major gatherings of regional experts:

    • NELP's 2008 Great Lakes Economic Revitalization Summit:  Progressive leaders in the manufacturing heartland stretching from Western New York to Eastern Iowa face common challenges in achieving economic revitalization and manufacturing renewal.  This webpage gathers resources for building an economy that works for low-income and middle class families in this region and across the U.S.

    • NELP's 2006 Michigan Economic Dislocation Summit:  This summit brought together best practices for serving dislocated workers from a range of states including North Carolina, Minnesota, Illinois and Pennsylvania, in an effort to promote innovative policies throughout the region.

    For more information on our work in this area, please contact Lynn Minick,

    Other key resources:

    Working for America Institute provides many resources on worker training, high road economic development, advanced manufacturing, and sector strategies.

    The Steel Valley Authority in Pittsburgh has been a national leader in developing layoff aversion and early warning networks.

    The North Carolina Rural Development Center includes many resources, including research papers, interesting links, and materials about North Carolina's response to globalization.

    The Center on Wisconsin Strategy provides policy models on many issues related to manufacturing and economic revitalization in the Midwest.

    Trade Adjustment Assistance

    Globalization and trade policies have resulted in the loss of millions of good jobs in the United States. The promise of the federal Trade Adjustment Assistance program (TAA) is for displaced workers to receive assistance to mitigate the damage of job loss and to help them obtain the skills needed to compete for good jobs in today's economy.

    TAA does constitute one of the most complete packages of worker assistance available.  Offering up to two years of training and unemployment benefits, TAA gives dislocated workers in the U.S. a chance to complete a meaningful training course while providing for their basic expenses.  In addition, TAA provides a tax credit that pays for up to 65 percent of the costs of continuing health care.

    However, the TAA program falls short of its promise.  Eligibility for benefits is limited to groups of workers who work at a facility that has successfully petitioned the federal government to prove that its job cuts were directly related to trade.  Access to the program is constrained by major eligibility restrictions, and the funding for retraining is capped by Congress.  Furthermore, TAA is marked by serious implementation challenges for states that operate the federally-funded program.

    NELP has focused on state implementation of TAA since 2005, and advises community groups and unions about how to file successful TAA petitions.  NELP also advocates at the federal level for major changes in the TAA program that would make it a more powerful tool for addressing the impact of globalization in the economy.  We incorporate the lessons we've learned at the state level to the national debate over the reauthorization of the TAA program, as laid out in our congressional testimony on TAA reform priorities.

    NELP has published a TAA Certification Manual that takes community groups and unions step-by-step through the process of getting certified for Trade Adjustment Assistance with concrete examples. 

    For more information on our work in this area, please contact Rick McHugh,

    Other key resources:

    Download the U.S. Dept. of Labor TAA petition form in English or Spanish

    U.S. Department of Labor Website on Trade Adjustment Assistance:  This website has background information on TAA for workers and allows you to track the status of your TAA petition online.

    Trade Adjustment Assistance for Firms:  This website has information on Trade Adjustment Assistance for firms, a separate TAA program that provides assistance for domestic manufacturing firms hurt by imports.

    Good Food and Good Jobs for Underserved Communities

    Low-income neighborhoods in cities across the country face a chronic shortage of stores selling healthy, affordable food - and a chronic shortage of good jobs.  Rising commercial rents have led supermarkets to close down, creating "food deserts" where residents must shop at bodegas, gas stations and other outlets that provide low-quality food and jobs that pay poverty wages.

    NELP is partnering on a pilot program in New York City that will bring quality supermarkets with living wage jobs to underserved communities.  Together with a working group of policy experts from allied organizations, we are investigating how city policy tools - including land use controls, the planning process, subsidies and other incentives - can be leveraged to bring more stores offering good food and good jobs to needy neighborhoods.  We anticipate that this project will become a campaign next year, and serve as a highly-watched demonstration project for other cities across the country. 

    For more information on our work in this area, please contact Paul Sonn,

    Other key resources: 

    UFCW Local 1500 Building Blocks Project

    The Food Trust

    PolicyLink:  Healthy Food - Healthy Communities

    PolicyLink:  Healthy Food Retailing Toolkit

    Job Standards for Economic Development

    Millions of working Americans today spend their careers in fast-growing service industry jobs such as building security, retail, food services and hotels.  But these occupations, which represent a growing share of our economy because they cannot be outsourced, generally provide very low wages and benefits, leaving working families and communities struggling.  High road employers like the retail giant Costco, unionized hotel chains in Las Vegas and San Francisco, and the janitorial industry in cities like New York and Chicago, however, have shown that they can operate competitively while providing living wages and benefits. 

    Policymakers are now exploring new strategies for shifting more employers in these industries towards a high wage, high productivity model.  The tools they are using range from the government procurement system to the municipal economic development process.  By including job standards as a key part of economic development and procurement programs, communities are beginning to ensure that growth produces the good jobs their residents need.

    NELP is a key ally for policymakers and advocates in this emerging field - developing new policy models, providing legal analysis, and advising on realistic job standards. Our work in this area includes:

    • Job Standards for Federal Programs:  NELP is working with allies to show how federal government spending can be used to shift more industries towards providing better wages and benefits.  Federal purchasing and incentive programs comprise a significant portion of the economy, financing millions of jobs across the nation.  Through approaches like living wage standards and "best value" bid evaluation systems that recognize the benefits to both taxpayers and working families when businesses invest in their workforces, federal spending can incentivize more employers to provide family-supporting wages and benefits.

    • Job Standards for Local Programs:  NELP advocates for incorporating job standards into city economic development programs to ensure that growth delivers the living wage jobs that local communities need.  Over the past decade, cities have established job standards for individual economic development projects by negotiating "community benefits agreements" with developers.  Cities are now looking to extend this approach by making job standards a key component of all new economic development.  In New York, where one city incentive program now includes job standards, NELP is helping make the case for extending them to all city-linked development.

    • Industry-Targeted Job Standards for Development:  NELP is helping cities explore living wage laws targeted towards key low-wage industries as a new strategy for upgrading low-wage jobs.  In 2006, we helped Chicago lawmakers develop a living wage for the fast-growing  "big box" retail industry, but the measure was vetoed by Mayor Richard Daley.  In the years since then, Washington, D.C. has adopted the nation's first living wage for the building security industry, successfully transforming poverty wage jobs into positions paying $11.51 per hour as of 2008, plus solid benefits.  Los Angeles and Emeryville, California have enacted similar living wage laws for hotel industry jobs in their communities.  NELP provides assistance to cities and advocates seeking to replicate this important new approach.

    For more information on our work in this area, please contact Paul Sonn,

    Other key resources:

    Partnership for Working Families

    Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE)

    Good Jobs First

    Policy Link