COEF Worker Testimonials

The OLS Community Outreach and Education Fund (COEF) partners and subcontractors have developed a trusted method of outreach expertise in their communities. The trainings are conducted in multiple languages and in a variety of educational styles that work best for the workers . The impact of these trainings on workers has helped them understand their rights and given them the support to empower them to make life changing decisions. Here are a few of their stories told through the partners.

Al Noor Islamic Center

Al Noor Islamic Center is a key cultural anchor in the community and has a mosque on site. When conducting labor standards training for Somali workers in Somali language we have received some of the following feedback from our participants.

"I have been working in this country for 7 years and I didn't know that I have all these rights and I never get informed about my work rights before."

"I used to put effort not to lose my work and be tolerant for problems regarding my work rights because there was no community office that helps me about my work rights."

Chinese Information Services Center

In early Oct 2017, the Chinese Information Services Center (CISC) hosted a presentation for about 20 immigrant youth. After the presentation, a girl approached a staff member and asked, "Teacher, can you explain a little more about wage theft?" After further explanation, the girl said, "My dad's employer didn't pay him for time he spent on job-related transportation. We were upset that my dad was not treated by his employer fairly. We are new to the country and there are many things we don't know."  

In most cases, because the immigrant youth acculturate faster than their parents, they are often the interpreters and cultural brokers for their families. After the presentation, the girl became the eyes and ears for her family in understanding the labor standards in Seattle. She is now the labor law ambassador in her family and can help communicate minimum wage, paid sick and safe time, wage theft and fair chance rights to her family.

COEF Partners talking outside


21 Progress

A year ago, 21 Progress met a recently graduated college student named Gabby when they presented a workshop called "Tales of a Young Worker". Despite coming from a union family and being a part of the union herself, Gabby never saw herself in the fight for economic justice. While attending the workshop, for the first time Gabby was exposed to Seattle labor rights and examined her own experience as a worker; the experience opened her eyes to the need for greater advocacy and protection. Gabby started to get involved with 21 Progress' other leadership programming, continuing to sharpen her skills and defining her purpose. Within one year, Gabby has become a labor advocate and dedicated community organizer. She works as a barista, volunteers regularly with UNITE HERE, is on the board of APALA, and continues to serve as a Young Worker Leader for 21 Progress. Gabby has trained and supported over 50 young workers and increased the visibility of young POC labor advocates in the community creating impactful change.   

Fair Work Center

In situations where immediate intervention with the employer might make a difference, Fair Work Center (FWC) issues "education letters." We send a letter to the employer alerting them to legal protections they might be unaware of and how those protections relate to decisions they are about to make. These are not "demand" letters since they are not asking for a remedy on behalf of a client, but rather alerting them to the law. One success of using these letters occurred when FWC received a call from a maintenance employee who disclosed his HIV positive status on a health insurance form. The employer then demanded that the employee provide a doctor's statement releasing him to work and setting out the accommodation he needs. We sent the employer a letter alerting them to the legal implications of their current course. The employer withdrew its demand and paid the employee back wages for the time he was off work.  

Casa Latina

We have been able to see that overtime pay is commonly misunderstood. We have one case right now with a woman who initially came to us because she hadn't been paid three consecutive paychecks. However, once I spoke with her for a while, we realized that she also had not known what rights she had for overtime. We calculated that the business owed her an additional $11,000 for unpaid overtime in the previous year, though she never even realized that abuse was happening.

West African Community Council   

West African Community Council (WACC) is a volunteer non-profit with one paid staff person who is partly funded through the COEF.  WACC is beginning labor standards outreach this year community members from over 14 West African countries. A hair dresser learned about her worker rights after a meeting with WACC and addressed it with her employer. The employer adjusted her hourly pay to the minimum wage and gave her an additional bonus that she didn't have before.  

ROC Seattle

When Restaurant Opportunity Center (ROC) spoke to a Seattle I-Hop worker at a Fair Chance Employment tabling event, the worker was shocked to learn that the Secure Scheduling Ordinance requires a 14-day advance notice, it was unheard of in his experience in the restaurant industry. He immediately joined ROC-Seattle as a member and is very interested in attending a KYR training and sharing information with his coworkers.  

LGBTQ Allyship

We had a one-on-one conversation with a female queer restaurant worker. She conveyed that she was being sexually harassed by a male customer. He was asking her out on dates, calling her phone, texting etc. She communicated her concern and discomfort she was experiencing at work because of this sexually harassing customer and her male boss told her that comes with the territory. Her quality of life deteriorated to the point of almost breaking up with her girlfriend. Eventually, she quit her job. This is not the first time this female chef has been sexually harassed or discriminated on the job. But it is the first time she has considered filing a complaint and defending her worker rights. I also spoke to her about the Secure Scheduling labor standard. She was not aware of her rights around this and has experienced clopening in past jobs.