Photo from Ramon Ramirez
I think that the Oregon Coalition to Stop Wage Theft ran a great lobby day today and put together great testimony for the legislative hearing held on the three bills being moved forward by the Coalition. The Coalition's testimony was convincing and took up the full complexities involved, and the lobbying effort was well-organized and, I hope, effective. We need to thank the Northwest Workers' Justice Project, the Coalition, the workers who stepped up, the Catholic Archdiocese and the attorneys and unions involved.
Besides hearing both sides present their cases in a legislative hearing today, I also had the opportunity to attend small-group meetings with Representatives Nosse and Barker about the bills supported by the Coalition. Nosse got what we're after right away and had some context for the bills and pointed out where there may be difficulties. Barker seemed to understand the underlying concepts, quickly grasped the importance of the bills and seemed good with the concepts and goals, drawing on his past experience representing cops in collective bargaining.
The three bills---HB 2169, 2180 and 2181---will make it much easier for workers victimized by wage theft to move their cases forward and win if they pass as currently written and amended by the attorneys working with the Coalition. Today we heard great arguments from these attorneys, and especially from Michael Dale, and from workers with first-person experience as victims of wage theft and from the Catholic Archdiocese of Portland. I know that I'm in the right room when PCUN leader Ramon Ramirez, Michael Dale, Corinna Spencer-Scheurich, carpenters' union activists fighting the exploitation of the second economy, Latino/a activists and peoples' lawyers and others are there.
The opposition to the bills comes primarily from Associated Oregon Industries, the restaurant owners and the National Federation of Independent Business. Their arguments are the same on wage theft as they are on almost everything else: they object to regulations, they argue that employers and workers are equal before the courts and they claim that laws already give workers enough protections. They are "uneasy" with extending more rights to workers through the legislative process and "tying judge's hands."
There is no equality between workers and employers in the courts or anywhere else; the employer-worker relationship and the rights given to property over people in the U.S. sees to that.
HB 2169, 2180 and 2181, as currently put together by the Coalition, are small and necessary steps for some measure of justice. If you have some time and energy, please contact the Coalition and volunteer, get the word out, use the materials provided to contact legislators or fill out one of the cool cards provided by the Coalition to contact a legislator. Locally, please give a gentle push to Paul Evans, Teresa Alonso Leon and Peter Courtney. I'm sure that they are on board, but it will only help if you contact them and tell them to support HB 2169, 2180 and 2181.
Photo from Protect Oregon Workers