From its inception, Local Progress has been proudly pro-worker, because we believe that local elected officials can provide transformative leadership to support and empower working people in their communities. We have partnered with the Harvard Labor & Worklife Program to pilot this approximately monthly newsletter to share and celebrate innovative local workers’ rights policies that have been proposed and/or enacted across the country—and have included links to those policies where possible.
Improving Conditions For Public Employees Working For Local Government: Living Wage, Parental Leave, Collective Bargaining
➡ Austin, Travis County, and Austin Community College Raises Wages of Employees to $20/hour: Led by Local Progress Member Vanessa Fuentes, the Austin City Council passed a budget that will increase the city employee wage to a living wage of $20/hour in October. This remarkable 33% increase over the current minimum wage is crucial to ensure that city employees can live in the city they work for. Local Progress members raised wages elsewhere in Texas too: Travis County Judge Andy Brown and Austin Community College Trustee Stephanie Gharakhanian helped ensure a $20 minimum wage for Travis County and Austin Community College employees respectively. Click here to view the passed budget for Austin, here for Travis County, and here for Austin Community College.
➡ Waco, TX Adds Six Weeks of Parental Leave for City Employees– Regardless of Gender or Parental Status: Local Progress Member Kelly Palmer has worked to secure funding during the recent budget process to provide paid parental leave for all Waco city employees, regardless of the parent’s gender and regardless of whether the parent is an adoptive, foster, or biological parent. Click here for more details on the Waco budget.
➡Richmond, VA Reached Agreement on Collective Bargaining Ordinance For City Employees: The Richmond City Council and the Mayor reached an agreement and passed a collective bargaining ordinance that would permit city employees to collectively bargain, joining five other localities in Virginia. This agreement follows from the Virginia state legislature lifting a long-time ban on public sector unionizing in 2020. Click here to view the ordinance.
🔎 New Laws And Policies Applicable To Most/All Employers: Contractor Transparency, Earned Sick Leave, Inflation-Adjusted Minimum Wage, and More
➡ San Diego, CA Passes Stricter Contractor Transparency Rules To Fight Wage Theft: The San Diego City Council passed a law that requires their larger city contractors to disclose information regarding their workers’ compensation policy numbers, state contractor licenses, city business licenses and any labor enforcement actions against the contractor. Additionally, the city is empowered to issue a stop-work order if disclosures are incomplete. These transparency measures will make it easier for the city to enforce their wage theft provisions. Click here to view the Contractor Transparency Amendment.
➡ Bloomington, MN Requires Sick Leave for Private Business Employees: The City Council in Bloomington, where the Mall of America is located, unanimously passed an ordinance that would require private businesses to ensure their employees who work at least 80 hours/year in Bloomington to accrue sick leave. If the business has over 5 employees, the leave must be paid. This will help ensure that individuals in Bloomington can address their own and their families’ health needs. Click here to view the ordinance.
Denver, CO Minimum Wage Set to Increase to Over $17: Denver’s inflation-adjusted minimum wage will increase to $17.29 in 2023, a significant increase over the current minimum wage of $15.87—highlighting the importance of having minimum wages be inflation-adjusted. Click here to see Denver’s inflation-adjusted minimum wage ordinance.
Cities in California Newly Empowered to Create Fast Food Councils to Improve Conditions for Fast Food Workers: The California State Legislature passed the Fast Food Accountability and Standards Recovery Act which would create a state council to improve working conditions for fast food workers by issuing regulations on wages, working conditions, trainings, and more. Crucially, the law—which was signed by the governor on Labor Day— empowers cities with populations over 200,000 to create local councils that could then offer recommendations to the state council. Click here to view the bill.
Cleveland, OH City Council Using ARPA Money to Support Childhood Education Workers: Cleveland City Council approved $2.7 of ARPA funding to go towards signing and retention bonuses for early childhood education workers.29
⚒ Pro-Worker Exercise Of Executive Power: New City Office And Shareholder Pressure
➡ New York City, NY’s Comptroller’s Office Using Its Leverage as a Stockholder to Place Pressure on Apple and Starbucks: New York City’s Retirement Systems, managed by NYC Comptroller and Local Progress Member Brad Lander, holds shares in Starbucks ($155 million worth) and Apple ($3.4 billion worth). They are calling on both companies to perform an independent audit regarding whether they have violated any labor laws and regulations.
➡ Boston, MA Mayor’s Office Announces New Cabinet for Worker Empowerment: Mayor Michelle Wu announced the creation of the Cabinet for Worker Empowerment. Crucially, the Cabinet will centralize the city’s efforts to implement the Boston Green New Deal, regulating workplace conditions, and expanding economic opportunities for workers.
💥 Enforcement Activity by Local Agencies
➡ San Diego, CA Creates Wage Claim Dashboard: The San Diego Office of Labor Standards and Enforcement created a wage claim judgments dashboard where it lists all outstanding wage cases where the state labor commissioner’s office has found unpaid wages originating from their San Diego office. The data will assist in public policy decision making and will also help hold employers publicly accountable.
➡ New York City, NY’s Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP) Enforcement Actions Against Starbucks and Chipotle: The city’s DCWP is suing Starbucks under the city’s Just Cause ordinance over the wrongful termination of a barista. Additionally, the DCWP recently settled with Chipotle for $20 million for violations of employees’ right to predictable schedules and paid sick leave under NYC law.
➡ Santa Clara, CA Fighting Wage Theft by Expanding Food Permit Wage Theft Enforcement Program: The County of Santa Clara is expanding its Food Permit Wage Theft Enforcement Program, which is aimed at collecting owed wages for food workers. In this program, the County imposes permitting consequences, including potentially suspension, on restaurants with outstanding unpaid wages based on state labor commissioner orders.
➡ Seattle Office of Labor Standards (OLS) Actively Enforcing Workers’ Rights: Seattle’s OLS is empowering workers by holding employers accountable for violations under Seattle law. In the last two months alone, the OLS has recovered over a million dollars in wages for workers: a $380K settlement with pawnbroker over wage theft and minimum wage; a $410K settlement with pizza restaurant over failure to disclose whether “service fees” went to workers; a $370K settlement with a Residence Inn and a staffing agency based on violations of hotel-specific city ordinances addressing workload, healthcare obligations, and more; a $57K settlement with two 7-11 stores based on wage theft and paid sick leave violations; and an informal settlement with clothing outfitter Patagonia over fair scheduling violations.
➡ Philadelphia Office of Worker Protections (OWP) Partnering with Community Organizations on Labor Law Enforcement: In a helpful example of how city agencies can advance workers’ rights by partnering with and supporting community organizations, Philadelphia’s OWP launched a Community Outreach and Education Fund. This will grant over $16,000 for up to 14 organizations to collaborate with the office on worker protection outreach.
🧩 Works In Progress: Proposed Legislation On Workers’ Rights Issues
➡ New York City, NY Contemplating Bill That Would Cause Fast Food Companies That Repeatedly Violate Workers’ Rights to Lose Right to Do Business: The NYC City Council is currently holding hearings on a potential bill that would prevent fast food companies from operating if they had to pay $500,000 or more over a three-year period for violations of NYC’s Fair Work Week Law.
We are eager to hear from you! Since this round up is a pilot effort, let us know your thoughts over the next few months. If you’re inspired by something in this newsletter, let us know! We are eager to share your wins! Please share any new policies, bills, campaigns, guidance, enforcement, or public actions that advance workers’ rights at the local level. You can submit to the round up by emailing Vishal Reddy at email@example.com.