The Power of Focus and Persistence

The Power of Focus and Persistence

EBASE recently shared a powerful story about 128 hotel workers receiving over $400,000 in back wages in a recent workers’ rights decision. This win is a testament to their ongoing dedication and is a clear example of the work SFF supports in alignment with our equity agenda. It makes a tangible difference in people’s lives.

EBASE uses all its tools to win change. It worked with SFF grantees like Mujeres Unidas y Activas (MUA) and partners in the Fair Labor Oakland collaborative to organize around and win a policy change. It then stayed focused on successful implementation. In 2018, SFF provided funds to EBASE to organize, campaign, and win Oakland’s Measure Z ballot measure, which set new workload and wage standards for hospitality workers and established a new city Department dedicated to workers’ rights. Since then, SFF has invested in EBASE’s work to conduct outreach with workers and to partner with the City of Oakland to establish, fund, and staff the department.  “Advocates know sometimes much more than we do at the city what is going on in the workplace” noted DWES Director Emylene Aspilla in the East Bay Times, “They’re critical partners for us — often the eyes and ears for workers.”

“This win for low-wage workers demonstrates the benefits of long-term, sustained investment in organizations like EBASE and MUA that build the power of directly impacted people,” said Anand Subramanian, SFF’s Senior Director, People Pathway. “It also illustrates a need to focus resources on implementation and enforcement at least as much as we do on policy campaigns.”

This comprehensive approach takes time and trust. SFF made its’ first grant on this issue in 2018. At that time, EBASE was already a long-time core partner.

A portion of EBASE’s update is excerpted below:

We are excited to share that momentum is picking up for workers rights in Oakland! You may have heard, on October 25, Oakland’s Department of Workplace and Employment Standards (DWES) announced that 128 workers at the Radisson Hotel will be receiving over $400,000 in stolen wages. This was a huge win for the hotel workers and also was a major step forward in the enforcement of local labor standards for the City of Oakland. 

EBASE is proud to not only have been a strong advocate of the ballot measure that created DWES in 2018, Measure Z, but to also have worked along with our partners at Unite HERE Local 2 (then Unite HERE Local 2850) to support workers exactly three years ago in filing complaints with the department for wage theft and numerous violations of Measure Z. This landmark determination about minimum wage violations in hotels is the third of its kind by DWES, suggesting a trend of Oakland hotels failing to be in compliance with basic minimum wage law. Radisson is now expected to pay workers back the stolen wages that they are rightfully owed.

On the heels of the largest workplace wage theft determination made in Oakland’s history, EBASE and our Fair Labor Oakland (FLO) partners hosted the third site visit that same day to hear directly from other Oakland’s low-wage workers about the mistreatment they are facing in their workplace. Site visits give an opportunity for workers to share their stories directly with DWES staff about what they are experiencing and why having strong worker protections is important for them to be able to stay in Oakland and thrive.

During this recent site visit, EBASE created the space for community partners to share their stories. Members of Mujeres Unidas y Activas (MUA), shared their experiences as domestic workers and highlighted how strong enforcement of local labor standards would make a huge difference to many low income domestic workers.

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