Workers in Los Angeles lose $1.4 billion each year to wage theft. Statewide, the loss is even more staggering. As a result of these injustices, working people and their families in low-wage jobs, a majority of whom are immigrants and/or people of color, face food insecurity, experience health problems, and endure unfit housing conditions. To address this, KIWA integrates worker organizing and leadership development with policy change. In doing so we are building power in our communities to challenge these conditions and the policies that tolerate and perpetuate them.
After Los Angeles passed the $15 minimum wage increase, so did many other municipalities in L.A. County. Because KIWA was a key advocate in the campaign to not only raise the minimum wage, but enforce it, we have been contracted by the City of Los Angeles, the City of Santa Monica, and Los Angeles County to conduct outreach and education around the new minimum wage law and its provisions to both workers and employers. With KIWA organizers and members on the streets in L.A., Santa Monica, and unincorporated Los Angeles County, low-wage workers in the region will have the knowledge and resources they need to fight for dignity and respect in the workplace.
A Fair Day’s Pay
Wage theft is not only robbing workers of their paychecks. It is robbing them of their health, their homes, their food security, and their peace of mind–it robs families of their dreams. In California, we have the opportunity to start to turn that around. In 2015, KIWA co-sponsored SB 588 (De León) “A Fair Day’s Pay” with SEIU California and the Wage Justice Center, to give workers more tools to collect from deadbeat employers. With these allies and others including USWW, Maintenance Cooperation Trust Fund, and UCLA Labor Center, we together wrote the bill and fought for several years to pass it, building a statewide coalition of over 60 organizations. On October 11, 2015 Governor Jerry Brown signed SB 588 into law. SB 588 will crack down on employers who, for decades, have been stealing wages from workers’ paychecks. This is a landmark victory that will allow workers and their families to recover millions of dollars in wages that was stolen from them. Now KIWA is conducting outreach to ensure that workers and employers are aware of the new collection and enforcement tools created by this law.
KIWA was on the steering committee of this groundbreaking campaign for economic dignity in Los Angeles City and County: a $15/hour minimum wage, effective enforcement against wage theft, and earned sick days. Our work on this campaign stems from our role as an anchor organization of the Los Angeles Coalition Against Wage Theft. KIWA and allies including CLEAN Carwash, ROC-LA, the UCLA Labor Center, and many more have been advocating for smart, effective citywide policies that will impose greater penalties on employers who rob workers of their wages. Unethical employers devastate the families and communities of Los Angeles, and make it harder for honest businesses to survive. Now, by joining with efforts for a higher minimum wage and earned sick days, we and our partners on this campaign are bringing Angelenos together around a far-reaching platform for justice and equity in Los Angeles.
Worker Empowerment Clinic: KIWA provides information on labor law and assists workers who have experienced wage theft to advocate for themselves. Each year, we provide information to thousands of low-wage workers and assist workers in filing millions of dollars in wage claims. Our Workers Empowerment Clinic is every Thursday starting at 10am. We accept all walk-ins. For more on wage theft, click here.
Employer education programs: In addition to workers, KIWA is partnering with the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement, the U.S. Department of Labor, local business owners, and Koreatown business associations to provide information on labor laws, so that principled and committed employers can get the information they need. Our seminar for Korean-speaking business owners was endorsed by the Korean American Chamber of Commerce-Los Angeles.
Along with this work, we conduct outreach and education to workers, allies, and employers. Our priority is to integrate policy advocacy efforts with immigrant worker organizing.