Workplace Justice

WDP assists thousands of low-wage workers a year in addressing serious workplace issues by:

  • Educating and training workers’ and small employers on employment issues (basic rights, safety, discrimination, and the Family Medical Leave Act) so that they increase their potential to find better employment opportunities
  • Recovering back wages for workers who have been denied payment for their work
  • Assisting injured workers receive medical attention and compensation

WDP has recovered over $620,000 in back wages for nearly 600 low-wage workers, that has allowed them to better provide for themselves and their families. Each year WDP educates 2,500 workers about their employment rights through weekly trainings. Additionally, the organization reaches low-wage workers through innovative media partnerships with Spanish language media and by running informative ads on public businesses.

Wage Theft:

WDP works with low-income workers to ensure dignified treatment in the workplace by recovering back wages, ensuring access to medical care for injured workers, and empowering them to advocate for themselves through WDP’s innovative education and leadership classes. Each year, WDP receives hundreds of cases from low-income workers in Austin who have worked in construction, cleaning, landscaping, childcare, and food service, all of whom were denied payment for their work, or not paid the legal minimum wage or overtime.

This program works to address an under-reported, and largely unknown phenomenon. The non-payment of wages is an especially common occurrence for low-wage workers; 82% of domestic workers do not receive overtime[1] and in Austin one in five construction workers are denied payment for their work, resulting in 47% being unable to meet their basic needs.[2] The non-payment of wages affects the quality of life of working families, who are forced to face unplanned economic hardships when employers refuse to pay them, including 12% of Austin construction workers who lost their homes or were evicted as a result.[3]

The program operates by assisting low-income workers in negotiating with employers, legal representation, and filing claims with local and state agencies. Each week WDP receives cases from low-income workers affected by serious workplace abuses at its “Workers Rights Meeting.” At these meetings workers are 1) informed about their rights; 2) paired with a Workers’ Rights Advocate to review their case; and 3) referred to a state agency or have their case represented by their own WDP attorney or advocate who will negotiate directly with their employer or take legal action to resolve the case.

Workforce Development

Under the Workplace Justice Program WDP  trains thousands of low-income and immigrant workers a year about their workplace rights, provides OSHA-10 hour safety trainings for construction workers, and conducts small contractor “Best Practices” trainings so that they can help their businesses prosper.

[1] Workplace Conditions of Domestic Workers in Montgomery County, Maryland 5/10/2006
Cox, Lauren, & Timm, Emily, Building Austin, Building Injustice: Working Conditions in Austin’s Construction Industry: Workers Defense Project and the Division of Diversity of Community Engagement of the University of Texas, June 2009