Resolved Misclassification of Summer Program Staff
A COWC member who attended our Know Your Rights session in October realized that he and his co-workers of a local summer program in 2014 were not correctly classified. Misclassification is a common practice of employers to classify workers as “independent contractors” rather than “employees”. Independent contractors are meant to be more autonomous in their work, set their own schedule, etc. When classified as independent contractors, workers are not guaranteed an hourly wage, overtime, and other protections. The workers of this summer program had to follow strict guidelines and be present at specific hours; meaning they were operating as regular employees.
A representative of COWC asked to meet with the directors of the program and expressed concern about this misclassification. The directors listened and for this year’s (2015) summer program, all workers were properly classified.
Investigating Restaurant Wage Theft
COWC has recently been notified of a local establishment that is participating in wage theft. This restaurant is avoiding paying workers all of what they are owed by not paying the mandated overtime (time and a half) rate to workers working over 40 hours per week. By doing this, the restaurant is stealing the extra “half” per hour that should be paid to the workers.
COWC is working with a small group of restaurant workers to organize and stop wage theft at their workplace. We will keep you updated on this case as events unfold.
Spoke in Support of Paid Sick Days with OH Senator Sherrod Brown
A COWC member and restaurant worker was asked to speak during a press conference with Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown in support of the Healthy Families Act which would extend paid sick leave to all workers. That workers should have to choose between a day's pay, their health, the health of their coworkers, and even their customers is an injustice that COW stands against.
The press conference was attended by many Ohio media outlets and gained circulation in the Sandusky Register,LimaOhio.com, Logan Daily News, Sidney Daily News, and Galion Inquirer.
Civic Engagement with Immigrant/Refugee Communities
On February and July 2015, COWC partnered Community Refugee and Immigration Services (CRIS) and the Bhutanese/Nepali Community of Columbus (BNCC) to host and facilitate trainings, workshops, and strategy sessions of refugees and immigrants for civic engagement. This is the first effort for intentional collaboration of the refugee and immigrant communities in Columbus to begin organizing around shared issues. Specifically, issues of Housing, Language & Culture, and Employment/Wage Theft were discussed and work has begun to start organizing locally around these issues.
Hosted Youth Know Your Rights Session
On July 27 2015, COWC hosted a Know Your Rights in the workplace presentation with a small group of high school students in the Freedom School Program. Freedom School is a summer literacy program rooted in social justice and empowerment. Youth were educated on basic workplace rights as well as rights specifically extended to minors (ages 14-17) in the state of Ohio. Youth outreach will continue to be crucial to our work, as we must cultivate youth that are knowledgeable about the rights they have and know the means to exercise them.
Initiating Franklin County Municipal ID Campaign
COWC is proud to be partnering with Building Responsibility, Equality and Dignity (BREAD) in a campaign to obtain Municipal Identification cards available to everyone in Franklin County. A city-wide recognized form of identification has been established in many cities across the country and has great benefits for immigrants, refugees, and other members of the community. We are in the beginning phases of urging Columbus City Council to adopt a measure to establish Municipal ID’s available for anyone in Franklin County.
May Day 2015
On May 1st 2015, over 200 workers and allies celebrated the Worker Center’s annual International Workers Day (“May Day”) event voicing the call to “RAI$E COLUMBUS” by lifting up workers here in the city. For the past 3 years, a coalition which ultimately evolved into the Central Ohio Worker Center has organized a May Day event celebrating the collective strength of workers. This year was the biggest yet as we gathered in Goodale Park, marched through the Short North during happy hour to bring attention to the cooks, servers, bussers, and dishwashers that make our meals possible. Afterward, we hosted a cookout at Goodale Park for all to enjoy a meal and community.
Lobbied with Working America on Ohio Minimum Wage Increase
On April 21 2015, COWC partnered with Working America to urge Ohio legislators to stand up for workers by supporting an increased minimum wage. Senator Keny Yuko has proposed a minimum wage of $10.10 in the state of Ohio. We met with legislators in support of this bill as a good step towards worker justice. With the national movement for increasing the minimum wage, from $15/hr in Seattle to a $15 minimum wage for fast food workers in New York, we will apply pressure where it is needed - including the Ohio Statehouse - to improve the lives of working families.
Somos 43 Caravan Community Partner
On April 15 2015, COWC was proud to be the community partner working the the Ohio State Multicultural Center and student organizations like the Latino Student Association in hosting family members of the 43 students that went missing from Ayotzinapa in September 2014. We helped host a presentation in which family members shared their story followed by a candlelight vigil to honor the 43 students and all victims of national corruption and state violence in Mexico.
Honored Dr. Martin Luther King Day by standing for worker justice
On January 18 2015, COWC heard that Wal-Mart and Wendy’s were big corporate sponsors for the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday Breakfast. Both corporations are standing in the way of worker dignity: Wendy’s has refused to support farmworkers in their supply chain and Wal-Mart - the nation’s largest and wealthiest employer - denies workers living wages, fair hours, and healthcare. Knowing that Dr. King was a strong supporter of worker rights, COWC quickly mobilized to hold Wal-Mart and Wendy’s accountable to Dr. King’s legacy.
COWC brought together a coalition of groups, including OurWalmart, Ohio Fair Food, Ohio AFL-CIO, Central Ohio Labor Council, SEIU Local 1, Jobs With Justice, Ohio Education Association, International Postal Workers, Capital Crushers, Communication Workers of America, 15Now Columbus, UFCW Local 1059, Columbus Coalition for Responsive Government, and OCSEA (AFSME) and organized a presence outside of the event handing out leaflets to participants informing them of Wal-Mart and Wendy’s worker issues. We let Wal-Mart and Wendy’s know that they cannot support community events honoring Dr. King without being held accountable to his vision of worker justice.
Helped organize Ohio premiere of “Food Chains” for farmworker justice
On December 4 2014, COWC partnered with Ohio Fair Food to organize a movie screening of the documentary "Food Chains"; an expose into farm labor focusing specifically on the work of the CIW. We helped turn out over 225 attendees to learn about farmworker injustice, solutions such as the Fair Food Program, and the Wendy's campaign. The event also served as a fundraiser for Ohio Fair Food with COWC acting as the fiscal agent to help fund future events/protests for the Wendy's campaign.
Ohio Fair Food is a close partner of COWC who organize for farmworker justice with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW). The CIW wins gains for farmworkers in the Florida tomato industry through the Fair Food Program, a partnership of 13 large corporations agreeing to pay a penny more per pound of tomatoes they pick and only buy from farms upholding worker rights. Ohio Fair Food has been leading the campaign to have Ohio-based Wendy’s join the Fair Food Program.
Information Session on President Obama’s Executive Action on Immigration
On November 20th 2014, President Obama announced that he would use his executive authority to provide relief for immigrants. COWC rapidly organized an immigrant/worker led vigil and a “live watch” of the President’s announcement. The event was held at La Plaza Tapatia Restaurant/Market near the Westland Mall. Over 60 people showed up. All three local local media outlets, the Latino media and the Dispatch turned out, The event and COWC got a front page story and picture in the November 21, 2014 issue of the Columbus Dispatch.
Community attendees at the "live watch" identified the need for clear, accurate information about Executive Action, who this will impact, and how to prepare. On December 14 2014, COWC hosted an information session conducted by Cleveland immigration attorney Melissa Laubenthal about what details are known about Obama’s Executive Action and what the immigrant community can do now to prepare. Other local immigration attorneys working with COWC were present to field questions from participants.
Deportation of Ángel Bustos Prevented
On October 27 2014, Ángel Bustos was taken into custody by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement). His attorney reached out to COWC to quickly organize community support for his release. While Ángel sat in a detention center, over 600 supporters signed a petition to release him and we activated a phone campaign to the local ICE office to request his release. Signatures were delivered to the ICE office by his family and about 20 COWC allies rallied in solidarity. On November 19, Ángel returned to his family. While Ángel’s legal case is not over, we are so happy that his family is reunited.
Know Your Rights Sessions - October
On October 22 & 23 2014 COWC partnered with students from the Moritz College of Law of The Ohio State University hosted two “Know Your Rights” sessions at Parkview United Methodist Church, on the west side of Columbus. One focused on worker rights, and the other on immigrant rights. Over 60 people attended the two sessions. Many workers and potential members came forth and are interested in becoming a part of COWC.
Deportation of Marinela Martinez Prevented
In August 2014, the Central Ohio Worker Center was contacted by the family of Marinela Martinez-Magana; a Salvadoran immigrant living in Ohio since 2004 with 3 small children: Alan 8, Matthew 3, & Vanessa - all born in Columbus, Ohio. Marinela stopped and arrested on her way home from a teacher/parent orientation for her son's school. Marinela came to the United States from El Salvador in 2004 when she was 17, fleeing death threats her family received as a result of the Salvadoran Civil War.
COWC quickly mobilized, getting hundreds to call in to the local ICE office to request Marinela’s release and getting her story covered by local media outlets. Within a week, Marinela was released and reunited with her family.