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Seattle wants to raise awareness about domestic workers' rights

Seattle was the first in the U.S. to adopt a domestic workers' bill of rights. Four years later, the city is taking steps to raise more awareness about the law.

SEATTLE — Domestic workers like nannies, house cleaners, gardeners, and cooks became the focus of legislation in Seattle in 2018. The city was the first in the United States to adopt a domestic workers bill of rights.

Now, four years later, the city is announcing funding to raise awareness about the law.

In the last seven years, the city of Seattle has been able to settle nearly a thousand cases where employers agreed to pay wages owed to their workers at a total of more than $24 million. That happened, in part, because of the work at the Office of Labor Standards where Steve Marchese is the Director.

"We actually are just closing the first case, first settlement regarding domestic workers,” said Marchese.

Marchese plans to deliver more details about that settlement next month.

This week, the Office of Labor Standards announced one-time funding available to organizations in the Seattle area that can do the outreach and help domestic workers understand their rights. The $250,000 for domestic worker community organizing will be used for up to eight projects. Nonprofit organizations and grassroots groups that have fiscal sponsorship with a nonprofit organization can apply for funding.

At Casa Latina, Cariño Barragán, the Co-Executive Director of Education and Community Organizing, sees a need for the funding.

"The majority of workers still don't know what their rights are. Because it's the conditions under which they work, right. It's isolated. It's very just one on one,” said Barragán.

The Domestic Workers Bill of Rights includes minimum wage, rest break, and meal break rights.

"Around 33,000 is the estimate of workers that are impacted by this type of legislation,” said Barragán.

Now the focus is on making sure all those workers know their rights.

"Because we know things are going on, but they're not getting reported. And so, we want to make sure that folks know what they can ask for, what they can expect,” said Marchese.

Danielle Alvarado, Executive Director of Working Washington released this statement about the funding:

"Domestic workers are extremely isolated on the job, which can lead to frequent violations of their rights—and we know domestic workers of color are especially likely to face these labor rights violations. That’s why workers of color called on the City Council to deliver this additional funding, which will enable community-based organizations to conduct widespread Know Your Rights outreach and serve as a trusted bridge between workers of color and government. The money reflects a deep commitment from City leaders to make sure the most marginalized workers in our city are truly protected by our nation-leading labor standards. We're ready to expand our education work among domestic workers with these resources."

The Office of Labor Standards is accepting applications for funding up until Monday, July 11 at 5:00PM PDT.

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