The Department of Labor will provide robust enforcement of a growing body of local labor laws including Fair Workweek, prevailing wage, paid sick leave and wage theft
PHILADELPHIA—Thursday, February 13, City Council passed Councilmembers Helen Gym (At-Large) and Bobby Henon (6th District)’s legislation that creates a permanent Department of Labor and Board of Labor Standards with expanded resources and staff, and improved investigatory powers. The Department would enforce new and existing City labor laws, resolve disputes between workers and employers, and issue fines and other penalties as deemed necessary. A key focus is overseeing all sexual harassment and discrimination complaints within City agencies. The law would change the City Charter, and is now up for a vote on the April 28 ballot.
In 2015, the Philadelphia metro area had 128,476 minimum wage violations, 105,458 overtime violations and 83,344 off the clock violations, according to a study by the Sheller Center for Social Justice.
The new Department of Labor would enforce a growing body of local labor laws, such as wage theft, Fair Workweek, prevailing wage, and paid sick leave. That includes investigating complaints, enforcing penalties for violations, and educating workers on their rights and employers on their responsibilities. Collective bargaining agreements of City employees would also be negotiated and administered by the Department. It would be responsible for monitoring City contracts for compliance with labor laws including wage and diversity requirements, as well as analyzing workforce data in order to identify opportunities to improve working conditions and more effectively enforce protections.
“Workers have organized to push this city towards a future where the rights of all workers are protected in every workplace,” said Councilmember Helen Gym. “I’m proud to have sponsored Fair Workweek – one of the many bills that came out of this growing movement. But laws are only as good as our power to enforce them. With a Department of Labor, and the resources that go with it, Philadelphia will balance the scales between vulnerable workers and their employers.”
“The working people of Philadelphia have always been a top priority for our administration. That is why we created the Mayor’s Office of Labor during our first term and have made continued efforts to grow and strengthen their team ever since,” said Mayor Kenney. “We are greatly appreciative of Council’s interest in the proposed charter change and look forward to working with them to make it happen. In recent years, Philadelphia has passed some of the most progressive workers’ rights legislation in the country, and it is time we ensure the office charged with enforcing those laws has a secure place within City government as the Department of Labor. We have the opportunity to cement Philadelphia’s reputation as a pro-worker city, and we cannot pass that up.”
“This charter change will allow the City to oversee and ensure that the laws we already have on the books, like paid sick leave and Fair Workweek, are enforced and upheld,” said Councilmember Bobby Henon (6th District). “A permanent Department of Labor that is given the resources and staff to succeed will tackle real issues that face working people, like the misclassification of workers, labor negotiations and the need for family and medical leave.”
“I applaud the worker protections that my colleagues on Council secured in the last term,” said Councilmember Kendra Brooks. “The creation of a properly funded Department of Labor is a necessary next step as we work to protect all our workers and ensure that Philadelphia is a city where working families thrive.”
“As someone who works in the food service industry I work with people that do not speak English, have a disability, or cannot afford to lose their job,” said Ahmad Mitchell, a line cook at Spice Finch Restaurant and member of One Pennsylvania. “We deserve to have an independent labor office… Violations of workplace labor laws like wage theft not only hurt the individual—they cause families to become food insecure, and to have to choose between necessities like food, housing or clothes.”
“Establishing a Department of Labor through Charter Change is the right way to ensure that these issues remain at the forefront of any future administration,” said Richard Lazer, Deputy Mayor for Labor. “It is the natural evolution for the Mayor’s Office of Labor and is the culmination of years of work put in by both my staff to build-out our enforcement capacity, and by City Council through the successive worker protection ordinances you have passed.”
“A Department of Labor is one step towards building an economy centered on the needs of working people in Philadelphia, where one job is enough,” said Junior Brainard, Co-President of the Faculty and Staff Federation of Community College of Philadelphia. “Too many full-time faculty take on extra work because of the burden of student debt and the rising cost of living in Philadelphia. Our students, many of whom are the most vulnerable class of laborers in the city, also deserve to graduate and move into a career where they can support their families.”
“Philadelphia has been cited, both nationally and locally, for having enacted some of the most progressive worker protections in the country,” said Samuel Jones, Director of the Restaurant Opportunities Center of Pennsylvania. “In order for the great working people of Philadelphia to reap the full benefits of this legislation, we need a fully staffed, permanent Department of Labor to oversee the two essential components to make the legislation work: education and enforcement.”
“At a time when workers are under attack, it’s not the time to retreat and fall back,” said Gabe Morgan, Vice President for 32BJ SEIU. “It’s a time to stand strong to ensure the men and women who support us in our jobs, can secure and maintain theirs. The City needs a dedicated Department of Labor.”