This is the third part in our series, “Voices of the People’s Budget.” On the evening of October 30th, labor leaders, community organizers, social service providers, and engaged citizens came together for a People’s Budget Town Hall. Here they shared their concerns about the Mayor’s business as usual budget and began a conversation about what is necessary to make Seattle affordable for all.
Cariño Barragan Taloncon, Casa Latina
Transcript of Speech as Delivered
Hi my name is Cariño Barragan Taloncon, and I will outline three different topics for which we at Casa Latina are fighting for. Even though they are issues that affect our community, they are also issues that affect a broader community. So this year we worked on an advisory committee for the creation of an Office of Labor Standards, and we will be the second city in the country that will finally have an Office of Labor Standards.
We believe that Seattle needs an Office of Labor Standards that is closer to or even larger than what San Francisco already has. Their budget is $3.7 million, and even within that budget, currently, the Office does not have the capacity to do audits, and they do not follow up on cases where there were complaints. They are merely a complaint-driven process.
We believe that the Office should have the capacity to do targeted investigations, as well as the audits. We believe that the $500,000 increase that the City is budgeting for this office, and the $300,000 for community contracts that the Council already supports is a good start for the first year, but strongly believe that it should be more, or at least at a three million dollar level in order to be more adequately enforcing the Seattle labor laws and do worker rights outreach: education, outreach, investigations, audits, and to target particular industries who tend to violate the laws at higher rates.
Additionally, the number of investigators within the office should be increased. As is, the budget will only be funding 2.5 investigators. San Francisco has about 18 staff members, and the majority of whom do investigations. Yet it is still not enough. There is still wage theft and labor violations [being regularly committed] in San Francisco. In order to make a dent on this crisis of wage theft and prevent violations of paid sick and save time, and the new minimum wage, we need a strong Office of Labor Standards.
The other topic is around immigration issues. We believe that the budget should include funding for adequate education of city staff and the community about the city policy of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” in regards to immigration status. We hear reports of rogue police officers or other uninformed police officers who take it upon themselves to call immigration officials when they come upon an immigrant. This is creating a fear within the community. And so there is a need for outreach and a need to create relationships with the immigrant community so that communities feel safe reporting problems and crimes within our communities.
A lot of times the community can’t tell the difference between police and immigration officials, and they believe that any kind of contact with the police will end in deportation—so even when there’s domestic violence or other kinds of crimes occurring in the communities, they don’t feel comfortable talking to the police.
Finally, to integrate immigrants fully in our community, we need to invest as a community in ESL classes, more expanded ESL classes, and interpretation services, as well as job training. And just one additional point: of course, we’ll want to continue to work with all of you, as well as City Councilmembers and the Mayor, to keep these making gains on these issues. Thank you.