Governments should create partnership with unions, worker centers, and other worker organizations to enforce labor standards and proactively address issues in the work environment. A partnership with a government agency can play a legitimizing role for a worker organization, encouraging workers to take the organization more seriously and encourage support for collective organizing.
The California Labor Commissioner’s Office (LCO), also known as the Department of Labor Standards Enforcement, has engaged in a multi-year pilot, the California Strategic Enforcement Partnership program, in which a foundation has funded community-based worker organizations to partner with the LCO in the enforcement of labor laws. Specifically, the Bureau of Field Enforcement (BOFE) conducts proactive, worksite-wide, strategic, and targeted wage theft investigations and coordinates closely on “strategic cases” with the Legal, Judgement Enforcement, and Retaliation units to bolster case strategy and collect unpaid wages.
Since 2012, the Workers Defense Project (WDP) in Texas has raised the wages and safety standards for more than 19,000 construction workers. WDP has partnered with local government to incentivize participation in WDP’s Better Builder Program, which establishes a certification process based on employer compliance with wage and salary, health and safety, benefits, and skills training standards.