Understanding the Needs of Precarious Workers in Tacoma


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Problems with violations of various labor standards, including local wage and leave policies, are part of a general, and potentially increasing phenomenon of ‘precarious employment.’ Precarity is a multifaceted concept that includes inadequate benefits, social protections, work hazards, as well as the exploitation of workers from ‘vulnerable populations,’ including those with limited economic and social power. Precarious workers may be exploited and are less likely to either complain to authorities, or take actions to protect themselves. Because many precariously employed workers are in the informal sector, they may not be well represented in official labor statistics. To build a more effective employment standards education and enforcement program and to support Tacoma 2025’s goals to reduce poverty and increase housing stability throughout Tacoma, students will explore the working conditions and needs of vulnerable working populations within the city. In the Spring of 2018, the City of Tacoma’s Employment Standards Office (ESO) contracted with Livable City Year (LCY) to investigate how precarious workers in Tacoma engage with two local ordinances: 1) Minimum Wage and 2) Paid Sick Leave. Despite extensive community outreach efforts in the past, including: electronic and mail notifications, partnerships with community organizations and local businesses, television and radio
public service announcements, and more than 70 public presentations, offered in multiple languages (an attempt to reach the 19.2% of Tacoma’s population who speak a non-English language) (US Census 2010), the City’s Employment Standards Office generally receives few complaints of violations to these ordinances. Yet, ESO suspects that certain populations of workers— precariously employed workers— likely experience violations of their rights. ESO believes that these workers fail to report violations for a variety of reasons, including fear of retaliation and discrimination.

Read the final student report delivered to the local gov/community partner.

Livable City Year Contact Info
Teri Thomson Randall
Program Manager

University Faculty Contact
Noah Seixas
Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences

Local Government / Community Contact
Sergio Flores

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