MLK’s Forgotten Employee Rights Legacy

Today marks the celebration and legacy Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as a national hero. Among the many remembrances held today, notably The White House and here in Seattle, a tone of income inequality appears prominent in the hearts and minds of followers. In observing the holiday, President Obama visited a soup kitchen several miles from the capital while U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison echoed Martin Luther King’s fight against income inequality as related to current minimum wages. Though Dr. King is not often remembered for his advocacy of labor and employee rights, the latter part of his life marked a shift towards these causes. On the day that he was assassinated, Dr. King was in Memphis to support local 1733 sanitation workers union on strike.

Some scholars believe Dr. King’s shifted attention to employee rights was the influence of earlier African-American civil-rights leaders such as A. Phillip Randolph.  Randolph’s public support for the rights of African-American Porters of the Pullman Train Company known as the Pullman Porters, evidenced Randolph’s belief that “what good is the right to go to the theatre if you can’t afford the ticket.”

For additional commentary on Dr. Martin Luther King’s economic legacy, visit The National Library of Congress.

New House Bill Aimed at Protecting Workers Against Wage Theft

Yesterday, advocates for labor groups testified before the Washington State Legislature offering a proposal to triple the amount of damages for employers violating wage and hour laws.

Dubbed “Wage Theft” by advocates, the denial of rest breaks, the withholding of pay, and unlawful deductions have increased legal attention for low-income workers.

Currently, the amount of damages a worker is owed may be double under federal law for the amount of the violation.  However, the new State bill HB2332 would increase damages to “plus twice” the amount of “wages unlawfully rebated…” under State law.

These bills and others throughout the United States mark a growing effort by labor groups to protect workers rights and fair wages.

David & Goliath

October 1st marks the launch of Malcolm Gladwell’s latest in a series of groundbreaking books. Previous titles have included The Tipping Point, Blink, and Outliers.  His books have explored theories from the way in which an idea takes hold in society to the power of intuition over prolonged thought to the 10,000 hours required for a person to become an expert in his or her chosen field.

His latest title explores the nature of underdogs as illustrated through various David & Goliath real world examples.  This narrative is of particular interest for attorneys. Whether it be the lone defense attorney defending his client against the weight of the state, the employment rights attorney against a regiment of in-house counsel or the solo attorney buried in volumes of discovery.