Outreach and Education

Work with community groups to reach underrepresented workers

Description :

The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law offers the following ideas to support DOL's goal of promoting outreach to workers from underrepresented groups. The Lawyers' Committee is a nonpartisan civil rights organization committed to combatting racial discrimination, and has a strong interest in promoting access to the DOL's services by workers of color.

DOL should partner with established community organizations in order to reach underrepresented groups. To accomplish this, DOL needs to build relationships with community groups, worker centers, faith-based groups, legal aid staff, and other social service advocates to reach workers in low-wage industries, who are overwhelmingly people of color and undocumented immigrants. DOL staff should provide direct outreach to communities which have historically been hesitant or unwilling to contact DOL, and recruit staff for outreach who are bilingual and/or represent the targeted communities. DOL staff should attend events, even when they are not invited as speakers, in order to be become known as an available resource in the community. Significantly, all community education and outreach should repeat assurances regarding the ability to complain regardless of immigration status, anonymously, and the availability of retaliation protections.

DOL should use public service announcements, billboards, articles in local newspapers, targeted social media campaigns, and advertising on mass transit to publicize information about workers' rights and DOL's services. DOL should also seek to conduct outreach at places where workers congregate, such as flea markets, laundromats, community events, and grocery stores.

DOL needs to use materials and presentations that employ plain language that is understandable to all. DOL should not rely solely on software to achieve an appropriate literacy level. DOL should jointly create "know your rights" workshops and toolkits with community partners, or at a minimum, DOL should ask community organizations to review draft materials and provide feedback regarding accessibility and effectiveness.

DOL should also provide "train the trainer" workshops to inform community organizers and social services workers how to determine whether workers' problems should be referred to the DOL. Community organizers can shepherd referrals, and continue to act as liaisons with workers who file complaints, helping to gather evidence, locate other workers, and find witnesses. Community organizers can also provide the DOL with legitimacy and trust by introducing DOL staff to community members.

Any outreach efforts should be complemented with good customer service, which will foster word-of-mouth referrals. For example, when workers file complaints, they should be provided an explanation of DOL's complaint system, the timeline, and their rights. They should also be referred to legal services or private attorneys.

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Idea No. 321