For this interview, we spoke with Lindsay Halm, Jamal Whitehead and Adam Berger from Schroeter Goldmark & Bender. Founding Donors have made deep, lasting investments in the success of Fair Work Center.
This interview was conducted as a group over lunch and includes summaries of the discussion that we had.
Why did you choose to practice employment law?
Lindsay Halm: At some point during law school I became convinced that I was going to be a public defender or a plaintiff’s attorney. I wanted my career to focus on helping people who really need it. I am truly thankful to get to do the work that I do.
Jamal Whitehead: As someone who is part of several protected classes, I want to make sure the playing field is fair for all.
Home Security case and have been hooked ever since. We set some exciting precedent that allows delivery drivers to
What are some challenges you see for workers today?
Discussion among all: The changing nature of work in our country today is one of the biggest challenges facing workers, and we see that taking many shapes: misclassification of workers (when employers classify workers as independent contractors instead of employees to avoid having to comply with labor standards employees are entitled to), more part-time jobs with little to no benefits, and the rise of the gig economy. The nature of work today makes it nearly impossible for low-wage workers to build a better future for their families and achieve the ever-elusive American dream.
Another issue we see is increasing fragmentation of the workplace. Many people don’t know who their employer is or who they technically work for, given the prevalence of subcontracting today. If you clean the offices at a tech firm downtown, is your employer the tech firm or the contractor they hired to clean? It is incredibly difficult to hold your employer accountable to following the law if you don’t know who, exactly, is your employer.
We’ve also seen a steep decline of unionized workforces in the last few decades, which leads to depressed wages for both union and non-union workers. It also means, of course, that workers don’t have the power they need to negotiate better wages and working conditions.
What change would you like to see to improve the welfare of all working people?
Discussion among all: We really see Seattle as the testing ground for implementing and enforcing multiple cutting edge laws aimed at lifting up and protecting workers. We hope Seattle continues to lead the country in this regard.
Everyone in our employment group recognizes that there is a huge outstanding need to support the high volume of small claims that many private firms like ours do not have the capacity to take on. Workers need greater access to justice, so the work of Fair Work Center and the Seattle Office of Labor Standards is incredibly important.
Why does your firm support Fair Work Center?
Discussion among all: We support Fair Work Center because it is helping to fill this hole in our local legal community by supporting Seattle in implementing its new labor laws and providing support to workers with small claims and other issues on the job. And the fact that Fair Work Center provides hands-on training and mentoring to students at our local law schools helps shape the future generation of lawyers into allies and advocates for workers. Bravo!
Read more from Fair Work News:
- Fair Work Center’s 2016 Annual Report
- Fair Work Legal Clinic Case Briefs
- Interview with Founder and President of Fair Work Center, David Rolf
- Interview with Founding Donors:
- Save the date: Sing Into Spring fundraiser for Fair Work Center – March 23, 2017, The Royal Room
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