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UW School Of Law To Start Clinic For Worker Rights

Worker rights advocates say it’s great that Washington is considering raising the minimum wage and that several cities have already passed higher wage and paid sick leave laws.

But they say it’s important to make sure such measures are enforced. That’s why a union local is teaming up with the University of Washington School of Law.UW law students have long done clinical work, helping people who couldn’t afford an attorney navigate the legal system.

Now, the school will also offer an employment law clinic in collaboration with UAW Local 4121, which represents teaching assistants and some other workers on the UW campus.

David Parsons with UAW Local 4121 says the focus will be on workers issues like wage theft and exploitation. According to data from the Washington Department of Labor and Industries, between 2009 and 2013, close to 15,000 minimum wage-related claims were settled, resulting in $46 million being recovered for workers.

“The idea is that people can think of the clinic as a resource for possible litigation or, at the very least, provide advice on how people can protect themselves,” Parsons said.      

In a press release, Kellye Testy, dean of the UW School of Law, said the clinic would also be a resource for employers trying to adjust to the changing laws regarding workers.

"I'm eager to explore how we can provide leadership on pressing issues for employers and employees in Washington," she said.

Plans are for the clinic to open in the fall with initial funding coming from unions and the UW. Money is being sought from other community partners as well.

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