Written by Martha Zackin
On April 1, 2010, the United States Department of Labor launched a new, nationwide marketing campaign, dubbed “We Can Help,” to let workers know how to contact the government with their work-related complaints. The marketing campaign, which is being conducted in several different languages, is intended to connect workers with the Department of Labor. In particular, the campaign seeks to reach employees in low-wage industries perceived as vulnerable to employer exploitation, such as construction, janitorial services, hotel and food services, and home health care.
The “We Can Help” campaign was unleashed with the introduction of a new website (www.dol.gov/wecanhelp), public service announcements featuring actors Esai Morales and Jimmy Smits, public speeches by Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, and the placement of advertisements using social media such as Facebook, YouTube and twitter. The campaign addresses such topics as workplace rights and how to file a complaint with the DOL’s wage and hour division to recover wages owed. It also enlists the help of worker advocacy groups, including unions, to distribute posters, fact sheets and booklets on how to report complaints. The AFL-CIO announced that it and its affiliates intend to hold forums in union halls, where workers can watch videos about minimum wage and how to track hours worked.
The campaign has already spurred controversy. Specifically, some question the appropriateness of deputizing special interest groups such as unions and other advocacy groups to solicit or initiate complaints. Further, Secretary Solis has clearly stated that the program is intended to cover all workers in the United States, even those who are working here illegally. This does not sit well with those who would prefer that government resources are spent to protect American jobs and those who work in this country legally. Regardless of these criticisms, however, the “We Can Help” campaign seems destined to generate additional enforcement activity.
Martha J. Zackin
Martha is Of Counsel in the firm's Boston office, practicing in the Employment, Labor and Benefits Section. She has more than 20 years of experience advising and representing clients on a broad range of employment law issues and in adversarial proceedings.