The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. referred to Reverend James Lawson Jr. as “the leading theorist and strategist of nonviolence in the world.” In fact, for more than a half-century, Reverend Lawson has been a global leader of the nonviolence movement. In 1974, Reverend Lawson brought his activism to Los Angeles helping to revitalize the labor movement. His dedication to advancing workers’ rights and teaching students nonviolent tactics are a few of the many reasons why the UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment has been renamed after him.
Despite some of the strongest workers’ rights laws in the nation, every week in Los Angeles County, $30 million in earned wages is stolen from our workers. Lawson’s teachings and practices remind us that on-going outreach, awareness, and enforcement is necessary to ensure all residents are paid fairly for their hard work.
To help address the critical need to stop wage loss that impacts hard working Angelenos and their families every day, this year I had the honor of proclaiming – with the enthusiastic support of the entire Board of Supervisors – Friday, September 22nd as Reverend James Lawson Jr. Day in Los Angeles County. This proclamation helps ensure that Reverend Lawson’s 95th birthday and legacy will continue to serve as an inspiration and call-to-action for each of us do to our part in helping to fortify the rights and protections of workers.
In Los Angeles County we are honoring Rev. Lawson by raising awareness of The Los Angeles County Department of Consumer and Business Affairs (DCBA) Know Your Rights campaign, an initiative to educate all Angelenos about the county’s services available to protect and advocate for workers.
Employees who work in the unincorporated areas of LA County are entitled to a minimum wage of $16.90 per hour. If, for some reason, a worker is not being paid adequately, there are resources available to challenge that. DCBA can consult with workers on how to file a wage complaint, so employers are held accountable for underpaying their employees. There are resources for workers and businesses to ensure that both sides are equipped to support one another.
DCBA also requires that employers in Los Angeles post a notice on human trafficking, which provides information for how to get help. This has been a requirement since 2021, accompanied by a training that businesses must provide to new and existing workers, to teach the signs of human trafficking and how to report any suspicions to appropriate law enforcement agencies.
All workers should feel safe, comfortable, and protected in their workplace. If, for any reason, someone feels like they’re being treated unfairly and are not receiving the required support, DCBA can help. There are resources available for how to deal with many of these known issues and to protect against retaliation.
These protections embody the work that Reverend James Lawson did for workers in Los Angeles. Regardless of someone’s identity or profession, workers throughout Los Angeles County are guaranteed these rights.
Workers’ rights have grown immensely from 1963 to 2023, thanks to titans like Reverend Lawson. It is our responsibility to uphold the hard-earned progress he and countless others have helped make possible and to continue to advocate for equal rights.
Join us in ensuring that the impact of Reverend James Lawson Jr. Day lives on past September 22 by helping to share information about LA County’s Know Your Rights campaign with your loved ones and colleagues. You can learn more at workers.lacounty.gov
At 95 years old, Reverend Lawson’s life continues to be a master class on how to stand up for what is right no matter who you are. Thankfully, Rev. Lawson is still teaching and shows no signs of slowing down–so we can’t either.