Jobs, Training and Workers Rights
By Dianne Anderson
Another round of unemployment benefits may be on the table, but not everyone is eligible to receive the extra $300, possibly $400, weekly payout expected to come down through the latest extension that may carry on until December 31.
For all those still looking for work, Pastor Paul Jones has been holding job fairs, recently teaming up with several partners and academic training agencies.
One of his staffing partners still has plenty of jobs.
“We’re always sending people there, they have so many jobs it’s not funny,” Jones said. “I’m hoping that they [the state will] put people back to work. We’ve been pushing job fairs for two months. One job fair, we only had two people show up in a three-hour period.”
Two weeks ago, Jones held a job fair in partnership with ARC Staffing, Victor Valley Transit, Loma Linda VA Hospital and UEI College in Ontario to provide a one-stop drive-through for resources in school, training, employment and free food.
“Some of the people at UEI that were going to school even walked over to get boxes of food and to fill out job applications,” he said.
Jones regularly distributes about 1,000 bags of food weekly in the community with the help of Community Action Partnership of San Bernardino County, along with other partners and support through Benjamin E Jones Community Resource Center.
He and ARC staffing connected with UEI in Ontario to host the location. Job seekers parked the car and fill out applications while others interviewed on the spot.
“While they were doing that, we’d tell them to pop the trunk and we’d put a box of food in the trunk of their cars. It worked out real nice,” Jones said.
But as people are desperate for work in San Bernardino, there is also concern about protecting those who face challenges in the workplace, particularly since the COVID crisis.
On August 26, Legal Aid of San Bernardino is inviting the community to virtually attend their employment rights clinic, which runs from 5:30-7:30 p.m. The workshop provides low-income and unemployed people with information work-related legal rights. Call 909-889-7328 for an appointment.
Deborah Davis, the interim director, has seen a big uptick in the need for employment labor law over the past year or so, which falls under the heading of wage theft. People are forced to work overtime, but are not paid overtime.
“They’re being robbed of that extra rate of pay,” she said.
As the logistics hub of Southern California, many employees work part-time or at employment placement organizations, and are falling through the cracks. As a solution, they partnered with the Bay Area nonprofit Legal Aid At work (LAAW) with experts that specialize in labor law.
The local Legal Aid program acts as facilitators, conducts initial screenings and links the local community with legal experts. It’s important, she said, because the region never had enough employment and labor attorneys to meet the need.
Thanks to President Obama’s free phone policy over a decade ago, they are covering more ground with more access for the low-income community. It dramatically narrowed the digital divide for even the most impoverished families to receive services.
“With Obama’s directive and his program to make the phones available to the needy, that greatly enhanced access to so many of our clientele,” said Davis, who has worked for Legal Aid since 1994.
The agency also covers many other free services, including family law. These days, they’re handling business differently, but efficiently. Callers call in and describe their legal problem, and a tracking sheet is opened. The caller receives a call back from an attorney to give advice.
“Some people prefer to drop off documents. With the Obama phones, they can take a pic or email it,” she said. “We set up an appointment under COVID PPE measures, they arrive to review it, pick up their file and proceed.”
Slowly, the courts are reopening, but she said even before the pandemic, she saw demand for services escalating. The closures have increased the need significantly more.
“We’re seeing families that have been working their entire adult life, and have never had to look outside for free services before. When the court raises its moratorium on evictions, it’s going to be a firestorm.”
Galen Ages, the agent for LAAW Project, said since transitioning to the virtual platform, free Workers’ Rights Clinics and other legal services have increased dramatically at their 12 sites.
“In fact, the Clinic has greatly increased services to accommodate unprecedented client demand,” he said.
At all sites, they advise clients on a broad range of employment issues, including unpaid wages, unemployment insurance, discrimination, medical leaves, reasonable accommodation of disabilities.
Many attorney volunteers, law students, and community partners have made their outreach a success. The program has responded to 3,100 helplines calls, and conducted about 1,300 clinic intakes since shelter in place was ordered on March 19.
Since then, he said their clinic clients have increased about 150 percent, with the pandemic and economic impact disproportionately hitting the immigrant and Black, Indigenous, and people of color communities,
About 60 percent of their clients required legal advice regarding unemployment insurance since March.
“Given the devastating scope of unemployment, the precarious economic situation already faced by low-income households, and the difficult administrative barriers to access UI benefits through EDD, this is an incredibly hard time for low-wage workers,” he said.
For Legal of San Bernardino services, see https://legalaidofsb.org or call (909-889-7328)
For worker’s Rights Clinic, see
For unemployment filing links: