Clocking In for Justice


“Clocking In” is a new online tool from Race Forward, a New York-based group fighting for justice. The organization’s analysis finds bitter trends in the US service industry: (

“For more than 30 years women of color consistently have the highest poverty levels in restaurant, retail and domestic industries,” Jillian Medeiros Perez, Ph.D., a senior research associate with Race Forward, said. Why? These service workers confront unfair wages, hours, hiring practices and benefits, e.g., unpaid sick leave, and hostile workplaces, according to her.

Accordingly, the design of Clocking In allows service employees to share their real-life job experiences with other workers, consumers, employers and policymakers 24/7. That cyber platform, and relevant statistics from the Census and other reputable sources, can help to deliver policy solutions to eliminate gender and race inequities for service-sector workers.

One problem such workers face is sexual harassment. For instance, Clocking In visitors can click a graphic of a fictional woman of color and single mom who applies for a waitress job. What are her legal rights if/when she experiences inappropriate behavior from a boss, customer or co-worker? These are no academic questions.

Thus at Clocking In, service workers can learn online about their legal rights on the job, and organize with others. Consider this information for mobilization: “According to a national study, women tipped workers receiving $2.13 an hour sub-minimum wage are twice as likely to experience more sexual harassment than workers in states with regular minimum wage. Join the ONE FAIR WAGE campaign to support a better workplace for all.”

Systemic solutions to pervasive labor problems across the service industry such as unwanted sexual behavior in part animate Clocking In. To this end, Race Forward produced this new social media with three activist groups.

One is the National Domestic Workers Alliance NDWA feted International Domestic Workers’ Day on June 16 (#domesticworkersday) to note the contributions of domestic workers globally, especially their vital role in defining the care industry. With the greying of America, the awareness of domestic workers’ labor conditions and their clients’ lives is gaining traction as two sides of the same coin.

A second group that co-produced Clocking In with Race Forward is the Restaurant Opportunities Centers (, busy with ROC United — One Fair Wage campaign. This is a multi-state and national effort to eradicate the unfair two-tiered wage system, and to replace it with a single and livable fair minimum wage for every worker.

The third partner organization behind Clocking In is the Retail Action Project ( This project is involved with the — #ChangeZara campaign to support workers organizing for higher pay, more hours and employer respect at Zara, a clothing retailer with stores across the US.

There were a total of 33 million service workers employed in the restaurant, retail and domestic industries nationwide in 2012 (or every fifth person in the paid labor force), according to US Census data.

There were just under 30 million restaurant workers nationally. The retail industry employed 2 million workers across the US the same year, with the domestic industry employing 803,000 workers.

The total numbers of workers in all three service industries are likely larger, as not all people report to the Census, according to Medeiros Perez of Race Forward.

Race Forward and its partner organizations developed Clocking In partly after discussions in California with domestic workers in Oakland and restaurant employees in San Francisco. Those dialogues highlighted in part service worker isolation, an obstacle to forming the collective class forces that can change gender and race inequities.

“We are hoping that Clocking In can connect people,” Medeiros Perez said, “from consumers to policymakers and workers, to band together and embrace more fair labor practices.”

Seth Sandronsky is a journalist and member of the Pacific Media Workers Guild. Email

From The Progressive Populist, August 15, 2015

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