New Training & Outreach Specialist Will Support Labor Standards Education

Picture of Evelyn OjwangThanks to a grant from the City of Seattle Office of Labor Standards, Millionair Club has added a part-time Training & Outreach Specialist, Evelyn Ojwang, to help support our workers on their path to permanent employment. We asked Evelyn to answer a few questions about what this role will do and how it fits in with our mission – plus, a little bit about herself!

We’re excited to have you on the team at MCC! Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.
I’m from Seattle! I grew up in West Seattle mainly and I am a proud alumna from Washington State University so you already know one of my favorite animals – go Cougs! I often get hang-ups about the rain even though it is a part of the very fabric of Seattle, but I love Seattle summers. I’m hoping we get more than a month of heat this summer season; fingers crossed! As for some of my hobbies, other than spending time with friends and family, I enjoy the arts, and that can vary from a trip to the Seattle Art Museum, catching a live concert at KeyArena, and occasionally going to Alki Beach when the weather is nice.

What do you want people to know about our MCC community?
The MCC community is about rebuilding the dignity of our workers and supporting their needs. Our workers come from a wide variety of backgrounds with very diverse life experiences and I really enjoy getting to know each one of them. From the STEP graduation ceremonies on Fridays, to the impromptu chats with workers joking around with staff, at MCC, everyone here is a face to remember. We work with them each step of the way as they strive to overcome their circumstances. We strive to change lives, we meet our workers where they are and we attend to their needs until their personal goals, as well as our mission, are met.

Tell us about your work and how it fits in with MCC’s employment programs.
I will be serving our community by providing education, training and outreach through activities, events, resources, referrals and other support needed to help workers understand and advocate for their rights. Workshops will be conducted on Wage Theft, Secure Scheduling, Fair Chance Employment and Hotel Employee Health and Safety.

Since I am also responsible for outreach, many of these workshops will be open to other community members not currently enrolled in MCC’s employment program.

These workshops are integrated into MCC’s STEP Program to make sure the Labor Standards requirements are met and also the Millionair Club mission and goals are accomplished. I also help workers with technical assistance in our computer lab, since we offer resources and permits related to job readiness and placement.

What I hope to do is help further motivate our hardworking community members about their rights, while responding to their unique employment and other service needs.

Why is educating our workers about Labor Standards important and how does it fit in to their pathway to permanent employment?
Educating our workers about Labor Standards is important because the demographic of people we serve are disproportionately affected by these issues and also suffer from homelessness and/or face barriers to employment. For example, the Fair Chance Employment Ordinance is a Labor Standard that applies to people with criminal records which impacts some of our worker population. They need to be aware of their rights given their situations. Another reason why Labor Standards education is vital is because our workers, and temporary workers in general, are more at risk for wage theft and other abuses, and may not be served well by conventional news sources relaying information about labor laws. As our workers transition into permanent employment they will be aware of their rights and confident in asserting them and reporting any violations as needed.

What made you want to pursue this work?
Seattle is a unique city. It’s awesome that the city has the jurisdiction to enforce laws that are separate from the state level that provide enhanced support for historically marginalized communities. I’m aware of the issues that minorities face being a minority myself, and I am passionate about service and the socioeconomic challenges that under-served communities in Seattle face. I believe it starts with rebuilding the self confidence and dignity of people that fall under that umbrella. Knowing one’s rights is a great start to rebuilding the lives of our workers, one job at a time.

A Step Toward Job Readiness: Yvette’s Story

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Note: We are excited to update this post to include that Yvette has been hired on full-time with the Metropolitan Improvement District (MID) here in Seattle! Congratulations, Yvette! 

Yvette George started off somewhat timid and shy when she first started working with staff at the Millionair Club Charity, but sitting in a room with her now, her energy and enthusiasm is infectious.

Fridays are graduation days at Millionair Club, where workers moving through our STEP program are celebrated for progressing through the four steps of the program: Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum. On Friday May 5, Yvette graduated from Silver to Gold, which means she has developed an achievement plan with an employment specialist, attended safety, soft skills and resume building workshops and is working 60 hours a month.

“I started with nothing and MCC helped me get everything,” Yvette said. “Clothes, shoes, how to communicate and interact with people. I knew some of it but MCC staff helped me get a refresh.”

Pamela Elessa, MCC’s Director of Supportive Employment Services, has worked with Yvette to get her job ready over the past few months.

Seeing Yvette grow and develop her skills through the STEP program has been an “amazing feeling” for Pamela, noting that Yvette did not really speak up in workshops when she first started attending, but now she shares her own life experiences, asks questions and doesn’t shy away from conversation with anyone.

“Yvette needed gentle encouragement and the opportunity to work,” Pamela said. “She worked hard, and didn’t let inclement weather be an excuse. Many of our workers are just like her…they come here to succeed.”

Right now, Yvette is sharing a one-bedroom apartment with her friend who referred her to the Millionair Club, but she’s hopeful that as she interviews for permanent employment she’ll be on the path to getting her own place.

“I have more self-confidence and feel more prepared after learning little things that employers like,” Yvette said.

Congrats to Yvette as she moves through the STEP program – we can’t wait to see what happens next for her!

You can support Millionair Club workers like Yvette in a few ways:

Yvette (right) with Pamela (left) after the STEP graduation on Friday, May 5, 2017.
Yvette received an achievement award recognizing her advancement from Silver to Gold level in the STEP program!