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Shannon Liss-Riordan, Candidate for Attorney General of Massachusetts

As a part of my Meet the Candidate Series, I sat down and talked with Shannon Liss-Riordan, Candidate for Attorney General of Massachusetts.

For decades, Shannon has taken on the powerful corporate interests on the toughest issues and won. Not only did she put money back in employees’ pockets, but she pushed our legal system to fairly and equally serve the people. And when the system couldn’t be pushed, she broke new legal ground and set precedents that delivered victories for workers in Massachusetts and around the country. She’ll put that same talent and track record to work as Massachusetts’ next Attorney General.

Public service has defined Shannon’s career. Her first job was with legendary feminist, civil rights leader, labor lawyer, and Congresswoman Bella Abzug, who inspired Shannon to go to law school and make concrete change for others. After graduating from Harvard Law School, Shannon made a name for herself as one of the top plaintiff lawyers in the country, winning groundbreaking lawsuits on behalf of waitresses, truck drivers, firefighters, janitors and Uber drivers who have been denied overtime, minimum wage, and other wage protections.Shannon got used to being the only woman in the courtroom, up against better-funded, more-experienced attorneys. Despite the odds, she still found ways to win. She argued and won six landmark cases in front of the Massachusetts Supreme Court and defeated Starbucks, FedEx, and American Airlines on behalf of her clients.

Shannon blazed the trail for workers’ rights in the gig economy. She was the first person to challenge the misclassification of gig economy workers as independent contractors. She took on companies like Uber, Lyft, and Doordash and put money back in workers’ pockets. Her work is defining the future of employment. In 2009, she partnered with Massachusetts labor lawyer Harold Lichten to create Lichten & Liss-Riordan, P.C. Shannon lives in Brookline, MA with her husband, Kevin, their three kids, Shane, Myles and Jordan, and their Airedale terrier, Logan.

Topics discussed in this episode include:

  • Shannon’s background in law (00:51)
  • The main function of the Attorney General (02:37)
  • Shannon’s passion for fighting alongside the working class (04:35)
  • Shannon’s thoughts on Maura Healey, and plans if elected as Attorney General (06:01)
  • What is Wage Theft? (08:37)
  • Shannon’s proudest Accomplishments (13:57)
  • Shannon’s thoughts on the AG role and enforcement of consumer protection laws (14:39)
  • Closing Statement (16:34)

Connect with Shannon Liss-Riordan

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Transcript – Please note, this Transcript is AI Generated. It has not had the discerning ears of a real human to edit it, as such, there are bound to be a few errors

Jimmy Tingle 0:00
Hello, everybody, welcome to the Jimmy tingle show. I am Jimmy and I want to introduce you to a new segment of our show the Meet the candidate series. It is intended to give candidates running for public office, a platform in a voice so voters know who is running for office, why they’re running and what they hope to accomplish if they are so fortunate to be elected. So please feel free to share these interviews with your family and friends and citizens around this fine land because an educated and informed population is essential for a healthy democracy. And isn’t that what we all really want? A healthy democracy? Enjoy the interviews stay healthy? My name is Jimmy tingle, and I approve this message

Hey, everybody, welcome back to the show. This is the Meet the Candidates series as part of the Jimmy tingle show. For those of you paying attention. You might know by now I am in fact, Jimmy and I am thrilled to be here today. I love the Meet the candidate series. My next guest today Shannon Liz written ladies and gentlemen. She is a labor attorney and she is running for Attorney General. Shannon, welcome to the show. Tell us a little bit about your background.

Shannon Liss-Riordan 1:19
All right. Thank you so much, Jimmy, thank you for doing this and for having me. My name is Shannon Liss Riordan, I am very excited about this run for Attorney General, I have spent my entire career taking on the biggest challenges and delivering big results for regular people. I’ve spent my whole legal career more than 23 years representing workers. I’ve gone up against some of the most powerful corporations in America. And I’ve won. Companies like Starbucks, FedEx, Uber, Amazon, IBM, my alma mater, Harvard University, which I proudly sued about four times, I have represented all types of working people over the last 20 years and have recovered hundreds of millions of dollars that corporate America stole from them. I’ve done groundbreaking work and am widely acclaimed across the country as one of the country’s top lawyers, having battled corporations, changing their policies, getting them to change their ways and using our legal system to get fair results for regular people. So I’m really excited about this opportunity to put my experience and skills and passion to work for all of the people across Massachusetts.

Jimmy Tingle 2:37
So tell just tell the listeners, because not everybody is clear on this. What does the Attorney General do? What is their main function?

Shannon Liss-Riordan 2:45
So as I see the Attorney General’s office, it is the People’s Lawyer. That is what I’m looking forward to doing. I’ve been working as a private attorney general for about 20 years. And now I’m looking forward to taking the next step and expanding on this work on behalf of all the people across Massachusetts. Um, as Attorney General, I will fight for working people making sure they get paid all of the wages that are owed to them. You know, in this time of rising costs of everything, you know, what better way to ensure people can pay their bills and support their families and making sure that they’re getting every dime in their pocket that their employers owe to them. There is protecting consumers again, going after bad actor corporations that are that are scamming people preying on seniors taking advantage of student loan borrowers there is fighting for for tenants, you know, we have a housing crisis in the state. And that price of housing is just through the roof, planning on setting up an Office of the Tenant advocates, to advocate for tenants to make sure that people are able to stay in their homes. I plan to take on corporations that are violating our environmental rules just as passionately and strongly and aggressively as I’ve taken on corporate America that stolen from workers. We’ve got some great laws on the books now to move us forward in our fight against climate change. But one thing I know from my work as a lawyer is that laws don’t enforce themselves. We need a strong, aggressive, seasoned attorney leading the Attorney General’s office to make sure these laws get enforced, and that the power of that office is put to work for the people of Massachusetts. That’s what I plan to do as Attorney General.

Jimmy Tingle 4:35
Where does this passion for the workers in the working class and the underdogs in the consumer? What does that all come from?

Shannon Liss-Riordan 4:43
That’s just what I’ve dedicated my life to doing. I went to law school knowing that I wanted to get tools to be able to help help people make people’s lives better, and I got my start right out of college as an activist. I was a woman As rights organizer and activist right out of college, my first job was working for the legendary Bella Abzug. And I co founded a nationwide young women’s organization called the third wave to get young people and diverse coalition of young women activated and energized and involved in the political process. And then from there, I went on to law school because I wanted to get some concrete tools to be able to continue my activism. And that’s exactly what I did. I was drawn to the labor and employment arena, because I knew that big corporations, powerful interests, they have their representatives, you know, they have their they have their lawyers fighting for them in court, and I wanted to even the playing field, I think it’s so important that regular people have strong advocacy. And that’s what I’ve devoted my career to. And that’s why I’m so excited about this run for attorney general looking forward to being able to serve and fight for and win for all the people across Massachusetts.

Jimmy Tingle 6:01
How do you think Massachusetts is doing in terms of the effectiveness of our current attorney general for the last eight years? Maura Healey? And are there anything specifically that you would like to, you know, take on should you be elected Attorney General,

Shannon Liss-Riordan 6:16
Maura Healey has done a terrific job as attorney general. So I’m very excited about the prospect of taking, taking on continuing and expanding on the really important work she’s been doing as the People’s Lawyer, there are a number of areas that I’m looking forward to beefing up its enforcement, even more of our wage laws, making sure that working people get paid every dime that they’re owed. I know from my work and from working with the Attorney General’s office, it can often take a long time for these investigations to take place and someone who’s had their wages stolen from them, can’t afford to wait months or even years to get that money back. So one of the plans that I have is to make sure that we’re getting money back in people’s pockets quickly. So I plan to set up a fund so that workers who’ve had their wages stolen can come get their money right away, while the AGs office goes after those bad actor employers and recovers penalties that will help fund this fund that will be available for workers. Similarly, on our Environmental Enforcement, I’ve been doing high stakes impact litigation on a national level for years. So I plan to use that same aggressive enforcement of our laws through the environmental division of the Attorney General’s office and use penalties that we can collect from corporations who have been profiting off of fossil fuels, and use those funds to set up a Green Bank, which we can use to fund clean energy projects and environmental justice projects. I plan to ramp up the consumer protection, advocacy in the Attorney General’s office and make sure that the agency’s office is a place that folks can go anywhere across Massachusetts, if they’re having an issue with a company they’ve gotten ripped off or scammed, or there are issues that we need to confront systemic issues. I plan to use proactive enforcement as well as systemic litigation to go after bad bad actors in in a whole host of fields where people need more protection in Massachusetts, and I look forward to doing

Jimmy Tingle 8:37
right, Shannon, when you talk about recovering money that was stolen from workers. Oh, commonly referred to as wage theft, I believe, people, I don’t know if everybody is that familiar? Or is aware that millions of dollars are quote, stolen from workers? How does that work? And are there examples of that that have happened here in Massachusetts, where money has been recovered? Like how does the company steal money from workers? How does that work?

Shannon Liss-Riordan 9:07
Um, yeah, you know, you know, people, you know, get caught stealing from a grocery store, they may get sent to jail, and somehow corporations steal money from workers every day, and they got a slap on the wrist.

Jimmy Tingle 9:19
Well, how do they do it? Could you define how a corporation steals money from their employee?

Shannon Liss-Riordan 9:24
Yes, yes, they don’t pay corporations don’t pay all of the wages that their employees are owed. They misclassify workers as independent contractors, so they can try to avoid all of our wage and employment protections. They misclassify employees as exempt employees, they don’t pay them time and a half for the hours. They work past 40. They don’t pay wages for all of the time. That’s work. This is the type of work that I’ve been doing for 20 years and I have made inroads in the courts throughout Massachusetts and throughout the country and advancing laws protecting workers and protecting their wages. And that’s the type of regressive advocacy that I plan to continue in the AGs. Office.

Jimmy Tingle 10:10
Well, for example, I remember going into this is back, you know, several years ago when I think Obamacare was being debated or something that would have had to do with health care and full might have been in here in Massachusetts, when workers had to be covered by the employers for health care. And one and I just asked him, I was in a donut shop that will be remain unnamed. And I said to the woman of the fairly young woman behind I said, so is it good wages here? And she said, It’s okay, so at least you get benefits? And she said, No, we don’t get benefits, because you have to be full time to get benefits, and they won’t give us full time, they’ll only give us 30 hours. So deliberately, you know, keeping somebody holding them back in terms of their hours. So they’re not classified as full time is that what you’re talking about in terms of wage theft? Is that an example of it,

Shannon Liss-Riordan 11:03
I’m sort of I mean, those type of wage steps that I’ve been going after, and winning against is actually much more blatant than that people work hours and don’t get paid for all of the hours that they work, or a particularly critical problem is independent contractor misclassification, where companies claim that workers are their own boss, and they don’t actually have to comply or that the companies claim they don’t have to comply with any of the wage laws. And I have pretty single handedly developed a lot of law in this area in Massachusetts, and I’ve expanded it around the country. I’ll just, I’ll just give you an example. I started a decade ago going after gig economy companies, for misclassifying, their workers, their drivers as independent contractors. So I started I started this about 10 years ago by suing Uber, and then Lyft, and Grubhub, and DoorDash, Instacart. All of these, what they call gig economy, companies that have spread this great lie that their workers are running their own businesses, and these companies have done it just to pad their bottom lines to save on labor costs. And I’ve been the leading attorney across the country taking on these corporations for this wage theft. And this work that I started about a decade ago has now led to a national conversation on the importance of these workers having the proper wages and benefits that all employees have. And we scored an enormous victory just this past week, when the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court struck down a ballot initiative that these companies were trying to get on our ballot here in November in Massachusetts, which would have carved out gig economy companies from all labor and employment protections. I am a proud co founder of a coalition that built was built up to to fight this very dangerous ballot initiative. And I was on the legal team that got this initiative struck down by the SJC, it’s just so important because this battle goes beyond Uber and Lyft drivers. All corporate America has been watching this battle play out very closely. Because if these companies got away with taking away our whole host of protections that we have for workers in Massachusetts, and across the country, every industry in America would be trying to figure out how to put their workers into this kind of app based systems. They too could skip out on paying proper wages paying into Social Security, paying employer payroll taxes. So it was an enormous victory. That was Ford, and I’m very excited about that.

Jimmy Tingle 13:57
Some of your proudest accomplishments, that has to be one of them right there. Do you think that would become a national, potentially a national model, or a national example of how to go after this type of companies like Uber and Lyft, around that ballot initiative?

Shannon Liss-Riordan 14:12
Yes, yes. And I think that the eyes of the country are on Massachusetts, and I’ve already been in touch with advocates and other parts of the country that are facing the same potential battle and everyone is watching Massachusetts and Massachusetts is, is is a leader on this and hopeful that the victory that we scored here will be turning the tide and will be influential in these battles playing out around the country.

Jimmy Tingle 14:39
Do you ever work with media like with the Attorney General ever get involved in a media company regulating media at all? I mean, as you know, I’m sure there is a ton of disinformation on the public airwaves, and there seems to be no consequences for it. And if somebody says something that’s blatantly false, There’s no there are no consequences is that something an attorney general or anybody in the legal profession could actually address and hopefully correct?

Shannon Liss-Riordan 15:09
Well, I the Attorney General’s Office plays an extraordinarily important role in enforcing our laws, including enforcing consumer protection laws. I think that it is, it’s very important that big corporations, and particularly tech companies now be held accountable for the enormous power that they’re wielding. And the communications that we’re experiencing. Now. It’s so different from what it was even 10 years ago, or 20 years ago, so much of our communication these days is happening online. It’s happening through social media, I am very concerned about the over concentration of power, and a few large corporations that are able to control our public discourse. So that’s something that I would definitely be looking into as Attorney General and using all the tools available to fight to ensure that that consumers are protected, that we’re not getting misleading information. And that our, our information, our privacy, our data is not being misused,

Jimmy Tingle 16:14
and false advertising, for example. I mean, is that something the attorney general would be going after?

Shannon Liss-Riordan 16:22
Yeah, yes, absolutely. That’s part of the consumer protection piece of what the office does. And yes, that is that is an important role at the office that I would pursue.

Jimmy Tingle 16:34
So why don’t you give us a one or two more of your proudest accomplishments, and then a closing statement on where people can learn more about you where they could get involved volunteer with your campaign, or where they may you know, if the spirit moves them make a donation if they so choose?

Shannon Liss-Riordan 16:50
All right. Well, in terms of more of my proud accomplishments, I will I will say that over a series of years when I was at new lawyer, just starting out as a labor and employment lawyer, I took on the service industry across Massachusetts, and through a series of cases established the law in Massachusetts that tips are for workers, not for owners, I took on pretty much the whole hotel and restaurant industry across Massachusetts, who for decades had been stealing tips from workers and establish that they can’t do that anymore. I took on the predatory janitorial industry, which had been preying on immigrant workers, essentially selling them cleaning jobs for 1000s of dollars, they were charging workers 1000s of dollars for the privilege of cleaning toilets and office buildings I got that declared illegal in Massachusetts, those companies don’t do that anymore. In Massachusetts. Those are just some of the examples of the work I’ve done. I am so excited about this campaign, as I’ve been traveling across Massachusetts talking with folks in every corner of the state, people are getting excited. They’re jumping on board when they hear about my experience when they hear about what I’ve done. I’m the only candidate in this race who is an actual practicing lawyer. I am the only candidate who has led a law firm. I’m the only one who has won jury trials who has won appeals and has helped shape our laws to better and more thoroughly served with people. So I would love it. If your listeners and viewers would jump on board with our campaign. You can learn more by going to our website, which is Shannon for That Shannon f o r a sign up to volunteer, we’d love a contribution to help us get our message out. I’m really proud of the support that I’ve gotten in this campaign. So far, the Massachusetts AFL CIO has endorsed me, as well as about 50 individual labor unions. So that’s well more than a half a million working people across Massachusetts are standing behind this campaign. I’m really looking forward to putting my skills and my experience and my passion to work for all the people across Massachusetts, I’ve spent my career fighting and winning the biggest battles. And that’s what I plan to do for the people of Massachusetts as their next attorney general. So I would so humbly be honored to have the support of your listeners and viewers. Thank

Jimmy Tingle 19:21
you so much, Shannon, for joining us today. Excellent to hear you and congratulations on your run and we hope to see you on the campaign trail. Thank you.

Shannon Liss-Riordan 19:28
Thank you so much, Jimmy, thank you for having me.

Jimmy Tingle 19:31
Our pleasure. Thank you for joining us today. This has been a humor for humanity production. Our mission is your mission humor for humanity. Jimmy Thank you

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