WORKERS' CENTERS - Help Wanted
Legal leads wanted. Have you done legal work to support organizing for low-wage immigrant worker rights? We are looking for leads to attorneys who have addressed issues such as wage theft, occupational safety and health, workers compensation, sexual harassment, discrimination, employment authorization for immigrants, retaliation, misclassification of employees as independent contractors, or unemployment.
Have you helped workers' organizations or community groups defend legal attacks using claims under tortious interference, defamation, libel, trademark, anti-SLAPP, or First Amendment law in the course of organizing campaigns?
Campaign leads sought. Do you know of innovative approaches being implemented to fight the widespread abuse of vulnerable low-wage immigrant workers, such as integrating organizing campaigns and legal services, leadership development and membership building, administrative advocacy and coalition building, or strategic litigation and enforceable settlement agreements?
Our project needs you. Help us document and bring attention to creative lawyering and organizing strategies and build upon existing forums for sharing such information among the many organizations defending the rights of low-wage and immigrant workers.
Please contact Jessie Hahn & Charlie Noss, law students at Northeastern University working on a national survey of innovative strategies combining worker organizing and legal advocacy to defend the rights of low-wage and immigrant workers. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or charlotte.noss@ gmail.com or call (617) 373-8288.
Editor's note: We will post the results of Jessie & Charlie's research on our website.
What Are Workers' Centers?
Workers' centers are:
- Community-based, generally localized organizations addressing the needs of immigrant and low-wage workers. These workers are routinely exploited and abused on the job, and the growing network of workers' centers is fighting to correct these injustices to achieve economic and political rights.
- Common goals for workers' centers include educating workers about their rights on the job and about how to better advocate for those rights, developing leadership skills inlcuding by engaging in self-governance, and providing literacy and skills classes.
- Currently, there are hundreds of these organizations around the country.
In addition to the workers' centers, there are foundations supporting workers' rights activities. Links to several of these networks are found at the bottom of this page along with links to a reasonably comprehensive list of workers' centers and additional information.List of Workers' Centers
How do workers' centers operate?
Workers' centers generally provide direct services to workers and also act as advocates for the workers. Direct services may include programs regarding workers rights, English language, literacy, job skills, etc. The centers also advocate for their clients and may involve them in that advocacy, raising their consciousness, developing leadership skills, involving them in democratic governance, etc.
Where are these workers' centers?
How are workers' centers funded?
According to a recent publication of the Neighborhood Funders Group [NFG], over 60% of the funding for workers' centers comes directly from foundations, about 15% are government funded, and the remaining are funded through other from fundraising activities and dues. This is hardly sufficient. The NFG estimates that half of all centers have annual incomes less than $250,000, and only about 10% have incomes exceeding $500,000.
How can I become involved in workers' centers? What can attorneys do?
There are many ways to become involved in workers' centers:
- The centers need a full range of legal advice. They need to set up their organization, achieve non-profit status, etc. They need legal advice regarding non-solicitations laws that may exist in the community or state. And the workers need individual advice regarding wage and hour, occupational safety and health, workers' compensation, immigration law, etc.
- As well, the centers need a lawyer referral list of attorneys who will take referrals of individual cases (either pro bono or perhaps for a fee that can be derived out of a successful prosecution).
- Lawyers and workers' centers can brainstorm about what laws or ordinances can facilitate workers' centers programs, facilitate unions and workers' centers working together, etc., and develop strategies for legislation, regulation and litigation. The NLG L&EC posts information about existing laws and ordinances that others share with us in our RESOURCE database. You can also find information on these laws and ordinances at the NATIONAL CONFERENCE OF STATE LEGISLATURES 50-STATE LEGISLATIVE TRACKING WEB - The NCSL has developed a web resource of 50-state compilations covering various issues that concern state legislators and legislative staff, including labor and employment issues. The coverage includes an alphabetical listing of legislative and statutory databases, compilations and state charts/maps. By going to the right hand side and clicking on labor and employment you can find information on a variety of issues, including information regarding Day Laborer Laws (statutes)
- And lawyers can collaborate on how to challenge laws and ordinances that impede these programs or how to defend workers' centers when they are challenged.
- As well workers' centers can use training about legal rights. Attorneys can directly train workers or train staff at workers' centers in order for them to train workers (train the trainer) about employment law rights (wage and hour, occupational safety and health, workers' compensation, immigration issues, etc.) We will post upcoming training programs on our home page.
- Lawyers can assist in providing contacts with other LOCAL workers' rights organizations such as legal services programs, COSH groups (committees on occupational safety and helath), unions that are organizing workers in a particular industry, etc.
Short Guide for Workers' Centers
Eli Naduris-Weissman has compiled a short guide for workers centers' on what they need to know about labor law. He also has written a larger article on the subject which is sited as:
Eli Naduris-Weissman, The Worker Center Movement and Traditional Labor Law: A Contextual Analysis, 30 Berkeley J. Emp. & Lab. L. 232 (2009).
Here are some helpful NATIONAL organizations:
Links to workers' centers networks:
Research Regarding Low-Wage and Immigrant Workers: