When the coronavirus pandemic brought the economy to a shuddering halt in March, UCLA School of Law students were there to help.
While continuing their education remotely and contending with other disruptions, more than 60 UCLA Law leapt into action to create and volunteer for an effort to secure unemployment benefits for hospitality and restaurant workers in California. More than 650 displaced members of the UNITE HERE Local 11 union completed unemployment insurance applications with help from UCLA Law students and other volunteers, bringing in more than $1.4 million in the first week of the effort alone.
The effort grew out of UCLA Law’s Labor and Economic Justice Clinic, which is part of the all-volunteer network of student-run El Centro Legal Clinics. Local 11 sought support because many of its members were unable to complete the technically challenging process of applying for benefits because they could not access the online system and government phone lines were overburdened.
Additional volunteers from Stanford Law School, Yale Law School, UC Irvine School of Law and others joined UCLA Law students in the effort.
Jordan Palmer ’21, a UCLA Law student who played a leading role in the work, said in April, “Our volunteers are extremely hard working and self-motivated, and they repeatedly express to me how happy they are to be able to do something to help other people while they are stuck in quarantine, scared and worried about all of the people who are struggling right now.”