Community Lawyering and Low Wage Worker Organizing
“So what is our role as lawyers? How can we make transformative work—both in our profession and our communities—real? I do not know the answers to these difficult questions. I do not even know if finding answers is the ultimate goal. But I believe that anyone who tells you these tensions are not worth struggling over misses the essence of what it means to be an advocate for people and an advocate for justice. Law school does a good job of telling you that all of these tensions are really nonsense, or at best, that they make for interesting discussions in those “soft, fuzzy” courses but have no place in the real practice of law. I want to tell you that is absolutely wrong.”– Julie Su, Making the Invisible Visible: The Garment Industry’s Dirty Laundry
This course will give a brief overview of legal history and developments in labor and employment law pertinent to key issues impacting low wage workers. The class will focus on major organizing and policy campaigns and the role of community lawyers. A special emphasis will be on the limitations of labor law and litigation in low wage worker organizing campaigns and the ways in which lawyers have been able to craft creative legal strategies in response to these challenges. We will highlight strategic problem solving by using the examples of current organizing campaigns in Los Angeles. Some of our case studies may include: 1.) the day laborer organizing movement and the First Amendment, 2.) the Domestic Worker Bill of Rights, 3.) hotel workers and living wage campaigns, 4) car wash workers and wage theft ordinances, 5.) the sharing economy and independent contractor status. Legal practitioners, organizers, workers and community members will be brought in to illustrate the use of legal strategies in conjunction with other tools of organizing: policy advocacy, direct actions, coalition building, media outreach, etc.