As union density in the United States has been eviscerated and the workforce has shifted from manufacturing to service sector employment, workers in all segments—but especially and disproportionately in the low-wage segment—suffer from wage theft, unpaid overtime, unstable schedules, sexual harassment, racial discrimination, misclassification, obstacles to organizing, and invidious interactions with the criminal legal system. In California, low-wage workers across sectors, including in homecare, domestic, personal services, agricultural, warehouse, and app platform-based work, are afflicted with labor exploitation, particularly of immigrant, women, and Black workers. For a number of reasons, Los Angeles is home to an unparalleled number of worker centers focused on organizing against labor exploitation. These organizations have risen in the last two decades to work on a series of creative campaigns that have challenged conditions in particular sectors and led to the passage of city, county, and state laws that attempt to lessen the imbalance of power between employers and workers.
The large and spirited low-wage workforce across communities in Los Angeles, worker center networks, and generally pro-worker but underenforced city, county, and state employment law creates opportunity for lawyers working in alliance with organizers. Possible clinic projects include litigation before the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement; California Department of Fair Employment and Housing; the National Labor Relations Board; the Executive Office of Immigration Review; and city, state, and federal courts and agencies, as well as policy advocacy before city, state, and federal agencies and legislative bodies. Students will serve as first chair attorneys on all projects on the clinic docket.
WLO will hold a weekly seminar covering lawyering and advocacy skills and values through lectures, interdisciplinary panels, discussion, simulations, and exercises as well as periodic project rounds. Students enrolled in WLO will gain substantive expertise in employment and labor law as well as the rules of professional responsibility and ethical practice. Because low-wage workers in Los Angeles frequently work without immigration status or have family members without immigration status, WLO will develop a degree of student expertise in immigration law. Students will also learn how to lawyer in the context of social movement activism. Students will deepen their practical understanding of the role of worker advocate through both seminar activities and project work, in which they will develop and practice a wide range of transferable skills and strategies.
Students in this four-unit course will be graded. There is no pre-requisite for the course. Enrollment is limited to 8 students and admission is by consent of the instructor. The class meets once a week and, in addition, requires a substantial out-of-class commitment.