Law 625 - Community Lawyering and Low Wage Worker Organizing
Victor H. Narro
J.D. University of Richmond School of Law, 1991
“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.
At the end of this course, students should be able to:
• Develop perspectives relating to the role of the community lawyer in organizing and policy campaigns.
• Understand some of the challenges and issues that are associated with community lawyering and organizing.
• Identify the process by which social problems are defined and constructed in the context of organizing and policy campaigns.
• Assess fundamental questions about the role and accountability of a community lawyer to community members, organizers, and other key stakeholders, and the effectiveness of law as a tool of social change.
• Recognize and develop approaches to the variety of possible situations and challenges that come up in organizing and policy campaigns.
• Complete a research project that focuses on an organizing or policy campaign and will enable the student to apply the different course topic discussions and readings.