Workers, Law, and Organizing Clinic

Spirited low-wage worker organizing across communities in Southern California and under-enforced state employment law create opportunities for lawyers working in alliance with organizers. Students in the Workers, Law, and Organizing Clinic, led by Prof. Sameer Ashar, will serve as first chair attorneys on all projects on the Clinic docket and will work in teams on at least one active litigation case and one policy advocacy or cooperative development project. 

As union density in the United States has been eviscerated and the workforce has shifted away from manufacturing, employers have used their economic and political power to subject workers to wage theft, unpaid overtime, unstable schedules, harassment, discrimination, misclassification, and criminalization and raised obstacles to organizing. In California, workers are susceptible to unlawful treatment, particularly low-wage immigrant, women, and Black workers. Labor exploitation is facilitated and structured by racism, misogyny, ableism, and other forms of subordination. The immigration and criminal legal systems deepen the vulnerability of low-wage workers.

Worker centers have risen in Southern California the last two decades in the gaps left by de-unionization. They have propelled creative campaigns to build worker power and fill representational gaps. Orange County is home to several important nascent organizing efforts. Students in the Workers, Law, and Organizing Clinic (WLO), launching as a self-standing core clinic in Fall 2021, will support worker organizing efforts across the region.

Students will develop transferable skills, strategies, and knowledge bases including: interviewing and counseling; case theory development; fact development and investigation; trial advocacy; legal and social science research and analysis; relationship-building with individual and organizational clients; community education and media advocacy; and legislative drafting, administrative rulemaking, and organizational toolkit development. 

Potential WLO Clinic projects include:

  • Minimum wage, overtime, wrongful termination/retaliation, meal and rest break, and misclassification cases before the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement and/or state and federal courts;
  • Unfair labor practices charges against employer coercion and retaliation before the National Labor Relations Board;
  • Administrative advocacy and policy advocacy in support of worker power before local and national legislative bodies and agencies;
  • Defense of workers against employer retaliation through the immigration and criminal legal systems;
  • Cooperative enterprise formation with teams of worker-owners; and
  • Documentation and report writing in collaboration with worker organizations.