STATEMENT OF THE COLORADO FARMWORKERS’ RIGHTS COALITION

February 23, 2021
Denver, Colorado
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Información abajo en español

STATEMENT OF THE COLORADO FARMWORKERS’ RIGHTS COALITION

Denver, CO:  Last week, Senator Jessie Danielson introduced Senate Bill 21-087, the Agricultural Workers’ Rights Bill, into the Colorado Senate. The Bill will be sponsored by Representatives Karen McCormick and Yadira Caraveo in the House. 

For almost a century, agricultural workers have been excluded from many of this country’s most important and hard-fought labor rights, including the right to organize, the right to overtime pay, and in the case of thousands of Colorado farmworkers, the right to minimum wage. The origins of these exclusions, which go back decades, are explicitly racist–originally part of an effort to exclude Black workers from the New Deal’s most important labor protections. 

Especially now, after a year in which farmworkers have suffered disproportionately from the pandemic and toiled in wildfires and extreme heat to bring food to our tables, it is essential that we close these anachronistic gaps and provide basic protections and dignity to some of the State’s most vulnerable workers. This Bill, among other things, would: 

  • Provide basic health and safety protections during the pandemic;
  • Extend the right to organize to farmworkers; 
  • Ensure that service providers like doctors have access to farmworkers on employer provided housing; 
  • Ensure fair pay of at least the minimum wage and overtime based on rules enacted by the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment; 
  • Mandate rest breaks and other protections against overwork, especially in extreme heat; and
  • Provide powerful protections against retaliation for farmworkers who speak out about mistreatment. 

The Bill enjoys wide support among a range of Colorado groups, including labor unions, advocacy groups, and farmers committed to ensuring basic human dignity in the industry and dismantling structural racism in Colorado. Supporters include, among others: Colorado AFL-CIO, the National Young Farmers Coalition, Project Protect Food Systems Workers, FrontLine Farming, Towards Justice, COLOR (Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights), the Hispanic Affairs Project, the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, Colorado Jobs with Justice, Colorado People’s Alliance, and Conservation Colorado.

“For too long agricultural workers have been systematically exploited by being left out of basic workplace protections.  I am proud to bring this bill to ensure that all workers in Colorado, no matter the industry, are guaranteed the same protections,” said Senator Jessie Danielson D- Jefferson County.

“Due to the systematic exploitation of immigrants and people of color in the industry, agricultural workers face grueling conditions and long hours without basic workplace protections. Colorado must step in to ensure that all workers can exercise their rights to fair wages and safe working conditions, and SB21-087 will finally bring these long-fought protections to Colorado’s agricultural workers,” said Representative Yadira Caraveo D- Adams County

 “For years communities in Colorado and across the country have demanded equitable treatment of agricultural workers. In 2021 Colorado can finally get that done. Agricultural workers are essential workers and need to be treated as suchI’m proud to champion this bill,” said Representative Karen McCormick D- Boulder

“Too often, farmworkers are ignored and left behind when it comes to creating programs aimed at supporting workers and keeping our communities healthy. At a time when we talk about coming together to get through this pandemic, we cannot and must not leave behind the people who are harvesting the crops to keep us fed,”said Karla Gonzales Garcia, Policy Director of Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR).

“This bill is an opportunity to move thousands of families in Colorado out of poverty. By protecting these workers, we are also protecting their children who live in rural areas, sometimes in the middle of a field. This is a wake up call and reminder that social and economic exclusion are still very present today,” said Ricardo Perez, Executive Director of Hispanic Affairs Project.

“This bill is about providing the same basic labor protections for all workers. Farm workers have been forced to sacrifice their safety during this pandemic to put food on our tables. These exceptions to critical protections and basic wage rules are abhorrent and have existed for far too long. This bill is a powerful step towards justice and equity by ending racist wage exclusions that harm our communities” said Raquel Lane-Arellano, Policy Manager, Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition.

“When this bill passes, agricultural workers will be brought in from the economic and social margins. They will be put on par with other workers in the state. It’s a pleasure extending the labor movement’s most hard-fought protections to these workers,” said Dennis Dougherty, Executive Director of the Colorado AFL-CIO.


“Protecting essential workers and attacking systemic racism must be more than just talk. The exclusion of farmworkers, among the most essential but also vulnerable workers in our state, from many of the basic protections provided to the vast majority of workers is a stain in our laws. It must be eliminated,” said David Seligman, Executive Director of Towards Justice

################

DECLARACIÓN DE LA COALICIÓN DE DERECHOS DE LOS TRABAJADORES AGRÍCOLAS DE COLORADO

Denver, CO: La semana pasada, la senadora Jessie Danielson presentó el Proyecto de Ley del Senado 21-087, el Proyecto de Ley de Derechos de los Trabajadores Agrícolas, en el Senado de Colorado. El proyecto de ley será patrocinado por las representantes Karen McCormick y Yadira Caraveo en la Cámara.

Durante casi un siglo, los trabajadores agrícolas han sido excluidos de muchos de los derechos laborales más importantes y reñidos de este país, incluido el derecho a organizarse, el derecho al pago de horas extra y, en el caso de miles de trabajadores agrícolas de Colorado, el derecho a un salario mínimo. sueldo. Los orígenes de estas exclusiones, que se remontan a décadas, son explícitamente racistas, originalmente parte de un esfuerzo por excluir a los trabajadores negros de las protecciones laborales más importantes del New Deal.

Especialmente ahora, después de un año en el que los trabajadores agrícolas han sufrido desproporcionadamente por la pandemia y han trabajado en incendios forestales y calor extremo para llevar comida a nuestras mesas, es esencial que cerremos estas brechas anacrónicas y brindemos protecciones básicas y dignidad a algunos de los más importantes del Estado. trabajadores vulnerables. Este proyecto de ley, entre otras cosas:

  • Brindar protecciones básicas de salud y seguridad durante la pandemia;
  • Extender el derecho de sindicación a los trabajadores agrícolas;
  • Garantizar que los proveedores de servicios, como los médicos, tengan acceso a los trabajadores agrícolas en las viviendas proporcionadas por el empleador;
  • Garantizar un pago justo de al menos el salario mínimo y las horas extra (“overtime”) según las reglas promulgadas por el Departamento de Trabajo y Empleo de Colorado;
  • Exigir descansos y otras protecciones contra el exceso de trabajo, especialmente en condiciones de calor extremo; y
  • Brindar protecciones poderosas contra las represalias para los trabajadores agrícolas que denuncian el maltrato.


El proyecto de ley goza de un amplio apoyo entre una variedad de grupos de Colorado, incluidos sindicatos, grupos de defensa y agricultores comprometidos con garantizar la dignidad humana básica en la industria y desmantelar el racismo estructural en Colorado. Los partidarios incluyen, entre otros: Colorado AFL-CIO, the National Young Farmers Coalition, Project Protect Food Systems Workers, FrontLine Farming, Towards Justice, COLOR (Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights), the Hispanic Affairs Project, the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, Colorado Jobs with Justice, Colorado People’s Alliance, y Conservation Colorado.

“Durante demasiado tiempo, los trabajadores agrícolas han sido explotados sistemáticamente al quedar fuera de las protecciones básicas en el lugar de trabajo. Me enorgullece presentar este proyecto de ley para asegurar que todos los trabajadores en Colorado, sin importar la industria, tengan garantizadas las mismas protecciones ”, dijo la Senadora Jessie Danielson D-Jefferson County.

“Debido a la explotación sistemática de inmigrantes y personas de color en la industria, los trabajadores agrícolas enfrentan condiciones extenuantes y largas jornadas sin protecciones básicas en el lugar de trabajo. Colorado debe intervenir para garantizar que todos los trabajadores puedan ejercer sus derechos a salarios justos y condiciones de trabajo seguras, y SB21-087 finalmente traerá estas protecciones de larga data a los trabajadores agrícolas de Colorado ”, dijo la Representante Yadira Caraveo D-Adams County.

“Durante años, las comunidades de Colorado y de todo el país han exigido un trato equitativo para los trabajadores agrícolas. En 2021, Colorado finalmente podrá hacerlo. Los trabajadores agrícolas son trabajadores esenciales y deben ser tratados como tales. Me enorgullece defender este proyecto de ley ”, dijo la Representante Karen McCormick D-Boulder.

“Con demasiada frecuencia, los trabajadores agrícolas son ignorados y dejados atrás cuando se trata de crear programas destinados a apoyar a los trabajadores y mantener nuestras comunidades saludables. En un momento en que hablamos de unirnos para superar esta pandemia, no podemos ni debemos dejar atrás a las personas que están cosechando los cultivos para mantenernos alimentados, ” dijo Karla Gonzales García, Directora de Políticas, COLOR.

“Este proyecto de ley es una oportunidad para sacar de la pobreza a miles de familias en Colorado. Al proteger a estos trabajadores, también protegemos a sus hijos que viven en áreas rurales, a veces en medio de un campo. Esta es una llamada de atención y un recordatorio de que la exclusión social y económica todavía están muy presentes en la actualidad,” dijo Ricardo Pérez, Director Ejecutivo del Proyecto de Asuntos Hispanos.

“Este proyecto de ley es sobre proveyendo las mismas protecciones laborales básicas para todos los trabajadores. Los trabajadores agrícolas se han visto obligados a sacrificar su seguridad durante esta pandemia para poner comida en nuestras mesas. Estas excepciones a las protecciones críticas y las reglas de salario básicas son aborrecibles y han existido durante demasiado mucho tiempo. Este proyecto de ley es un paso poderoso hacia la justicia y la equidad por terminando las exclusiones salariales racistas que dañan nuestras comunidades ” dijo Raquel Lane-Arellano, Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition.

“Cuando se apruebe este proyecto de ley, los trabajadores agrícolas serán traídos de los márgenes económicos y sociales. Se pondrán a la par con otros trabajadores del estado. Es un placer extender las protecciones más duras del movimiento laboral a estos trabajadores,” dijo Dennis Dougherty, Director Ejecutivo de la AFL-CIO de Colorado.

“Proteger a los trabajadores esenciales y atacar el racismo sistémico debe ser algo más que solo “blah blah blah.” La exclusión de los trabajadores agrícolas, entre los trabajadores más esenciales pero también vulnerables de nuestro estado, de muchas de las protecciones básicas que se brindan a la gran mayoría de los trabajadores es una mancha en nuestras leyes. Debe ser eliminado,” dijo David Seligman, Director Ejecutivo de Towards Justice.

###############

Read more

Joint Statement

Towards Justice and Nichols Kaster PLLP issue the following statement, which the Regional Transportation District in Denver (RTD) has already issued. Towards Justice and Nichols Kaster PLLP represented the former applicant in the matter described.

Joint Statement

RTD has resolved a complaint raised by a former applicant for employment as an RTD bus driver. The complaint involved a policy associated with RTD’s hiring practices that automatically denied employment to any applicant with more than a certain number of points on their driver’s license. The former applicant alleged that, because people of color are more likely to be pulled over and to receive points for non-serious traffic violations, this policy allegedly impacted applicants of color.

As a result of the former applicant bringing this matter to RTD’s attention, RTD will revise its hiring practices for transit operators to conduct an individualized review of applicants’ driving records to determine suitability for employment.

Safety remains a core value at RTD, and the new hiring process will continue to uphold that value by promoting a thorough review of each applicant’s driving record. RTD appreciates the applicant bringing this issue to the forefront, and the applicant appreciates RTD’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion in its hiring practices and workplaces.

Read more

Letter to Colorado Attorney General Philip Weiser

RE: JBS’s Commission of a Public Nuisance Relating to COVID-19

Dear Attorney General Weiser,

We write to urge your office to investigate the workplace safety and public health crisis that has plagued JBS USA, Inc. (“JBS”) workers and their communities in and around Greeley, Colorado during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As you know, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”)
recently issued a citation to JBS and proposed a $15,615 penalty against the company for its
“serious violations” at JBS’s Greeley facility. We fear that this meager and insulting penalty,
which amounts to only around $2500 per worker life lost at that plant, will only embolden
JBS’s brazen prioritization of its extraordinary profits over the health and safety of working
Coloradans. Colorado is not, however, helpless to act.

Read the entire letter here.

Read more

Press Release: Pa. Meat Processing Workers Seek Order Forcing OSHA to Intervene to Protect Them from COVID-19 Contraction at Work

Three meat processing workers at a Dunmore, PA meat processing plant are asking a federal court to require Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia and the Occupational Safety & Health Administration to use their authority to protect workers in imminent danger of serious illness or death caused by COVID-19. The workers in this action estimate as many as half the total workforce at the Dunmore plant have contracted the disease thus far. (more…)

Read more

Press Release: Meat Workers and Allies Nationwide File Racial Discrimination Complaint to Challenge Meat Processing Corporation Actions, Alleging Racial Discrimination in Disastrous COVID-19 Response

Administrative complaint argues that USDA must end federal support for dominant meat processing corporations disregard Black, Latino, and Asian lives and wellbeing

A nationwide coalition of organizations that advocate for meat processing workers, and allied groups, today filed an administrative civil rights complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture alleging that in addition to being disastrous for the wellbeing of workers and for public health, two major meat processing corporations’ have engaged in racial discrimination prohibited by the Civil Rights Act through their workplace policies during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The complaint alleges that megacorporations Tyson and JBS have adopted policies that reject critical Centers for Disease Control guidance – social distancing on meat processing lines – to stop the spread of COVID-19 at their processing facilities and that the results of their current operating procedures have a discriminatory impact on the predominantly Black, Latino, and Asian workforce at the companies’ plants.

Because of the federal money that flows to the corporations in the form of federal Farm Bill nutrition program and Trade Mitigation Program contracts, this disparate impact violates federal civil rights law. The complainants ask that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of Civil Rights suspend, terminate, and refuse to provide financial assistance to these two companies as a result of this racial discrimination, and to refer the complaint to the Department of Justice for action.

The complainants in this administrative complaint are Food Chain Workers Alliance, the Rural Community Workers Alliance, the HEAL Food Alliance, Forward Latino, American Friends Service Committee – Iowa, and the Idaho Organization of Resource Councils. They are represented by Public Justice, Nichols Kaster PLLP, and Towards Justice.

According to the complaint filed today, “The Policies discriminate on the basis of race by causing a substantial adverse effect on Black, Latino, and Asian workers. In addition, publicly available facts indicate a pattern or practice of discrimination. Existing social inequities compound this discrimination for Black and Latino workers, including higher death rates and higher hospitalization rates than white people.”
As of July 6, the Food & Environment Reporting Network reports that there are at least 292 meatpacking processing plants with confirmed cases, with at least 40,081 meatpacking workers testing positive for, and at least 138 meatpacking workers dying from, COVID-19. As of July 7, the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting documents that Tyson and JBS have the first and second most COVID-19 cases tied to their meat processing facilities, respectively, with a combined total of at least 12,495 positive cases. The complainants in this action allege that the policies at Tyson and JBS reject social distancing among workers at a minimum six feet of separation, as called for by the CDC. This impacts workers by increasing the risk of contracting COVID-19. The complaint alleges that the policies serve the objective of meeting pre-pandemic processing capacity.

Recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention corroborate this Complaint. On July 7, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published data collected through May 31, 2020, analyzed the COVID-19 disparate impact suffered by workers in meat processing facilities, and discussed the measures implemented – or more importantly not implemented – at such facilities. The CDC Disparity Report found that, based on 21 states reporting race and ethnicity data, “Hispanic and Asian workers might be disproportionately affected by COVID-19 in this workplace setting.” The Report does not identify any instances of facilities reporting adoption of the minimum 6-foot social distancing measure to protect workers on processing lines.

As of June 6, 2020, USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue reported that meat processing plants “are operating more than 95% of their average capacity compared to this time last year.” The New York Times reports that exports of pork and beef have surged during the first four months of 2020 compared to the same period in 2019. In addition, USDA cold storage data through May 31, 2020, shows that the amount of beef and chicken in cold storage increased compared to the same period last year, while the pork inventory represented 74 percent of the amount at the end of May 2019.
According to a recent study, Black, Latino, and Asian workers make up 69.6 percent (25.2, 44.4, and 10, respectively) of frontline workers in meat processing plants, but only 61.9 percent (22.5, 39.4, and 7, respectively) of all meatpacking workers, and 28.7 percent (11.9, 16.8 and 6.6, respectively) of all U.S. workers. Conversely, white workers are underrepresented in frontline meatpacking positions. Although white workers make up 34.5 percent of all meatpacking workers, and 63.5 percent of all U.S. workers, only 19.1 percent of frontline meatpacking workers are white. In addition, over 73 percent of Tyson’s salaried employees are white, and over 58 percent of JBS’s management is white. Racial disparities not only influences who bears the risk of contracting COVID-19 and spreading the virus in meat processing plants, but also who will suffer more from having the illness: Black and Latino people are more likely to suffer seriously from COVID-19 than white people because of social inequities, according to the complaint.

Today’s administrative complaint is filed with the USDA, because each of these megacorporations received significant sums of public contracts through USDA in fiscal years 2019 and 2020. The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service has entered into contracts with the corporations under several Farm Bill nutritional and Trade Mitigation Program departmental programs, a primary objective of which is to support agricultural jobs and the agricultural economy:

– Tyson received $165,756,043 in Fiscal Year 2019 and $109,389,928 to date in 2020
– JBS and its subsidiary Pilgrim’s Pride received $147,643,591 in Fiscal Year 2019 and $45,774,572 to date in 2020

All corporations that receive federal financial assistance are bound from taking actions that discriminate by Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which states that “no person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

“Now is the time for our federal government to recognize that this national COVID-19 crisis is being fueled largely by policies at plants operated by these two corporations, and that the suffering and death from coronavirus borne predominantly by Black, Latino, and Asian workers results from a choice made by Tyson and JBS in pursuit of additional profit, not to ameliorate any domestic food supply issue,” the complainant groups said in a joint statement on the filing. “This suffering is one of our moment’s defining issues of racial justice, and this diverse, nationwide coalition is proud to take action today to compel the USDA to enforce our basic civil rights laws so that these facilities operate more safely, with policies that will hopefully soon be in line with an enforceable OSHA COVID-19 standard.”

“Tyson and JBS could protect the lives of food chain workers, respect worker civil rights, and continue to operate their plants, if they were to do business in line with all CDC guidance,” said Brent Newell, Public Justice Food Project Senior Attorney and lead counsel for the complainants in the action filed today.

“Instead, for the purpose of maximizing profits and processing capacity, these companies treat plant floor workers as sacrificial and reject social distancing on the processing lines in their plants. These corporations have received over $150 million dollars this year in taxpayer money and the USDA must investigate this injustice and act immediately to prevent any further worker illnesses and deaths.”

Read more

E-Newsletter: Supply Chain Workers Fighting for Workplace Dignity amid Systemic Racism and Injustice

Protecting Supply Chain Workers, Their Families and Communities

Dear Friends,

We are writing to you to let you know about a lawsuit that Towards Justice, with our colleagues and collaborators from Make the Road New York, Public Justice, and Terrell Marshall, filed on behalf of several courageous Amazon workers and their family members in federal court in New York earlier this week (read the complaint here and coverage of the case here, here, and here).

Our clients allege that Amazon’s operations at its JFK8 fulfillment center in Staten Island, NY are inconsistent with state law and public health guidance. We allege that Amazon’s conduct has contributed to the spread of COVID-19 among workers at the plant and in their communities. Dozens of workers have already gotten sick and at least one has died. The plaintiffs seek an injunction to force Amazon to comply with public health guidance.

This lawsuit comes amid an historic outcry from communities experiencing persistent brutality inflicted by a justice system forged by centuries of racism and oppression. Our clients are battling against many of those same forces. The spread of COVID-19 has been shaped by systemic racism. That reality is borne out by the data, and it is part of the lived experience of tens of millions of Americans.

Most of the plaintiffs in the Amazon case are low- and middle-income Black people who live in and around New York City. While describing the terror of working in conditions likely to make them and their families sick, some have also remarked as an aside that they have attended several “zoom funerals” over the past few months to mourn those they have already lost to this pandemic.

Many of you reading this email have not been attending many “zoom funerals.” But for many others, that terrible grief has become a fact of life. Millions of Americans have had to endure that grief while suffering devastating job losses, often without access to the social safety nets that are in theory supposed to support us, or while having to continue working in low-paying dangerous jobs upon which their survival depends. Like so much else in America, your experience of this pandemic is determined in large part by your race. Now, after some communities have suffered the terrible consequences of a pandemic fanned by the flames of structural racism, they are forced to cry out for justice once again in the face of pervasive police brutality.

No lawsuit can fix our broken system. But we are honored to represent our courageous clients in seeking some modicum of  workplace dignity from one of the wealthiest corporations in  the world. Like so much else, that is something worth fighting for.

Onward,

David Seligman, Executive Director
&
Juno Turner, Director of Litigation

Read more

Episode 1: TJ Talks – Unemployment Insurance

Watch Jesus and David discuss the ins and outs of Unemployment Insurance.

Jump ahead to the question that interest you:

  • 1:20 “What is unemployment insurance?
  • 3:59 “What if my employer didn’t pay into the Unemployment Insurance Fund?
  • 4:41 “What if I’ve been furloughed? Can I apply for Unemployment Insurance?
  • 5:17 “Who qualifies for Unemployment Insurance Benefits?”
  • 6:11 “Do independent contractors qualify for unemployment insurance benefits?”
  • 7:39 “Can undocumented workers qualify for unemployment benefits?”
  • 9:00 “What about people who have DACA? Can they apply for unemployment insurance benefits?
  • 9:21 “What if my unemployment benefits claim was denied?”
  • 10:04 “What about people who have been furloughed but have not been called back to work? Can they continue to receive unemployment benefits?
  • 10:43 “What about people who have been called back to work but are afraid to go back to work because of safety concerns?”

Read more

Press Release: Fort Collins Workers File Charge against Employer for Firing

Fort Collins Workers File Charge against Employer for Firing Them for Complaining about Workplace Safety Issues Related to COVID-19

The federal agency charged with enforcing national labor law needs to protect employees who exercise their right to work together to improve their working conditions, not shield employers who fire those workers, a group of workers told the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in an unfair labor practice charge filed today.

According to the complaint, Ku Cha Tea House, a tea retailer with stores in Denver, Boulder, and Fort Collins, Colorado fired six employees after they raised concern in a group letter about Ku Cha Tea’s COVID-19 safety practices. The fired employees say they made two requests: first, that two immunocompromised coworkers be permitted to work without customer contact, which would be feasible without altering the store’s practices because staff typically do a substantial amount of their work in the store’s back room, and second that, whenever possible, customers be required to place orders and make purchases through curbside pickup, which workers later discovered was required by Governor Polis’s “safer at home” order.  In direct response to their concerns, Ku Cha Tea allegedly fired the employees. In a later email to one of the employees, the tea retailer wrote it was disappointed that he had “organized other employees to refuse to work.”

“Our sole objective is to stay safe,” said Larson Ross, one of the fired employees. “It’s simply wrong for any employer to fire employees because they want to stay safe.”

If the NRLB finds that the business fired the employees because of their concerted activity, the company could be forced to reinstate the fired employees, issue backpay wages, and inform all its employees about their labor rights by issuing a notice to its employees.

“In this unprecedented pandemic crisis, it is critical that the NLRB protect workers who engage in concerted activities by advocating for workplace safety,” said Valerie Collins, an attorney at Towards Justice. “Not only is concerted activity one of the core rights enjoyed by employees in the United States, a commitment to workers safety is a commitment to everyone’s safety.”

“Concerted action is essential to worker safety and public health,” said Dennis Dougherty, the executive director of the Colorado AFL-CIO, which represents approximately 165 affiliate unions with membership totaling more than 130,000 working Coloradans.  “Federal law protects unionized and non-unionized employees and no worker should ever be forced to choose between their health and their job.”

Media Contact: Valerie Collins * Attorney * Towards Justice * (720) 295-1672  * valerie@towardsjustice.org

Read the Charge Here

Press:

The New York Times: Workers Fearful of the Coronavirus Are Getting Fired and Losing Their Benefits

Read more

E-Newsletter: Protecting Essential Food Supply Workers

Protecting Essential Food Supply Workers

Dear Friends,

This is the first of these emails that you’ve received from me. I joined Towards Justice almost a year ago, and I’m so grateful for the chance to be a part of this team fighting for workers during this deeply challenging time.

Yesterday, Towards Justice, in collaboration with Public Justice, supported a courageous worker and the workers organizing group, Rural Community Workers Alliance in Missouri to file a lawsuit against Smithfield Foods demanding that the company begin complying with federal and state public health guidance and orders if it wants to continue operating. The lawsuit is the first in the nation filed by workers seeking injunctive relief against their employers to obtain safe workplaces during the COVID-19 pandemic, for the sake of themselves, their families, and their broader community. To learn more you can read the complaint and motion for preliminary injunction here.

This morning, the New York Times reported on this important lawsuit and told the story of our courageous clients. Read the article here.

In normal times, workers would depend on the federal government to enforce workplace safety and health standards, but that isn’t happening during the COVID-19 pandemic. Every day that goes by more and more workers and their family members get sick and even die from this horrible disease, and the burden has fallen disproportionately on low-wage workers, immigrants, and people of color.

It is thus essential to the health and safety of all of us that workers stand up to their employers through the civil justice system. We are proud to represent workers who are standing up to their employers and demanding safe workplace conditions. All of us will be safer for it.

Over the coming weeks, Towards Justice will continue to support workers in challenging unsafe workplace conditions, with a particular focus on the workplaces in the food supply chain that are doing so little to protect their workers.

Thank you for your support of our work and the workers we represent.

Juno Turner,
Towards Justice Director of Litigation

Read more

E-Newsletter: Responding to COVID-19

Responding to COVID-19

Dear Friends,

When he was imprisoned in the Birmingham Jail, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. observed that human beings “are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.” The ties of this network are more visible during the COVID-19 crisis than they have been in decades. Everyone can be affected by this disease, and everyone—whether farmworker or physician, domestic worker or government employee—depends on the same limited resources to beat it. We at Towards Justice hope that you and your families are weathering this storm as best as you can and that the undeniability of our shared “garment of destiny” serves as a comfort and an inspiration at this time.

Unlike so many essential workers risking their lives on the frontline of this fight, we at Towards Justice are fortunate enough to be working from home. We appreciate that privilege. But from our homes, we’re working hard and doing everything we can to fight to ensure that our government and our marketplace work for everyone, especially marginalized and low-income people who are disproportionately likely to suffer.

Here’s a short update on what we’ve been up to:


We’re fighting to keep the government working for everyone:

In mid-March, when Colorado’s Governor Jared Polis declared a state of emergency in the state, the legislature temporarily adjourned in the interests of public safety. Our state legislature has important work to do ensuring that all Coloradans can recover from this crisis, but it can’t do that work at this moment. Some argued, however, that a clause in our state constitution requiring that the regular session last no more than “120 calendar days” prevented the legislature from temporarily adjourning session and resuming to pick up where it left off. We disagreed. On behalf of itself and dozens of other organizations, including labor unions, district attorneys, and local governments, Towards Justice drafted and filed a brief with the Colorado Supreme Court arguing that the legislature could resume session when it was safe to do so. The Colorado Supreme Court agreed, which means that the General Assembly will have the remainder of its regular session to do its important work. Read the brief here.


We’re serving people who come to us for help:

The labor market has been turned inside out overnight. While Towards Justice’s litigation often seeks to attack long-term structural problems, we’re also aware that millions of workers have very immediate needs, especially now. That is why we’ve launched a  COVID-19 know your rights hub in English and Spanish and are answering intakes from affected workers. Please share our know your rights hub and our intake page broadly.


We’re advocating to ensure that our leaders enact a recovery agenda that works for everyone:

Government must play an essential role in responding to this crisis, but we also know that for decades our laws have entrenched structural inequalities that have left most people behind. For the past several weeks, Towards Justice has been providing legal resources and advising advocates and organizers across Colorado in presenting a shared platform of Emergency Economic Relief Actions for Colorado from Impacts of COVID-19 to ensure that the response to this horrible crisis benefits everyone.


We’re strategizing on our next fight for essential workers

Towards Justice is acutely aware that while we work from home, millions of others are working shoulder to shoulder with each other to perform essential tasks, whether they be medical professionals, farmworkers, restaurant workers, grocery store employees, childcare workers, or others. The safety of these workers should be our highest priority right now. But unfortunately, many employers and the government don’t appear to be taking that responsibility as seriously right now as they ought to. Towards Justice, along with a team of advocates around the country, are exploring ways to help those workers now, including through litigation. More to follow on this fight.


We are grateful for the support and community that you all have provided Towards Justice during these challenging times when we must remain vigilant of workers’ rights and safety.

Be safe. Be kind.

David Seligman,
Towards Justice Executive Director

Read more