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

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Towards Justice & Community Partners file brief with Colorado Supreme Court in support of CO Legislature’s Joint Rule 44

During a State of Emergency, Colorado legislature’s Joint rule 44 allows the legislative session to be conducted over 120 days instead of 120 consecutive days.

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Colorado Overtime and Minimum Pay Standards & MLK Jr. Day Blog Post

The final version of the COMPS Order will be coming out soon. We are optimistic that the final rule will maintain many of the critical protections for workers that were contained within the proposed rule, and we appreciate everything the CDLE has already done to date to advance worker protections as part of this rulemaking. We also hope, however, that as the CDLE finalizes its rule and decides whether to extend more protections for farmworkers–who were largely left out of the proposed rule–the CDLE  draws inspiration from the legacy of one of the greatest champions for worker, economic, and racial justice: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Click HERE link to read about how some workers may still be left behind in the new COMPS Order.

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Former Detainees Challenge Forced Labor Practices

December 3, 2019: Yesterday, three former civil detainees of Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania filed a proposed class action complaint alleging that the County, the private company that owns and operates the Lackawanna County Recycling Center, and other private and public defendants forced hundreds of child support debtors in Lackawanna County to work at the Recycling Center for $5.00 per day under atrocious conditions. The Plaintiffs are represented by Towards Justice, along with its co-counsel Community Justice Project (“CJP”) and Handley Farah & Anderson (“HFA”).  Read the press release here.

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Mid-Level Attorney Opportunity at Towards Justice

Towards Justice seeks a mid-level attorney to join our team in Denver and expand our capacity to empower low-wage workers to navigate rapidly changing employment relationships, avoid forced arbitration, combat collusion, escape forced labor, and recover stolen wages. The successful candidate will have experience in complex litigation efforts and can expect to engage in fact investigations, spot issues, develop creative legal strategies, and manage positive client and co-counsel relationships. The ideal candidate would have three to seven years of experience litigating complex civil actions in federal court, a passion for serving low-wage and immigrant workers, the ability to work independently, and the ability to think strategically and creatively about law and policy. Spanish language capacity and experience working with marginalized communities are preferred.

Click Here for the Full Job Description

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In The Courtroom

Our litigators help workers advance legal claims that address systemic injustice. We use antitrust, anti-slavery, fraud, wage-and-hour, and common-law challenges to address the wide variety of practices that nickel-and-dime low-wage workers out of their hard-earned wages. We have represented a hundred thousand childcare workers alleging wage suppression, tens of thousands of immigrant detainees alleging forced labor, and hundreds of construction workers, shepherds, manicurists, janitors, and kitchen hood cleaners. We are leaders in challenging anti-competitive practices that reduce worker bargaining power and support marginalized people who challenge structural impediments to their advancement.

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