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

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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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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.

Towards Justice Newsletter