It’s hard to believe, but the Equal Justice Center is nearing our tenth anniversary!
As we get ready to celebrate this milestone later this year – and we will definitely invite you to join us in that celebration – it strikes me how remarkable it is that our bold dream ten years ago to open up access to justice for low-wage workers – regardless of their immigration status – has now taken root within the landscape of employment rights in Texas. We have assembled the finest, most expert professional staff of attorneys and justice-advocates that I have been privileged to work with in my 34-year career, totaling 12 staff members in our Austin and San Antonio offices, including nine lawyers. Moreover, most of our current attorneys are graduates of our similarly extraordinary venture: our U.T. Law School Transnational Workers Rights Clinic, which has now schooled more than ninety law students in employment justice litigation while at the same time putting them to work actually doing justice for low-wage working men and women.
Since launching our wage recovery project eight years ago, the EJC has empowered low-wage working men and women to recover more than $3.3 million in unpaid wage claims. We’ve established new legal precedents and reshaped the law in ways that are making our legal system more fair for working people, regardless of their immigration status. Most importantly, the EJC has enabled low-wage workers themselves to wield more power to enforce their basic rights and to have more faith in our system’s ability to guarantee a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.
But we do face daunting challenges: Our success and growth have occurred simultaneously with a rising tide of conservatism, downward pressure on all working people, and increased exploitation of low-income workers in particular. We have had to expend new effort to turn back an unprecedented wave of anti-immigrant measures in the Texas Legislature – with almost complete success – and even some anti-immigrant initiatives at the federal level. Yet just when we most need to galvanize our resources, near-zero interest rates have caused a severe decline in that part of our funding that comes from interest on lawyer trust accounts (IOLTA). Now more than ever we must rely on support from our friends and allies to sustain the advances we’ve achieved up to this point.
Still, even at this challenging time, we are lifted up by our gratitude for the privilege of working with the low-income workers and families who come to the EJC seeking justice, our gratitude for the heroic diligence and dedication of our staff, and our gratitude for the support of friends like you who help make this magnificent venture possible.
– Bill Beardall, Executive Director