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EJC and UT Law Students Give Low-Wage Construction Workers Power to Enforce their Basic Wage Rights

The Equal Justice Center and Transnational Worker Rights Clinic this month won a wage recovery of $39,000 for 20 construction workers who had not been paid for their labor building a charter school in Austin. The workers perfomed framing and drywall labor for Avant Construction Inc. constructing a school for the Athlos Leadership Academy. A significant number of the workers had come to the job from as far away as Corpus Christi and Dallas-Fort Worth. A dispute among contractors higher up the chain resulted in the workers not getting paid at all for three weeks of their labor. Without the EJC, that would have been the unfortunate end of the story. However, swift legal action by the workers and the EJC recovered all of their unpaid wages.

Most of the legal work on the case was performed by UT Law School students, Eddie Flores and Veronica Portillo through their participation in the Transnational Worker Rights Clinic. This Clinic, which is a partnership between the UT Law School and the Equal Justice Center, allows law students to gain hands-on employment litigation experience as part of their law school education. The law students receive expert legal training and supervision from EJC attorneys, including Bill Beardall, who also serves as a clinical professor at the Law School and director of the Transnational Worker Rights Clinic. As this case illustrates, the law students get not only a valuable legal education, but also the experience of using the law to empower regular working people to win justice and uphold their dignity.