Tucson Immigrant Workers' Project
The Tucson Immigrant Workers' Project advocates for the rights of low-wage immigrant workers through direct service, public policy research, and community education and outreach. The Project primarily serves immigrant women in an effort to address their particular vulnerability to workplace abuse. The Project is a unique collaboration between the Immigration Law Clinic and the Southwest Institute for Research on Women (SIROW), the research arm of the Women's Studies Department at the University of Arizona. The Project also works closely with many community organizations and government agencies including the Mexican Consulate, Southern Arizona Legal Aid, the Southside Worker Center, the Somali Bantu Association of Tucson (SBATA) and Border Action Network.
(Photo Above) Bacon Fellow Tomas Lopez, UA law student Timothy Bearese (2011), and UA Law alum Linda Imonode (2010) conducted a "Know Your Rights" presentation for immigrant workers in a local church in May 2011.
About the Project
Direct Legal Service
The Project operates an in-house labor/employment rights clinic where workers receive confidential legal information, advice, and counseling about their rights in the workplace from trained law students and supervising attorneys. Over the 2011-2012 school year the Project provided individual legal assistance and advice to over 60 immigrant workers. Recent clients have included domestic workers, child and elder care providers, delivery truck drivers, restaurant workers, hotel workers, landscape and construction workers and many more.
Trained law students and supervising attorneys provide follow up support and advocacy for workers interested in pursuing negotiations with their employer or filing charges with administrative agencies for unpaid wages, unemployment benefits, sexual harassment, discrimination, or other concerns. In recent years, the Project has recovered thousands of dollars in unpaid wages and helped workers file complaints with the Arizona Registrar of Contractors, the Arizona Labor Department, the Arizona Attorney General's Office, the Arizona Division of Occupational Safety and Health, the National Labor Relations Board and the U.S. Department of Labor. Similarly, the Project provides referrals to attorneys and organizations that can provide legal representation or other needed services on a pro bono or reduced fee basis.
Community Education and Outreach
The Project designs and conducts outreach and trainings to low-wage workers on employment rights and self-advocacy. These presentations are tailored to the specific audiences, language abilities and concerns of the community organizations that host them. Over the 2011-2012 academic year the Project conducted workplace rights presentations and "train the trainers" workshops throughout Tucson reaching well over 200 immigrant workers. Presentations ranged from general workplace rights presentations to domestic workers' rights presentations or wage theft presentations. The project also provides trainings and technical assistance to community organizations and leaders on issues related to the exploitation of immigrant workers.
Public Policy Research
For information on our current research please visit: http://www.law.arizona.edu/depts/bacon_program/workers.cfm
Through its advocacy on behalf of immigrant workers, the Project has achieved the following successes in the past few years:
- The Project has successfully negotiated settlements ranging from $1,000-$11,000 for undocumented women who experienced sexual harassment at work.
- The Project negotiated the reinstatement of a custodian who was wrongfully terminated by an employer who refused to accept the work authorization documents the custodian offered in compliance with the I-9 process.
- The Project received over $5,000 for an undocumented woman worker in a seafood processing plant who was denied overtime pay and underpaid for hours worked. The Project filed a lawsuit in state court and eventually negotiated a settlement.
- After filing a charge with the National Labor Relations Board, the Project negotiated a $6,000 settlement for a worker who was terminated in violation of the National Labor Relations Act.
- The Project negotiated a $7,000 settlement for an undocumented tortilla factory worker who was denied overtime pay.
- The Project negotiated on behalf of a Muslim refugee who was forced to resign when his supervisor gave him the choice between cutting pork - which his supervisor knew was against his religious beliefs - and losing his job. The Project successfully recovered back wages and reinstatement for the worker.
- The Project has helped workers report concerns of elder abuse in an elder care home and child neglect by a child care facility.
- The Project has given dozens of referrals to workers' compensation attorneys, domestic violence resources, private employment attorneys, and other community resources.
The Project’s successes have attracted both local and national attention, as evidenced by features in the Tucson Weekly (Project Director a “local hero” for work on behalf of immigrant women, December 24, 2009); Arizona Daily Star (“Low Income Women Have Ally to Defend Labor Rights,” July 20, 2008); El Independiente (“Legal Clinic Helps Immigrant Women Avoid Exploitation,” December 2008); and On Campus with Women, an online magazine of the Association of American Colleges and Universities (“Protecting Women’s Rights at the Border through Advocacy and Education,” February 2008, available at http://www.aacu.org/ocww).
Our "know your rights" packets provide workers with information about their rights at work in Arizona. They are available in a number of languages, below. Contact us to schedule an outreach presentation!
Questions about your rights at work? Interested in scheduling a workplace rights presentation? Call us to schedule an appointment at 621-7331. Please leave a message with your name and number and someone will follow up with you soon.
Last Updated: 08/06/2012