Workers Defense League

New York, NY

This is the 2019 fellowship description for this mentor organization. This fellowship has been awarded to Jenny Lam from Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.

The Workers Defense League (WDL), founded in 1936, is a workers' rights organization with close ties to national and local unions.  In its early decades, WDL provided legal defense to sharecroppers' and farm workers' organizations, helped soldiers fight dishonorable discharges, and organized a training program to prepare minority youth to enter the building trades. 

For the past thirty years our primary focus has been on unemployment insurance (UI) rights.  We represent 300 claimants a year (about 10 hearings per week) at administrative hearings, and advise some 1200 more by telephone.  We assist UI claimants free of charge, and we do not impose income or geographical restrictions.  Although we are not attorneys, we have developed a strong expertise in UI law and the hearing process. Most of those we assist are denied UI on grounds that they were fired for misconduct or quit without good cause.  About one-quarter of those we represent are union members, some of whom are referred to WDL by their unions.  We win over 85% of our cases.

The Peggy Browning Fellow will spend much of his/her time at New York's "hearing section" in Brooklyn, first observing hearings with our chief advocate, Joel Leichter, and then representing claimants in cases which we will assign.  We expect the Fellow to be ready to familiarize herself or himself with the UI law, precedents, and the hearing process fairly quickly, so as to begin representing claimants as soon as possible.  Ideally, the Fellow should be a "self-starter," comfortable working in a small organization, and empathetic with unemployed individuals from a range of occupations and backgrounds.

The total ten-week stipend for this fellowship will be $6,000.

Address cover letter to:

Jon Bloom
Executive Director
Workers Defense League
P.O. Box 618
New York, NY 10159