2014 Summer Fellowship Experiences

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

This year's Peggy Browning Fellows are sharing stories and photos of their Summer Fellowship experiences. Read on to learn more about them.

Citlalli, second from left, participating in the rally outside the Wilson Building to increase the minimum wage and other measures to help workers and their families.

Peggy Browning Summer Fellow, Citlalli Ochoa, worked at The Employment Justice Center (EJC) in Washington, DC.  She reported that EJC is unique in that it combines policy advocacy and community organizing efforts with legal services to protect workers' rights and secure workplace justice. 

As part of her fellowship, she not only had the opportunity to develop her legal skills in areas such as client intake, representation, and legal research and writing, but she was also able to organize and rally with workers for higher wages, wage-theft prevention measures and the rights of ex-offenders in the workplace.

For example, the DC Council increased the minimum wage and passed measures banning employers from asking job applicants if they have been arrested or convicted of a crime until after an initial job offer is extended.  The day the Council voted on these measures, EJC staff, advocates and organizers, along with workers, participated in a rally outside the Wilson Building where the vote took place to show community support of the final vote and increase pressure.  "Most compelling," she reports, "were the workers who took time out of their workdays to come support this legislation.  Legislation they knew would improve not only their lives and that of their families, but also the lives of all workers throughout the city."

Observing the workers' reactions when the bills were passed was a particularly memorable experience for her because It was evident that they felt hopeful and empowered.  Without the workers' support and the joint efforts of advocates and organizers, it is unlikely that this legislation would have passed. Similarly, the attorneys at EJC were invaluable in helping draft this legislation and will continue to play a critical role in ensuring that laws like these are implemented and workers have the tools necessry to enforce their rights.

Citlalli Ochoa is now a second-year student at University of California Irvine School of Law.

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