About Workers Defense Project:
Created in 2002, WDP is a statewide, membership-based organization devoted to workers’ rights and advocacy, chiefly aiming to build power among Texas construction workers. Its mission – to empower low-income workers to achieve fair employment through education, direct services, organizing and strategic partnerships – is accomplished through a network of dedicated staff, volunteers and members.
WDP is one of the few organizations in Texas focused on addressing workplace abuse faced by low-wage laborers. Among the most established worker centers in the South, and a leader in the national movement of worker centers fighting for fair conditions for working people, WDP has won numerous awards for its cutting-edge achievements within one of the country’s most difficult climates for workers. The New York Times described WDP as “one of the most creative organizations for immigrant workers in the country”.
Each year, WDP serves over 2,500 workers through offices in Austin and Dallas by way of various social-service and organizing programs. WDP concentrates its efforts on winning better work conditions in the construction industry, among the most powerful special interest groups in Texas, employing over 900,000 workers, half of whom are undocumented.
- Recovered over $1,150,000 in back wages for 1,100 low-wage workers through negotiation, legal and direct action.
- Won 5,000 good construction jobs that pay living wages, include expanded safety protections, and provide job training to help workers advance in the workplace by signing landmark agreements with large scale commercial developers.
- Passed Texas’ first misclassification protection law that imposes fines on employers caught misclassifying employees on state contracts – protecting not just construction workers, but any worker employed by a state contractor.
- Won one of the nation’s most progressive economic development policies. To be eligible for tax incentives from the City of Austin companies must now agree to ensure higher standards on construction projects including: Living and prevailing wages, OSHA basic safety training, workers’ compensation coverage, protection from misclassification for all workers on the project, and project owners are incentivized to hire from “disadvantaged” worker populations (those that are low-income, have a criminal record, and do not have a high school diploma).
- Passed a statewide wage theft law that allows police departments across Texas to arrest employers who don’t pay their workers.
- Won a federal OSHA investigation into Texas’ deadly construction industry. Under the initiative, OSHA conducted nearly 900 inspections throughout the state, resulting in close to 1,500 citations and fines totaling almost $2 million. Overall the investigation resulted in a 60% increase in construction safety inspections throughout the state, saving countless lives.
- Won paid rest breaks for Austin’s 60,000 construction workersby holding a “thirst strike” with WDP construction worker members and leaders outside of City Hall during the summer.
- Won changes in city contracts to require basic OSHA 10 hour safety trainings for all construction workers on city-funded sites.
- Trained over 15,000 low-wage workers about their employment rights and how to best defend them.
The Employment and Legal Services (ELS) Director will oversee one of WDP’s most premiere programs. The Employment Legal Services Program represents low-wage workers to address employment rights violations such as wage theft, injury on the job, discrimination and sexual harassment. The Employment and Legal Services program educates low-wage workers about their employment rights, recovers back wages for workers who have been denied payment for their work, and assists injured workers obtain the benefits and care they need. The ELS program combines both legal tactics and community-based tactics (such as direct action and public pressure) to resolve legal violations. Additionally, WDP will expand its legal services to provide critically needed immigration legal services in the event of passage of comprehensive immigration reform. In Texas it is estimated that 1 in 10 workers are undocumented, and conservative estimates cite that 50% of the construction workforce as undocumented.
The ELS director is charged with overseeing this program in Austin and Dallas by:
(1) designing and implementing innovative legal strategies, including direct action, that support WDP’s broader strategic campaigns to address the systemic causes of employment abuses;
(2) overseeing a team of attorneys and support staff to successfully resolve cases;
(3) executing administrative and financial oversight of the ELS program and identifying opportunities for innovation and growth.
(4) directly representing WDP members in workplace-related employment and labor claims.
The ELS Director will work in close collaboration with other WDP staff to develop legal strategies that support WDP’s organizing goals and to ensure strong coordination on campaigns.
Duties and Responsibilities
- Manage the ELS Program statewide to ensure strong program coordination and uniform development and implementation of new strategies and methods
- Represent WDP members on employment issues through negotiation, legal and direct action
- Train, supervise, and evaluate ELS program staff
- Recruit and train a team of program volunteers
- Manage programmatic financials and expenditures to ensure good financial stewardship and that deliverables are met for grantors
- Research relevant legal topics and draft memos to expand the legal strategies utilized by WDP
- Establish and manage partnerships and collaborations with ally institutions including law firms, law schools, state agencies, other legal service non-profits, and other community allies.
- Work collaboratively with other WDP staff to ensure cross-program collaboration to advance WDP’s strategic objectives
- Represent the organization publicly to partner institutions and funders, as needed
- Work with WDP leadership to hire qualified ELS staff
- Develop recommendations to strengthen the work of the ELS program
- Oversee administrative functions including completion of monthly reports to guide program evaluation
- Support ELS staff to fulfill worker leadership development and organizing goals
- Any other activities that are necessary to carry out the work of WDP
Candidates for this position must be able to demonstrate:
- Admission to the Texas Bar (or willingness to apply for membership and sit for the next bar exam)
- Two to three years of on-the-job legal experience.
- Commitment to helping cultivate a high-performing legal program that utilizes the law creatively in the fight for systemic change.
- Creativity and demonstrated willingness to take risks in crafting and executing legal strategies.
- Computer literate (excel, Microsoft word, and internet)
- Ability to work independently and juggle multiple responsibilities.
- Excellent time management and administrative skills.
- Two to three years of managerial experience with proven ability to supervise, mentor and develop staff.
- Ability to publicly represent WDP and think critically in high stake meetings with employers and partner institutions.
- Fluency in English and Spanish (strong written and verbal communication skills in both languages).
- Excellent writing skills and ability to communicate with a diverse audience
- Ability to work irregular hours, including nights and weekends (position is a full-time salaried exempt position).
- Ability to travel monthly to provide support to Dallas-based staff.
- Ability to work well with diverse groups of people (including faith, labor, Latino immigrants, and African American community, among others).
- Commitment to social justice, furthering workers rights, and building a broader labor movement.
- Must own a vehicle
- 2-3 years of community and/or labor organizing experience
- Previous experience with wage and hour and immigration law is a plus.
- Competitive Salary
- Generous Benefit package (paid sick leave, two-weeks of vacation, 403b retirement plan, health insurance, and maternity/paternity leave).
How to apply: Send resume, cover letter, writing sample, and three professional references to Emily at Emily@workersdefense.org.
As an equal opportunity employer, Workers Defense Project embraces diversity and does not discriminate in employment on the basis of age, race, color, creed, gender, religion, marital status, veteran’s status, national origin, disability, or sexual orientation. Women and people of color are strongly encouraged to apply.