2015 was a year of growth, opportunities and victories for Workers Defense Project – a year of breaking new ground. WDP Organized its largest ever march and action, mobilizing nearly 1,000 people from around the state for a three-day march from the Hutto Detention Center in Taylor to the Governor’s Mansion to as the Texas governor to hear the voices of immigrant families on the one-year anniversary of President Obama’s DAPA & DACA+ immigration executive action.
WDP won a major policy victory in Dallas, passing an ordinance mandating rest breaks for construction workers in the city after a fourteen month long campaign. Mandatory rest breaks reduce heat stress and workplace accidents by ensuring that workers can get a drink of water and get out of the sun for ten minutes every four hours, something not guaranteed to workers under Texas law. WDP’s Employment and Legal Services Program had a record year fighting for justice for workers, recovering nearly $240,000 in back wages and compensation, more than in any previous year.
Our Adult Education and Training program also had a record year, recruiting 599 new worker members and providing English classes, OSHA safety training and leadership training to more workers than in any previous year. And WDP’s Better Builder program multiplied its impact by expanding into the public sector, winning worker protection standards on Austin Community College’s $386 million bond.
2015 was also a year of transition, as Cristina Tzintzun, co-founder and executive director, left the organization and moved out of state to pursue other dreams. A er an extensive search, the board of directors hired Jose P. Garza as WDP’s new executive director. He started work January 4, 2016, and I can’t imagine anyone more qualified to to lead Workers Defense as it seeks to grow and serve its members in the most effective ways possible.
Jose is a Texas native, born in Laredo, raised in San Antonio. A er graduating from the University of Texas at Austin in 2001, he worked for Congressman Ciro Rodriguez for a year before attending law school at Catholic University. From there he became a public defender for Texas RioGrande Legal Aid and later an assistant federal public defender in the Western District of Texas. In 2010, Jose returned to DC to take the position of deputy general counsel for the House Committee on Education and Labor and then moved to the National Labor Relations Board. Most recently he was the associate deputy secretary in the office of policy at the Department of Labor. Welcome, Jose!