Staff Attorney

JOB OPENING: Staff Attorney, Austin, TX
Applications accepted until position is filled

About Workers Defense Project:

Created in 2002, WDP is a statewide membership-based workers rights organization that builds power for construction workers in Texas. 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 working to address workplace abuse faced by low-wage workers. The organization is one of the most established worker centers in the South and a national leader in the movement of worker centers fighting for fair conditions for working people. WDP has won numerous awards and accolades for its cutting edge organizing work in one of the toughest climates for workers in the country, including being named “one of the most creative organizations for immigrant workers in the country” by the New York Times.

WDP has over ten years of experience working with low-wage workers in Texas, particularly in the construction industry. Each year, WDP serves over 2,500 workers in its Austin and Dallas offices through its various social service and organizing programs. WDP focuses its efforts on winning better working conditions in the construction industry, which is one of the most powerful special interest groups in Texas, employing over 900,000 workers, half of whom are undocumented.

Achievements:

  • 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 agree to ensure higher standards on construction projects including living and prevailing wages, safety training, workers’ compensation coverage for all workers on the project and incentivizes hiring workers from disadvantaged populations.

  • 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 workers by 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.

Job Description

The Austin Staff Attorney will directly represent low-wage workers in employment claims such as wage theft, injury, and discrimination cases as part of the Employment and Legal Services Department. The Staff Attorney will oversee legal support staff and volunteers. WDP uses a wide range of legal, administrative, and community-based tactics to assist low-wage workers with recovering their wages or seeking redress for legal violations on the worksite. WDP employs a unique model of casework that incorporates worker empowerment through legal advocacy and engages worker clients in organizational campaigns to win safe and dignified working conditions and fair pay for workers in Texas.

While the Staff Attorney will principally spend their time on direct legal representation and strengthening WDP’s legal advocacy services, they will work closely with Austin area organizing and policy advocacy staff to support larger organizing and policy advocacy objectives. The Staff Attorney will be responsible for building relationships with other legal service providers and funders, as well as develop effective collaborations with local, state, and federal enforcement agencies to support legal advocacy work. This position provides a unique opportunity to work in a fast-paced environment that connects legal advocacy to innovative policy and organizing initiatives. The Austin Staff Attorney will report directly to the statewide Director of Employment and Legal Services (based in Austin).

Job Duties

  • Represent low-wage workers in wage and hour and safety cases;

  • Supervise casework in the Austin office;

  • Recruit, train, and supervise staff, interns, volunteers, and legal fellows to provide support on legal cases;

  • Cultivate relationships with employment and immigration attorneys to work on a pro bono basis with WDP;

  • Coordinate with WDP staff to use legal and community-based strategies to advance WDP’s policy and organizing campaigns in Austin;

  • Conduct legal research on relevant topics including, but not limited to employment, immigration, construction law, etc.;

  • Develop and maintain strategic relationships with faith and labor allies, attorneys, government agencies, students, and other community allies;

  • Identify and meet with potential funders for WDP;

  • Advocate WDP position to legislators, agencies, business/community decision makers, other stakeholders, and the general public;

  • Work in collaboration with the Employment and Legal Services Director to ensure strong coordination on legal work and campaigns;

  • Any other activities necessary to carry out WDP’s work.

Qualifications:

Candidates for this position must be able to demonstrate:

  • Juris Doctor (JD);

  • Admission to practice law in the state of Texas (or willingness to sit for the next bar exam);

  • Previous experience with wage and hour law;

  • Proven ability to supervise, mentor and develop staff;

  • Interest in utilizing the law creatively in the fight for systemic change;

  • Ability to work independently and juggle multiple responsibilities;

  • Excellent time management and administrative skills;

  • Proficiency in basic computer systems and online case management databases;

  • Ability to work well with diverse groups of people (including faith, labor, Latino immigrants, and African American community among others);

  • 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 travel to Dallas occasionally as needed;

  • Ability to work irregular hours including nights and occasional weekends (position is full-time salaried FLSA-exempt);

  • Ability to publicly represent WDP and think critically in high stake meetings with employers and partner institutions;

  • Deep commitment to furthering workers rights and the broader labor movement;

  • Must have a driver’s license and own a vehicle.

Preferred Qualifications

  • Previous experience with immigration law and/or work with the immigrant community are a plus.

  • Past community organizing experience is desired.

Compensation:

  • Competitive Salary;

  • Generous Benefit package (paid sick time, 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 Karla Vargas, Director of Employment & Legal Services, to Karla@workersdefense.org. Incomplete applications will not be considered. Principals only, please no recruiters.

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.

 

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Workers Defense Project’s physical offices in Dallas, Houston, and Austin will remain closed until further notice. Our services and operations continue while our staff is working remotely. Austin: (512) 289-7634 Dallas: (469) 657-3928 Houston: (832) 998-0564Recursos / Resources