The Worker Justice Center of New York pursues justice for those denied human rights with a focus on agricultural and other low wage workers, through legal representation, community empowerment and advocacy for institutional change.
The Worker Justice Center of New York is the merger of Farmworker Legal Service of NY (FLSNY) and the Workers’ Rights Law Center (WRLC). Our merger builds on decades of achievement in providing direct legal services low-wage workers, empowering communities, and advocating for institutional change.
The WRLC was founded in 2003 by former Farmworker Legal Services of New York attorneys Dan Werner and Tricia Kakalec. As more and more non-farmworkers were calling their office at FLSNY, they realized there was a need for legal services and legal education for non-agricultural low-wage workers. The WRLC was created to address this need. The WRLC was incorporated in July 2003. The WRLC moved closer to becoming a reality when, in the summer of 2004, Tricia and Dan were awarded an Echoing Green Foundation fellowship to support the creation of the project. The Dyson Foundation and other colleagues, unions, board members, family, and friends provided the other important support that allowed the WRLC to open its doors.
On June 1, 2004, the WRLC opened part-time in office space donated by UNITE-HERE in Kingston, New York. We filed our first case in July of 2004. On September 1, 2004, the WRLC opened full-time, with Tricia and Dan as the only staff members. In January 2005, Geovanny Triviño joined the WRLC as our Outreach Coordinator, and the WRLC began reaching out more and more in the community. In April 2005, we grew out of our donated office space and moved to our new office at 101 Hurley Avenue in Kingston. In October 2005, Kati Griffith joined the WRLC with the support of a Skadden Fellowship. Paralegal Diana Saguilan replaced Betsaida Alcantara in June 2006. Betsaida left the WRLC to participate in the prestigious Public Policy Fellowship at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute. In March 2008, Dan Werner left the WRLC to become Deputy Director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Immigrant Rights Project. In November 2008, Tricia Kakalec left the WRLC for the NYS Attorney General’s office. In 2009, Milan Bhatt took over as Executive Director.
FLSNY was created by the New York State Bar in the late 1970′s to address the unmet need of legal representation for migrant and seasonal farm workers. The first managing attorney was Hugh Brantley. We were incorporated in 1981 as a free standing state-wide program and, for over thirty years, represented migrant and seasonal workers in civil matters throughout New York State. Our first Executive Director, Jim Schmidt, served the organization for over 30 years. It was through his commitment, perseverance and skill that the organization thrived. Millions of dollars have been recovered for victims of wage theft and other forms of employment discrimination through the efforts of a dedicated staff. We have created nationally recognized projects aimed at reducing Domestic Violence and Human Trafficking in the agricultural community. We have been rewarded grants from the New York State Department of Labor since 1988 to provide pesticide safety information to workers and monitor workplace compliance. In 2010, we were one of two organizations in New York State to receive funding from the United States Department of Labor to provide workplace safety information that concurred with existing OSHA standards.
We are grateful to our supporters for their commitment to workers’ rights!
- The Dyson Foundation
- Ben and Jerry’s Foundation
- Dutchess County Bar Association
- United Way of Monroe County
- Hudson Catskill Workforce Development Center
- The New York State Bar Foundation
- The New York State Interest on Lawyer Account Fund (“”IOLA”")
- United Way of Ulster County
- The Workforce Development Institute
- The New York State Office of Court Administration
In addition, we are especially thankful for the contributions of our individual and union donors.