And today’s guest blog from this award-winning champion for justice will break yours, too.
Introduction by Julia Wilson, Executive Director: Just about one year ago, the OneJustice network gathered at our annual Opening Doors to Justice event to celebrate the accomplishments of our community. A young woman took to the stage – and broke the hearts of the audience in just about 3 minutes flat.
That woman was Ana de Alba, and later this week she will receive the prestigious Jack Berman Award of Achievement for Distinguished Service to the Profession and the Public from the California Young Lawyer’s Association. And boy, does she deserve it. We are so proud that she is part of the OneJustice network, and I will be in the audience next Friday night, cheering with all my heart and soul as she again takes the stage. Ana graciously agreed to provide a guest blog this week, revisiting her remarks from our stage one year ago. I know they will inspire you as they have inspired us!
Guest Blog: Ana de Alba, Lang Richert & Patch, Fresno
I am honored to stand before you tonight as a recipient of an “Opening Doors to Justice” award. What this award means to me can be best explained by sharing a story about a field worker from the Central Valley who was in desperate need of legal services.
This particular individual lived in one of the small communities that dot highway 99. She and a crew of about 5 other women spent an entire summer working on a cucumber farm without getting paid. Although this woman, who was a bit braver and more outgoing than the others, demanded payment on their behalf, she was always told that they would get paid “next week.” “Next week” never came.
They were upset, and rightfully so, each of them had young children to support and not only had they provided free labor for an entire summer, they had also paid for childcare, paid for a ride to and from the farm which was located 45 miles from their home, and in the end, they came home with nothing. They were ashamed and felt that they had let their families down.
Encouraged by her children to “fight this,” this woman called an attorney she randomly selected from the yellow pages who was kind enough to tell her that to seek redress she need only go to the Labor Commissioner. When she discovered, however, that the Labor Commissioner was located in Fresno, she was absolutely devastated. Fresno was over 60 miles from her home and filled with freeways and highways that she felt unable to drive on. Worse still, there was no way to get there using public transportation. In the end, none of these women sought out justice because it was simply too inaccessible to them.
This woman was my mother and events like these were all too common in my life. On the day I left Dos Palos to attend UC Berkeley I promised that little girl who heard her mother crying inconsolably in the bathroom that I would return to the Valley as an attorney. I would find a way to make the legal system more accessible so that justice would really be “a right for all.”
Thank you OneJustice for recognizing my efforts and for the great work you do throughout the state, thank you to my firm Lang, Richert & Patch for supporting me and allowing me to use their goodwill in our local legal community to promote pro bono, thank you Central California Legal Services and California Rural Legal Assistance for being at the front lines of these struggles, and thank you to my husband, daughter, parents, and siblings for giving me strength and always reminding me that the law really is a powerful tool for social change.
What an inspiring story. It is still so unbelievable that in a country like ours, founded on the principles of liberty and justice for all, there are still so many barriers to justice. Thanks for the great work you do to right these wrongs and bring things back into balance. You’re repairing the world… one person like little Anna and her Mom at a time.