Spotlight on Tania Millan, Wage Justice Center

This month we are spotlighting Tania Millan, the Director of Finance & Administration at the Wage Justice Center in Los Angeles, and a recent graduate of the Executive Fellowship Program.

Please tell us about the mission of the Wage Justice Center, and your work at the organization.

Wage Justice Center is fighting to reduce poverty for low-income Californian’s experiencing wage theft. Our clients often live paycheck to paycheck, and by using the law as an equilibrium, we help them assert their basic rights. My work at the organization has evolved over the last seven years. Starting as a case manager, I learned first-hand the detrimental impact of wage theft to workers and their families; stress, anxiety, hunger, abuse, and sometimes homelessness to name a few. Currently, as the Director of Finance and Administration, I’m driven to do the work needed for the sustainability of the organization to ensure continued services to low-income workers. The most rewarding part of my work is delivering the wages we recover. It is my duty to help and work for those who for unjust and illegal reasons are denied their basic right to receive compensation for their labor.

What are the key challenges facing your clients, and the work you are doing to address them?

Wage theft is the biggest challenge our clients are facing. Our fight for wage justice goes beyond the monetary value, we want to restore the dignity of workers who are left in the shadows in the underground economy. The Wage Justice Center was founded to address the lack of post judgment collection efforts for low-income California’s. We have developed innovative legal theories to hold exploitative employers accountable for illegal business practices. We also pioneered specialized legal services for day laborer who are experiencing wage theft, using a tool referred to as a “mechanics lien, which allows a laborer to place a lien on the property on which they labored and were not paid for. Our clients are directly impacted by COVID-19 and based on trends from the last recession, we anticipate an unprecedented increase in wage theft and violations from unscrupulous employers.

What drew you to want to participate in the OneJustice Executive Fellowship Program?

Initially I felt enthusiasm to learn about the work of One Justice, via their website. I was fortunate to participate in their capacity building academy, where I learned about the Executive Fellowship Program. I was captivated by the impact of the program on leaders of Legal Aid organizations. I was excited to join an innovative program, focused on sustainability of healthy non-profits.

What was the topic/question you covered in your Executive Fellowship Capstone Project?

My capstone project question was: How might Wage Justice Center address the cost of staff turnover in its five-year budget to accurately reflect the cost and better prepare its financial standing? The capstone project research taught me that the legal aid sector is experiencing an ongoing trend with reoccurring staff turnover. The program taught me that healthy non-profits learn to manage turnover by understanding their strengths and weaknesses, and making changes to build sustainability. My organization will use the tools and resources from my project to plan and address the inevitable staff turnover cycle. This project helped me connect the dots and taught me that challenges are inevitable, but in order for nonprofits to thrive business and management skills need to be developed.

Can you describe how your work in the Executive Fellowship Program will influence your work at the Wage Justice Center?

I look forward to incorporate the tools and skills learned during the 10 month program. The knowledge acquired will transcend to my organizations leadership, staff, programs, and the clients we serve.

Would you recommend the program to other legal aid leaders in California? If so, why?

Definitely, it connected me with a group of extraordinary legal aid leaders. The investment of time was rewarding. I am grateful to the entire One Justice team. The program energized me and taught me skills and tools to share with my organizations to continue empowering our work and clients. The program challenged my personal limiting leadership beliefs, and rewarded me with a new mindset that I can be the next generation of diverse leaders in legal services.

Announcing Phil Hwang as OneJustice CEO

The Board of Directors of OneJustice is pleased to announce that Phil Hwang will join OneJustice as CEO beginning September 14, 2020.

For the past eight years, Phil has served as Executive Director of Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto (CLSEPA). During his tenure, CLSEPA increased its revenue six-fold and became a leader in providing transformative legal services to low-income communities and communities of color in the areas of immigration, housing, and economic advancement. Phil’s talents will amplify OneJustice’s work in advancing the impact of California’s civil justice system, building the capacity of individual legal aid leaders and nonprofits, and creating innovative strategies to increase civil legal services for Californians who face legal barriers to basic necessities.

Phil strengthened his leadership and organizational management skills with the support of OneJustice’s Executive Fellowship program. “OneJustice helped me find my voice as an organizational leader, and I am thrilled to be OneJustice’s next CEO,” he says.

Before becoming an executive director, Phil worked for 15 years as a legal aid and civil rights attorney. He served as the Director of Policy and Programs at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, where he oversaw its pro bono programs, policy advocacy, and impact litigation in the areas of racial, economic, and immigrant justice. Phil began his legal career as a staff attorney at Bay Area Legal Aid, where he represented low-income clients in the areas of housing, disability, and benefits law.

Phil received his undergraduate degree from Stanford University in 1993 and his law degree from Harvard Law School in 1996. He served as a law clerk for Judge Susan Illston of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

“OneJustice is focused on being the backbone of civil legal aid and pro bono services throughout California,” says Kyuli Oh, Chair of the OneJustice Board. “We are excited to welcome Phil to our team and to work with him to build further growth and success for the organization.”

Please join us in welcoming Phil to OneJustice! We look forward to introducing him to you when he is officially on board this fall.

US Supreme Court’s DACA Decision

OneJustice is thrilled with the US Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. We want to recognize our Immigration Pro Bono Network and two of our Board members who played an integral part in the outcome of the case:

Ethan Dettmer is a partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher and a member of the team representing the six individuals DACA recipients Dulce Garcia, Miriam Gonzalez Avila, Saul Jimenez Suarez, Viridiana Chabolla Mendoza, Norma Ramirez, and Jirayut Latthivongskorn in the United States Supreme Court.

Maureen Alger is a partner at Cooley and is responsible for the management of the firm’s pro bono practice. Cooley is representing OneJustice and 46 other legal services nonprofits in an amicus (“friend of the court”) brief filed in the DACA case before the Supreme Court.

In the weeks after the federal government attempted to terminate the DACA program in 2017, OneJustice’s statewide Immigration Pro Bono Network recruited hundreds of pro bono lawyers and law students in California to respond. Our Rural Justice Initiative, including the Justice Bus and the Justice Plane, has brought pro bono immigration clinics to non-urban areas of the state, and now continues its work virtually. Your incredible support made this outcome a reality – THANK YOU!  

If you are interested in joining our fight for justice for all, we invite you to become a member of our Immigration Pro Bono Network. Visit this page for more information.

Black Lives Matter: A Statement to Our Partners and Colleagues With a List of Resources

A Statement to Our Partners and Colleagues

George Floyd. Breonna Taylor. Tony McDade. OneJustice recognizes that the horrors of the most recent loss of Black lives due to police violence are not isolated incidents, but rather part of a disturbing pattern – a systemic problem that we must disrupt and transform. OneJustice was founded on the principle that everyone should have equal access to justice — and tragically, this has not been the case for Black communities since our country’s inception. Today, and every day, we stand with the individuals and institutions demanding justice, and who will not rest until justice is realized.

Black communities are being ravaged by two pandemics, with anti-Black violence that results in repeated murders and higher incarceration rates, and COVID-19 death rates that are disproportionately higher than other communities. We must join together in solidarity with those who face oppression and systemic injustices. We must step outside our comfort zones and speak up for everyone who needs our voices to demand what’s right.

We must act and together do the work to dismantle systemic racism, doing whatever it takes to address these injustices, and support the organizations and communities that are spearheading transformational change. OneJustice still has work to do, both internally and with our partners, and we are fully committed to doing that as an organization. We recognize that we need to do more, to learn, to grow, and to adapt in ways that allow us to respond with impact and intent. 

While our action plan is in development, among the concrete steps that we plan to take include:

  • Conducting an equity, diversity and inclusion audit of our organization and operations;
  • Developing and sharing resources to help our partners reach their equity, diversity and inclusion goals;
  • Supporting our staff by providing time to learn and act in support of the Black Lives Matter movement

Change is long overdue. We cannot rest until equal justice under law is a reality. Join us in our fight for justice for all. Our very humanity depends on it.

#BlackLivesMatter #demandjustice 

In solidarity and with hope,

Cindy L. Myers
Interim CEO, OneJustice

 

Action Items:

 

Education Tools:

 

Donate:

Welcoming Two New Advisory Board Members

Peggy Ni, Latham & Watkins LLP

What made you interested in becoming an Advisory Board member for OneJustice?

My interest in becoming involved in OneJustice stems from my first introduction to the organization.  A few years ago, I participated in the Justice Bus as part of a summer program event at the law firm I currently work at, and it was a really rewarding experience helping people with criminal conviction expungement.  I thought this project and the other OneJustice programs are important and effective ways to contribute to the community and ensure legal assistance is available to those who need it.

What is your professional role and how do you hope to use your perspective?

I am a lawyer at a law firm, and a member of the pro bono committee in my office.  I hope to use my workplace resources and legal network to help OneJustice continue its great programs and connect lawyers and law students to OneJustice opportunities.

What would you like to accomplish as an Advisory Board member?

My goals are to increase my law firm’s involvement in pro bono programs, including with OneJustice, and to help develop and promote OneJustice initiatives by drawing from my experience and insights working with other pro bono organizations.

Tell us about yourself – interesting facts or what do you like to do for fun?

I enjoy reading in my spare time. I’ve been making my way through Haruki Murakami’s books, and so far 1Q84 is my favorite.

 

Lauren Golnaz Nikkhah, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP

 

What made you interested in becoming an Advisory Board member for OneJustice?

I initially learned about OneJustice in law school.  I was impressed with the high-quality projects and legal services OneJustice was involved in.  But, I really saw the organization’s immense value and contributions to the community when OneJustice’s network was immediately at the forefront of providing legal aid when the travel ban was issued.  From the outside looking in, it seemed that OneJustice was a well-oiled machine and did everything it could to provide help where it was needed.  Over the years, I saw more and more examples of how OneJustice worked to expand legal aid throughout California, and I knew that I wanted to become more involved with the organization.  I later learned that one of my law school mentors, Caitlin May, was on the Advisory Board.  She relayed how rewarding it was to serve as an Advisory Board Member, and I felt that this would be a wonderful way to contribute and be more involved.

What is your professional role and how do you hope to use your perspective?

I am an associate attorney at Morgan Lewis and work with employers on labor and employment matters.  In my practice, I strive to view things from all angles and points of views, understand the big and small pictures, and the short and long term implications of my potential advice and decisions.  I hope to bring these attributes to the table.

What would you like to accomplish as an Advisory Board member?

At this stage, I look forward to learning more about California’s civil legal aid system, the areas of legal needs of low-income Californians, and how those interact with OneJustice’s different initiatives.  I also look forward to utilizing my network of professional and personal contacts to garner more support for and involvement with OneJustice.

Tell us about yourself – interesting facts or what do you like to do for fun?

I love to travel, and I am fortunate to have had opportunities to do so since I was young.  I have been to 30 countries, and, when it’s safe and permitted, Japan, England, and Columbia are at the top of my list.

Innovation Resources for Organizations Adapting to the COVID-19 Outbreak

With “shelter in place” ordered throughout California, organizations of all kinds are in lab mode, having to think through and redesign what they offer and how they work, to accommodate the need for social distancing. This adaptive work can be especially challenging for legal service organizations, whose work streams and deliverables often require substantial face-to-face interaction. Below are resources (drawing from innovation best practices) for leaders considering how to redesign their projects.

 

Crisis Leadership

 

Redesign Guidance

 

Remote Working

 

Coping With Uncertainty

 

Click here for additional tools and resources specific to nonprofits. You can also email Roel Mangiliman, Director of Innovation and Learning: rmangiliman@one-justice.org.

 

Farewell From Julia Wilson

Julia Wilson at a OneJustice free legal clinic in Napa, California on Dec. 1, 2016

Monday, March 16, 2020


Dear OneJustice friends and supporters,

As you know, as of March 20, 2020, I’ll be stepping down as Chief Executive Officer of OneJustice after 15 amazing years. What an incredible joy it has been to work with you to guide the organization and the California legal aid sector! It has truly been my life’s calling, and I am so grateful to have shared this journey with you.

While we are excited about the developments at OneJustice, we pause to consider all of those around the world, and in our own communities, who are impacted by COVID-19. OneJustice is actively working with its legal aid community partners to assess the impact on the organizations that provide vital legal services throughout the state, and we stand ready to do what is needed to support them.

Over the past several months, our Transition Taskforce has been working closely with search firm Carlson Beck to set the stage for a new generation of leadership for the organization. OneJustice intends to find a CEO who will help craft a new and bold strategic plan, building upon its award-winning programs and innovative practices, and who will guide and lift OneJustice to new levels of impact in the years ahead.

As you have so often done in the past, please support OneJustice in this new endeavor. Circulate this job description to your networks and invite applications and nominations. More information about the position and how to apply can be found here.

It’s been a privilege to lead OneJustice, working with a dedicated and mission-driven staff, an incredible Board of Directors, Advisory Board, and Strategy Council. I cherish the relationships I have with deeply committed friends, nonprofit partners, and supporters. Thank you for sharing in our work to achieve justice for all in California. I take comfort in knowing that our paths will certainly continue to cross in the future.

Thank you for helping to make the last 15 years among the most rewarding of my life! Until we meet again…

With heartfelt gratitude,

Julia R. Wilson

President Trump releases FY 2021 Budget


February 21, 2020

Last week, the Trump administration released its federal budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2021, A Budget for America’s Future. The budget proposal asks for $18.2 million for the Legal Services Corporation (“LSC”), which covers the cost to shut it down. This call for the elimination and defunding of LSC marks the fourth time in as many years that the president has proposed a complete dismantling of the federal legal aid funding system.

This request comes at the same time LSC has submitted its own budget request for FY 2021. LSC has requested $652.6 million, an increase over last year’s request of $593 million, and has stated that they remain optimistic about congressional support. LSC funding has had a steady increase in congressional appropriations in recent years, despite the president’s repeated attempts to defund it. We reject the President’s proposal and instead call on Congress to fully fund LSC’s $652.6 million budget request.

LSC is the nation’s single largest funder of civil legal aid, funding 132 programs nationwide, including 11 programs that service California’s 58 counties and 100 Native American Reservations. In 2018, LSC Grantee organizations in California closed 77,500 cases and served 198,500 people, including 10,100 veterans and 52,000 seniors. This attempt at defunding would eliminate approximately 40% of California LSC Grantees funding and have a profound impact on the services provided to low-income Californians.

OneJustice is closely analyzing these budget documents and working on educational and advocacy efforts to ensure the protection of our country’s legal aid system! To get involved and stay informed, please sign up for our grassroots network, Californians for Legal Aid. Thank you!

OneJustice Condemns Trump Administration’s Expansion of Muslim Ban


February 3, 2020

San Francisco—In an expansion of its policies that target and discriminate on the basis of national origin, faith and immigration status, on Friday the Trump administration added travel and visa restrictions to Sudan, Nigeria, Tanzania, Myanmar, Eritrea, and Kyrgyzstan. Libya, Iran, Somalia, Yemen, Syria, North Korea, and Venezuela remain subject to the original Muslim Ban.

These policies cause irreparable harm to those impacted and further marginalize communities of color. We must fight to defend the rights of everyone in our communities by working to repeal these cruel and xenophobic practices.

OneJustice stands shoulder-to-shoulder with our immigration legal services and advocacy partners across California and the rest of the country for their tireless advocacy to protect our communities. We uplift their substantive comments and explanations of the impact of this expanded Muslim Ban:

For more legal resources, please access the One California provider network at: bit.ly/immigrationhelp.

For information about the expanded Muslim Ban and how you or your loved ones may be affected by it, check out this community advisory from Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus (AAAJ) and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).

For this and other immigration policy updates and new volunteer and training opportunities across California, become a part of the Immigration Pro Bono Network.

For media questions, please contact  Zoha Raza of CAIR at 408-418-6902 or zraza@cair.com or Sabrina Chin or Milan Chang at Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus at sabrinac@advancingjustice-alc.org or milanc@advancingjustice-alc.org.

SCOTUS allows Trump Administration to implement public charge rule while challenges are heard


Jan 31, 2020

San Francisco — Earlier this week in a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court of the United States lifted the Second Circuit Court of Appeals preliminary injunction, thus allowing the Trump Administration’s new public charge rule to go into effect. The Public Charge rule will go into effect on Feb. 24, 2020 while litigation is pending in the appellate courts. 

This public charge rule threatens the housing, health, and nutrition of low-income families — the overwhelming majority of which are of color — coast-to-coast.  This draconian rule change will cause countless families to have to make the unimaginable choice between the  help they and their children need today, or the legal status they need to keep their families together tomorrow.

Despite receiving a record-breaking 266,000 public comments — the majority of which opposed the rule change — the Department of Homeland Security finalized their public charge rule in August 2019. In response, multiple lawsuits from immigrant advocacy organizations and the State of New York are currently being litigated in the lower courts challenging the merits of the rule. OneJustice will closely follow the progress of these challenges and update you as we learn more. 

We salute our colleagues and friends at immigrant legal services and advocacy organizations across the country for their tireless advocacy in opposition to this rule change, and we uplift their substantive comments and explanations of the impact of the rule change here:

For more legal resources, please access the One California provider network at: bit.ly/immigrationhelp.

For information about the rule, please access National Protecting Immigrant Families (PIF).

For this and other immigration policy updates and new volunteer and training opportunities across California, become a part of the Immigration Pro Bono Network.