Grassroots Organizing and Immigration Reform in Oakland, CA
November 27, 2013
Current 3L Abbey Marr spent her summer working at the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NWDA) in Oakland, CA. The NDWA and its 45 affiliate organizations advocate for “respect, recognition and inclusion in labor protections for domestic workers.”
After working in impact litigation on reproductive rights and education issues, Abbey sought out an environment that emphasized grassroots organizing. At the NDWA, she found a small, innovative umbrella organization consisting of organizers, policy and media staff, and several undergraduate and graduate policy interns. Although at the time the NDWA did not have any attorneys, they may bring on a lawyer soon.
Abbey split her time between researching state labor laws and joining a national campaign around immigration reform. As many states have been pushing for new labor legislation to include domestic workers, the NDWA needed a comprehensive sense of the existing laws. For legal supervision, she turned to the attorneys at the National Employment Law Project, who partner with the NDWA. While working on the “We Belong Together” immigration reform campaign, Abbey analyzed aspects of the proposed bill through a gender lens and suggested adjustments to the legislation to better serve women specifically.
Abbey described the NDWA’s Oakland office as community-based, casual, flexible, fun, and occasionally chaotic. NDWA shares its space with one of its affiliate groups, whose members were often coming in and out of the office, and holding English or yoga classes. Abbey appreciated that she could easily talk to domestic workers who were convening at the office, and she sought their input on the proposed nationwide bills that she was analyzing. Although many of the staff members were traveling for the immigration reform campaign throughout the summer, Abbey said she received good project-based supervision from the NDWA staff and National Employment Law Project attorneys.
As the only legal intern, Abbey warns that students in won’t get experience in legal representation at the NDWA. But she spoke highly of the NDWA internship for students who want to see how lawyers and organizers work together. NDWA is a dynamic organization that is part of a rapidly growing movement, and Abbey recommends this position for students interested in being at the forefront of organizing low-wage workers.
Written by OPIA 1L Section Representative Sophie Elsner