Workfare: Current Challenges in Organizing and Litigation


“Workfare: Current Challenges in Organizing and Litigation” is the first in a series of “state of the field” presentations sponsored by the Review of Law and Social Change. The idea for this series came from a discussion held by the New York Legal Aid Society Homeless Rights Project (“HRP”) in 1998. Facing an increasingly hostile state and federal judiciary where long-used approaches to fighting for the rights of the poor were failing, HRP gathered together a range of people involved in the field to hold a brainstorming session about what new avenues could be taken to combat homelessness and get past the walls they were up against. Using this forumas a model, Social Change brought together litigators, politicians, policy advocates, activists and academics in November, 1998 to speak about the social, legal and economic injustices of current workfare programs. Speakers discussed their roles in challenging the workfare system, including litigation, legislative advocacy, worker organizing and know-your-rights trainings. What follows is an edited transcript of the proceedings and a resource bibliography that gathers noteworthy law journal and newspaper articles on the topic.

Suggested Reading

Michael M. Oswalt∞ Organizing is risky. Some workers join in and get fired, others face intimidation and drop out, while most—sensing the tension between legal rights and remedial realities—simply opt out. And more and more, the campaigns—and the campaigners—are getting