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2001 January - February

Supporting Low-Income Workers

An Organizer's Perspective

By Naomi Zauderer

Federal law protects undocumented immigrant workers from labor violations, including national-origin discrimination, as well as retaliation based on their immigration status. However, these workers' rights are being undermined by employer sanctions, the employment eligibility verification process, and the threat of immigration enforcement. Coalitions of immigrant workers, organized labor, community-based organizations, interfaith groups, and members of the business community have begun to work together to expand protections for this vulnerable group.

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Opportunities for New Alliances to Protect the Rights of Undocumented Immigrant Workers

By Marielena Hincapié

Federal law protects undocumented immigrant workers from labor violations, including national-origin discrimination, as well as retaliation based on their immigration status. However, these workers' rights are being undermined by employer sanctions, the employment eligibility verification process, and the threat of immigration enforcement. Coalitions of immigrant workers, organized labor, community-based organizations, interfaith groups, and members of the business community have begun to work together to expand protections for this vulnerable group.

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From Redlining to Reverse Redlining

A History of Obstacles for Minority Homeownership in America

By Ira Rheingold, Michael Fitzpatrick & Al Hofeld Jr.

Predatory lending is a continuation of poor governmental policy in mortgage lending, causing reverse redlining. Legal services attorneys can fight predatory lending.

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An Overview of Transportation Issues Affecting the Welfare-to-Work Populations

The TRUC Program

By Michele Casey, Cynthea Geerdes & Valerie McWilliams

Access to private transportation has become essential for welfare to work recipients. The Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation created and developed a not-for-profit car dealership to assist welfare-to-work families with transportation needs.

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Do Legal Services Need to Change to Accommodate the Working Poor?

By Don Saunders Download this article   |   Read more ➢

Changing Legal Services to Serve Low-Wage Clients Better

By Charles Elsesser Jr.

In the postwelfare reform world, two fundamental shifts are necessary in how programs provide legal services. Programs need to reexamine how accessible their services are to the community of working poor and what substantive services are most needed by this community.

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Re-Reforming Welfare

What Attorneys Can Do

By Gary Delgado & Maya Wiley

Preliminary findings of a survey on the effects of welfare reform indicate that access to benefits has become more difficult, the lack of administrative standards has enabled states to treat people unfairly and inconsistently, and welfare reform has compounded race and gender inequality. Legal services advocates can help make known these real effects of welfare reform. They can also apply civil rights laws to protect welfare recipients.

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Do Legal Services Programs Need to Change to Serve the Working Poor Better?

By Laura K. Abel & Paul K. Sonn

Advocates can assist their working but still indigent clients by supporting "living wage" campaigns and helping low-wage workers enforce their rights under new living wage laws. They can also ensure that legal services funding restrictions do not prevent programs from helping achieve the best outcomes for their working poor clients.

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Serving Working Clients

The Perspective of a Legal Services Field Program

By Sharon M. Dietrich

Serving working clients can best be accomplished by addressing new substantive areas, such as income supports, community economic development, employment law, and job training and education. Legal services delivery needs to adjust to client availability, and legal services advocacy should be repackaged as benefiting low-wage workers.

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Federal Housing Programs and Working Families

By S. Lynn Martinez & Barbara Sard

Housing advocates and legal services attorneys who participate in the planning or review of admission and occupancy policies of public housing authorities in subsidized project-based housing need to be able to identify work-related policies that can be used to assist low-income tenants or welfare recipients in benefiting from housing programs.

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Payday Loans: A High Cost for a Small Loan in Low-Income and Working Communities

By Elizabeth Renuart & Jean Ann Fox

The "fringe" consumer marketplace has developed a new mechanism to exploit the low-income population: payday loans, with average annual percentage rates of nearly 500 percent. The loans are marketed as a quick and easy way to get cash, but consumers are seldom able to repay and end up extending the loans multiple times, paying new fees each time. In some jurisdictions payday lenders are subject to usury laws, but nearly half the states have passed industry-backed legislation authorizing such loans. Nonetheless, consumers have several legal claims available to them.

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Welfare Reform: Rhetoric and Reality

By Audra Wilson

Clients and advocates know all too well the disparity between welfare programs' rhetoric and reality. The National Center on Poverty Law's Let's Get It Right! project seeks to highlight this discrepancy and thus minimize it. Three issues of particular concern are education and training programs, child care difficulties, and improper termination of benefits to which clients remain entitled

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Health Care for Low-Income Working Families After Welfare Reform

By Jocelyn Guyer

The "delinking" of welfare and Medicaid eligibility that was part of welfare reform in 1996 and the State Children's Health Insurance Program enacted by Congress in 1997 have combined to alter the advocacy landscape significantly. States now have broad flexibility to expand health coverage for both parents and children, and they have been somewhat successful in expanding coverage for children. Low-income working parents often lose coverage as they leave welfare, however, despite continuing Medicaid eligibility. States may be reluctant to promote expanded health coverage for low-income working families until doing so is recognized as a critical component of successful welfare reform.

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Domestic Violence as a Barrier to Employment

By Robin R. Runge, Marcellene E. Hearn & Spenta R. Cama

Battered women often are forced to choose between their safety and their jobs because they fear they will be fired if they take steps to address the violence in their lives. However, domestic violence does not have to become a barrier to employment. State and federal employment laws can assist employees who are victims of domestic violence, and proactive employment policies may enable domestic violence victims to maintain employment and break the cycle of violence.

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The Family and Medical Leave Act

Challenges Ahead

By M. Ahadi Bugg

The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) has given millions of working families job security when they take leave for the birth or adoption of a child, to care for an ailing family member, or to recover from their own illnesses. However, low-income workers cannot afford to take the unpaid leave the FMLA guarantees, may work for an employer not covered by the FMLA, or may not have worked for the required time period or number of hours to qualify for leave. Federal and state actions are under way to make family and medical leave more available and affordable, and advocates have numerous strategies available to pursue increased leave rights for their clients. [

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Child Care for Families Leaving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families

By Sujatha Jagadeesh Branch, Cynthia Godsoe, Sherry Leiwant, Roslyn Powell, Cary LaCheen & Rebecca Scharf

Lack of adequate child care and its high cost often force working parents leaving welfare to make the impossible choice between providing inadequate care for their children and failing to provide for their families financially. Low-income families are likely to face special issues that make finding appropriate and affordable child care particularly difficult. Subsidies do not always solve problems of affordability or availability of good child care. Advocates can pursue numerous strategies to help ensure that low-income working families have access to quality, affordable child care.

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Income Supports Can Dramatically Increase Resources Available for Lower-Income Working Families

By Maurice Emsellem, Sherry Leiwant, Rick McHugh, Michael A. O'Connor & David A. Super

As legal services clients move from cash assistance into the low-wage labor market, many government-funded income supports remain available to them. Despite the potential of these programs to bolster family stability and new workers' capacity to retain jobs, the benefits often go unused for a variety of reasons. Four of the most important income supports—the Earned Income Tax Credit, child care subsidies, food stamps, and unemployment insurance—are reviewed, and suggestions are offered to legal services practitioners who want to ensure that their clients have access to these resources.

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Note from the Managing Editor

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