Program’s Mission and History
Founded in 1999 the Employee Rights Center has as its mission, offering all San Diego area workers, especially disadvantaged workers without union representation, education and advocacy regarding their workplace issues. It is the only non-profit organization in the area that offers legal services regarding employment and labor law. During 2009 alone, The Center won over $1.5 million in benefits and $250,000 in unpaid wage claims for its clients and has educated thousands of workers about their rights and benefits.
The Center was founded as a program of a local 501c3 organization now named Labor’s Training & Community Development Alliance. Founder Peter Zschiesche brought 20 years’ experience of labor law as a labor union representative to promote economic and social justice among the large population of low-wage workers without unions, the majority of whom are recent immigrants to the U.S.
The two initial $3,000 grants from the San Diego Foundation for Change and UC San Diego’s Civic Collaborative reflected the Center’s mission from the start to reach beyond the unionized workforce that has the protections of union contracts to the many other workers in the San Diego community who lack those protections in seeking workplace justice, such as safe working conditions and the right to report workplace injuries.
Ever since opening the Center has been and remains the only local non-profit organization focused on workplace and immigration rights for all workers. In recent years, with major support from some California-based foundations and refinement of its fee-for-services model the Center has grown to a paid staff of four, including two young attorneys specializing in employment and immigration law. As a founding member of the San Diego Immigration Rights Consortium in 2007 it also operates their 24-hour hotline. The Center gets regular referrals from the Legal Aid Society, the county Bar Association’s lawyer referral service, Mexican Consulate, local unions, many community partners, and local attorneys. The Center also provides community workshops with its community partners to hundreds of immigrant workers yearly seeking workplace justice
Labors Training and Community Development Alliance (501c3)
Labor’s Training and Community Development Alliance (the “Alliance”) is a 501c(3) organization funded by grants, private donations and contracts with other entities, whose mission is to provide job-related training to the transitioning labor force and to participate in the development of community projects for the benefit of union members and the general public. Its main program is currently the Employee Rights Center.