2015 Equal Justice Works Fellow, Sima Atri

Sima Atri

City, State: New Orleans, Louisiana
Issue area: Workers' Rights
Sponsors: Norflet Progress Fund

The Project

Sima will improve working conditions in New Orleans’ construction industry by collectively empowering Black and immigrant workers through litigation of employment abuse and anti-retaliation complaints and policy advocacy.

The Inspiration

Need Addressed By Project: 
New Orleans is the second worst city in the U.S. for income inequality with 29% of the population living in poverty. The inequality is deeply racial in nature – 52% of Black men in New Orleans are out of work, and Black median earnings dropped 11% over the last decade. The local economy has low working standards and hires few Black workers, while employment wage, health, and safety violations are rampant. The vulnerability of Black workers, like immigrant workers, results in a fear of enforcing their established rights. However, New Orleans is at a crossroads. The construction industry is growing and there is political support behind programs creating employment opportunities for the local population. Through litigation and support for cross-racial collective action, this project ensures that there will be dignified, sustainable, safe jobs and that all workers will feel empowered to enforce their rights.
The Right Person For This Project: 
Sima is the right person for the project because:
• She has legal experience in direct services, policy work, and impact litigation for immigration, housing, and labor issues
• She has supported and led social justice movements on economic, racial, and climate justice issues on campus and in the community
• She believes strongly in the innovative community-led, legal and organizing model of change
Plans For First Six Months of Fellowship: 
In the first six months, Sima will:
• Develop strong relationship with community partners that support workers, especially Stand with Dignity
• Meet workers and conduct intakes on employment abuses and employer retaliation with workers involved with Stand and Congress of Day Laborers through their weekly organizing meetings
• Bring the first collective employment complaints for employment violations
• Conduct research on best practices for a city-wide policy on public construction contracts

© 2017 Equal Justice Works - 1730 M Street, NW, Suite 800, Washington, DC 20036-4511