Photo of Fernanda Herrara Spieler

Fernanda Herrera Spieler

  • Hosted by Resilience Force Justice Project
  • Sponsored by Equal Justice Works Text-to-Give
  • Service location Nashville, Tennessee
  • Law school Loyola University Chicago School of Law
  • Issue area Immigrant Populations, Workers' Rights
  • Fellowship class year 2021
  • Program Design Your Own Fellowship

The Project

Fernanda (she/her/hers) will combat immigration-related retaliation against workers in climate disaster clean up and reconstruction zones in the Southern United States through education, legal representation, and policy change.

The global climate crisis is wreaking havoc across the United States. Whether it be hurricanes, dam breaks, tornados, or wildfires, companies are looking to rebuild quickly at expedient costs and to do so, secure workers from around the country. Most of these workers are immigrants and many are undocumented. Unfortunately, many in the growing disaster recovery industry take advantage of the workers’ undocumented status by not paying them all they are owed, not paying them at all, and not following safety and health guidelines for what is often very dangerous work. When workers assert their rights, employers threaten to report them to immigration enforcement authorities.

Fernanda and her family left Mexico and moved to Alabama when she was two years old, where she grew up as an undocumented immigrant. She watched her parents receive less pay and unfair treatment than they deserved for their long hours of labor and take whatever job was available to them out of necessity to provide for their family. Due to a lack of information, her family was left vulnerable to those who believed undocumented immigrants had no legal recourses in labor disputes. Fernanda hopes to empower others and spread through the immigrant community the knowledge that everyone deserves a fair wage and humane working conditions, despite their immigration status.

Fellowship Plans 

Fernanda will equip natural disaster workers with legal information about their rights to be free from immigration-related retaliation by creating Know Your Rights workshops and videos to distribute via social media platforms, and training workers to be peer educators. She will also represent workers in wage and hour, safety and health, and worker organizing retaliation claims; companion applications for U Visas; and in appropriate cases, T Visas. Fernanda will hold large companies accountable for immigration-related retaliation, even when it is committed by subcontractors. She will also help change local policy, in disaster-affected communities to reduce the effects of immigration-related retaliation and promote long-lasting changes at the national level.

Men and women who rebuild communities decimated by natural disasters often return to their families with empty pockets, crushed spirits, and life-altering illnesses or disabilities as a result of their dedication to reconstruction and the lack of protection given by their employers. Large companies and subcontractors should honor and defend these valiant resilience workers, not pocket the funds federal agencies give them to pay workers.

Fernanda Herrera Spieler /
2021 Equal Justice Works Fellow

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