Photo of Rafael Varela

Rafael Varela

  • Hosted by Community & Economic Development Clinic at CUNY School of Law
  • Sponsored by The Paul Rapoport Foundation
  • Service location Long Island City, New York
  • Law school City University of New York School of Law
  • Issue area LGBTQ+ Rights
  • Fellowship class year 2018
  • Program Design Your Own Fellowship

The Project

Rafael is assisting in the creation, management, and longevity of LGBTQ owned and operated worker cooperatives, businesses, and nonprofits.

The LGBTQ+ community in New York is creative, innovative, and resilient. The economic and social products of LGBTQ+ New Yorkers is often underpaid, if paid at all, and this project seeks to place the vehicles for economic change under the control of LGBTQ+ New Yorkers. The U.S. economy’s unequal growth ensures that LGBTQ+ workers earn less than their heterosexual counterparts and through this wage insecurity creates insecurity in health outcomes, housing, and access to healthy food. Creating the means to which LGBTQ New Yorkers control their economic destinies serves to uplift and protect LGBTQ+ community, knowledge, and wealth.

Fellowship Highlights

In the past year, Rafael has:

  • Advised 7 different organizations and businesses on issues ranging from city-funding of startups for women and minority owned businesses to restructuring of a not-for-profits organizing documents
  • Advised multiple clients on the structural requirements and benefits of worker cooperatives
  • Successfully represented a worker cooperative before the NYS Department of Labor
  • Built relationship with an accounting firm that represents social enterprises, worker cooperatives, and not-for-profits in order to better serve my clients
  • Successfully negotiated a restructuring for a local queer entertainment organization
  • Created language for Know Your Rights Materials for individuals seeking to create LLCs, non-profits, and worker cooperatives

Next Steps

In the next year, Rafael plans to:

  • Work with graphic designers to make Know Your Rights materials accessible to the public
  • Formalize client intakes at partner LGBTQ organizations for individuals in need of answers to questions and concerns.
  • Create relationships with national LGBTQ economic-oriented organizations to create a network of service providers to continue the work past the end of this fellowship
  • Begin creation of report on wealth loss in the LGBTQ community and how community ownership of wealth can begin to undo systemic wealth theft.

Meet Other Fellows Like Rafael

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Steffi Romano

Host: UnLocal, Inc

Sponsor: The Paul Rapoport Foundation

Catherine Sakimura

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Sponsor: Anonymous

Gabriella Larios

Host: New York Civil Liberties Union

Sponsor: Anonymous

Current Fellow

Jalise Burt

Host: New York Civil Liberties Union

Sponsor: Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel