Asian Outreach Impact Advocacy
At AOU, we know that empowering people goes hand-in-hand with empowering their communities. That’s why we work with Asian American groups, legal organizations and citizens to address issues that directly affect the lives of Asian Americans in Greater Boston – issues such as voting rights, domestic violence, and worker exploitation.
Bilingual Ballots and Voting Rights
In 2010, we celebrated the passage of a bilingual ballots bill requiring Chinese/English and Vietnamese/English ballots for those that need them in the City of Boston. AOU has represented limited-English proficient voters since 2005, first representing their interests in the federal lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice against the city of Boston, and then drafting, filing, and advancing the bilingual ballots bill when the lawsuit's settlement agreement expired. With fully bilingual ballots, elderly naturalized U.S. citizens whose English is limited will be able to vote freely and independently in all local, state, and federal elections.
Low Wage Immigrant Worker Campaigns
AOU works with groups of low wage Asian immigrant workers on workplace issues, including minimum wage and overtime violations. With the current recession, more and more workers find themselves the victims of “wage theft”. Wage theft occurs when an employer allows a worker to perform services, but fails to compensate for his or her service. Wage theft also occurs when employers make illegal deductions to their workers’ pay or tips in order to pay expenses that should be the responsibility of the employer (e.g., the cost of cleaning or repairs).
AOU currently represents a class of 300 former Super 88 market workers in a case seeking compensation for their employer’s failure to pay the minimum wage rate and overtime. Scores of workers complained that they routinely worked 60 hours per week, but were paid less than $5 per hour with no overtime pay. Although the case is still pending, it has already had a positive impact on current wage practices in the Asian immigrant community.
AOU employs a community lawyering model of advocacy, whereby AOU staff work closely with groups of clients (e.g., workers, tenants, community residents, or voters) and/or community-based organizations in order to achieve the groups’ goals and objectives. AOU recognizes that not all problems have a legal solution and that community groups may effectively employ non-litigious forms of advocacy (e.g., media, organizing, lobbying). In community empowerment cases, AOU collaborates with client groups and professionals of other disciplines in order to maximize the advocacy tools available to the community. AOU may serve the client group by providing research and advice, or it may fully litigate a case with broad implications.
In a recent case, AOU successfully defended the Chinese Progressive Association in a defamation lawsuit brought by an aggrieved employer. In granting AOU’s anti-SLAPP motion to dismiss, the judge upheld CPA’s right to engage in leafleting, picketing, and organizing a public campaign — activities that all workers and workers centers should have a right to engage in.