The 2018 Brandworkers Champions of Economic Justice
Commissioner Lorelei Salas does not fight for workers, she fights with workers. And when she fights with workers, they win. The Commissioner of the Department of Consumer Affairs for the city of New York (DCA), Lorelei has worked for well over a decade supporting workers’ power to transform and confirmed again and again the great power of collective voice. Under her leadership, NYC has for the first time its own centralized workers’ rights resource and enforcement arm in the form of DCA’s Office of Labor Policy and Standards.

Lorelei has played a key role in an extensive array of workers’ rights victories over her career. She partnered with workers organizing across Bushwick’s retail industry to prevail against widespread retaliatory firings. When workers at the Footco and Yellow Rat Bastard clothing chains needed a strategic legal partner, they turned to Lorelei to help them successfully tackle wage theft, discrimination, and harassment.When Brandworkers members at Tom Cat Bakery were hit with the first ICE audit in the Trump era, we knew we could turn to Lorelei and her team at DCA. Lorelei rose alongside workers immediately, amplifying their voices in city-wide workers’ rights forums that she convened and much more.

Lorelei Salas is a great believer in the agency of workers, she helps workers speak out and she listens. We could not be more delighted to honor Commissioner Salas at the 2018 Brandworkers Awards Dinner on Nov. 13th.

Born in the volcanic highlands of Quetzaltenango, Rosario Ramirez knows that growth can be activated by fire. In 2011, Rosario’s partner and the father of her seven month old daughter, Juan Baten was killed by his employer’s fatal negligence, a preventable death resulting from the lack of a legally mandated safety guard at Tortillería Chinantla in Williamsburg. In the midst of her trauma, Rosario, recently immigrated and  alone with her infant daughter, chose power.

Rosario’s decision to speak and pursue the highest degree of justice for Juan’s death brought not only safety repairs to Tortillería Chinantla and workers compensation for her daughter until adulthood, but made possible a citywide investigation of working conditions in tortillerías. The inspection found the same deadly corner cutting by bosses across New York that led to Juan’s death and allowed the factories to take lives as well as profits. The investigation also won criminal persecution for Juan’s boss, Erasmo Ponce, who stole workers’ overtime wages and failed to secure workers compensation insurance, leading to Ponce’s imprisonment and $412,678 in restitution for workers.

The power that Rosario found in herself after Juan’s death has remained, and made her a bold advocate for women’s safety at home and work, as well as for immigration justice. She shares, “the most important thing to me as a mother: do not separate me from my daughters. Familias unidas...I do not want to be afraid of anyone. I just want to fight."

“Qué las mujeres no se dejen engañar y que se levanten.” [Let women not be fooled and let them rise up.]

Cohen, Weiss and Simon LLP has defended the rights of workers and their unions since its founding more than eighty years ago. They are a firm committed to the labor movement, composed of lawyers who have devoted their careers to advancing and protecting worker rights.

The Firm provides their union clients a broad range of services, including advocacy in court, in arbitration and before the National Labor Relations Board and other government agencies. They provide strategic advice and guidance on organizing, strikes, picketing and comprehensive corporate campaigns. They also have a sophisticated practice representing union-affiliated pension, medical and other benefit plans, as well as a particular expertise in representing the interests of unions when employers file for bankruptcy or engage in other corporate reorganizations. Over the years, Cohen, Weiss and Simon LLP have helped many unions negotiate innovative terms for protecting their members’ interests, including job security and work preservation clauses, plans for employee ownership of corporate equity or debt, and provisions for employee participation in corporate governance.

The Firm has also represented employees in significant wage and hour litigation against major employers like Pepsi and Walmart, and has been successful in recovering large sums on behalf of workers unlawfully denied pay and benefits.

Their clients operate in a wide range of industries, including entertainment, transportation, health care, construction, steel, auto, professional sports and postal delivery.