Public Interest Award

Each year, Outten & Golden recognizes and supports the work of nonprofit organizations that help advance the rights and interests of workers by presenting the O&G Public Interest Award. The award is presented to the honoree organizations at ceremonies attended by up to 200 people, including members, supporters, and leaders of the organizations. Each honoree organization receives, in addition to a beautiful trophy, a contribution of $20,000: $10,000 at the ceremony plus $2,500 each year over the next four years. In addition, O&G undertakes to work closely with each organization on cases and projects during the years after the award. In 2017, in response to the national election, O&G gave awards to four organizations. Starting in 2018, O&G is giving at least one award each year.

Honoree Organizations

Centro de los Derechos del Migrantes (CDM) was the 2021 recipient of the Public Interest Award and was honored at a ceremony held in Washington, DC. Founded in 2014, CDM works on the ground in the U.S. and in Mexico with the goal of removing the border as a barrier to justice. The organization provides direct legal services to migrant workers, represents workers in strategic, high-impact litigation, conducts know-your-rights trainings, engages in policy advocacy, and even helps with settlement administration and getting migrant workers in Mexico their checks.

TakeRoot Justice was honored in March 2020 at a ceremony in New York City. TakeRoot Justice provides legal, participatory research and policy support to strengthen the work of grassroots and community-based groups in New York City to dismantle racial, economic, and social oppression. Following 18 years of impact as Community Development Project of the Urban Justice Center, TakeRoot Justice launched as an independent organization in July 2019. TakeRoot Justice’s Worker’s Rights team uses legal, policy, and legislative advocacy to support workers as they assert their rights in the workplace. Their mission is to ensure that labor laws and anti-discrimination laws are enforced and workers are able to lead lives of strength and dignity.

LeGal, the LGBT Bar Association of New York, was honored in March 2019 at a ceremony in New York City. LeGaL is dedicated to advancing the legal rights of LGBTQ New Yorkers through litigation, advocacy and education. Through their free legal clinics and hotline, LeGaL connects individuals with attorneys and organizations that can offer them free or low-cost services, or LeGaL takes on representation itself. LeGaL also continues to fight to pass legislation to protect LGBTQ New Yorkers.

The Public Justice Center (PJC) was honored in May 2018 at a ceremony in Washington, DC. The PJC pursues systematic change to build a just society. Founded in Maryland in 1985, the PJC uses legal advocacy tools to pursue social justice, economic and race equity, and fundamental human rights for people who are struggling to provide for their basic needs. The PJC's Workplace Justice Project works primarily with low-wage workers to enforce and expand their right to an honest day's pay for an honest day's work using a variety of strategies including legislative, regulatory and other policy advocacy, litigation, and coalition development. Using a strategic approach to combat identified systemic problems that negatively affect the lives of low-wage workers, the PJC has achieved significant results in a variety of sectors and industries. 

Damayan Migrant Workers Association (Damayan) was honored in March 2018 at a ceremony in New York City. Damayan is a New York-based nonprofit that empowers Filipino domestic workers and other marginalized low-wage workers to fight for their labor, health, gender, and immigrant rights. Established in 2002, Damayan’s mission is to build a solid membership base and develop workers' leadership from the grassroots, to combat labor trafficking, to fight labor fraud and wage theft, and to demand fair labor standards to achieve economic and social justice for all. Damayan is a pioneer and leader in the anti-labor trafficking and domestic workers movement; it co-anchors Beyond Survival, the anti-trafficking campaign of the National Domestic Workers Alliance. In 2017, Damayan’s work led to the anti-trafficking Memorandum of Understanding between Damayan and the Philippine Consulate.

Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) New York, honored in 2017, is the New York State affiliate of the country’s largest Muslim civil rights group. CAIR New York fights for the civil rights of Muslim New Yorkers in every area of life, including in employment discrimination, national security harassment, and hate crimes.

Centro Legal de La Raza, honored in 2017, is a comprehensive legal services agency protecting and advancing the rights of immigrant, low-income, and Latino communities through bilingual legal representation, education, and advocacy. Centro Legal promotes access to justice for thousands of individuals and families each year throughout Northern and Central California.

New York State Youth Leadership Council (NYSYLC), honored in 2017, is an undocumented-youth-led organization in New York. It works to empower immigrant youth through leadership development, grassroots organizing, educational advancement, and self-expression. NYSYLC has long advocated with undocumented immigrant youth and is committed to protecting their rights and fighting back.

Youth Represent, honored in 2017, helps justice-involved young people who face unfair discrimination as they pursue jobs, education housing, and stable family lives. When our justice system creates barriers to success for young people, Youth Represent uses the law to help them leave the stigma of a criminal record behind.

New York Communities for Change (“NYCC”) Worker’s Rights program was honored in 2016 for its grassroots advocacy for workers in New York and beyond. Founded in 2010, NYCC has campaigned for supermarket workers, carwasheros, bank workers, and day care providers. In 2012, NYCC helped launch the Fight for $15 movement, which spawned minimum wage increases across the country, including an historic wage increase for fast food workers in New York. NYCC is committed to continue fighting for the rights of all workers to earn living wages.

Adhikaar for Human Rights & Social Justice was honored in 2015 for its work with South Asian immigrants (one of New York City’s fastest-growing communities). A women-led workers' center, Adhikaar has assisted thousands of individuals and families from Nepal, India, Tibet, and Bhutan, and has worked in coalitions that help to create new laws at local, state, national, and international levels, including the successful passage of the New York State Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights and the International Domestic Workers’ Convention.

Brandworkers was honored in 2014 for its commitment to organizing New York City retail and food industry workers to challenge unlawful and abusive employment practices. Brandworkers successful initiatives include pressuring a maker of kosher foods to commit to a code of conduct to dramatically improve working conditions and to pay $500,000 to the workers, plus a campaign against a large industrial bakery, seeking a living wage, affordable health care, and health and safety improvements for its workers.

New Immigrant Community Empowerment (NICE) was honored in 2013. Founded in 1999, NICE is a community-based, non-profit organization that works to ensure that new immigrants can build social, political and economic power in their communities and beyond. (Online magazine Queens Latino published this article; a partial English translation here.)

Make the Road New York (MRNY) was honored in 2012. It was founded in 2007 through the merger of Make the Road by Walking and the Latin American Integration Center, two of New York City’s most innovative and effective grassroots organizations. MTRNY builds the power of immigrant and working-class communities to achieve dignity and justice through legal and survival services, transformative education, community organizing, and policy innovation.

Domestic Workers United (DWU), honored in 2011, was founded in 2000 by Caribbean, Latina and African nannies, housekeepers, and elderly caregivers in New York. DWU is the organization responsible for lobbying and advocating for the New York Domestic Workers Bill of Rights.

A Better Balance (ABB), honored in 2010, was founded in 2005 to promote the employment rights of working parents and caregivers. A Better Balance is dedicated to promoting equality in the workplace and expanding choices for men and women, regardless of income level, so they may care for their families without sacrificing their economic security.