The Laurel Rubin Farm Worker Justice Project is a farm worker advocacy project that supports and funds law students to work in summer internships with organizations that provide civil legal services to Washington farm workers. It is named after Laurel Rubin, a devoted farm worker advocate who died in the course of her advocacy work. Since 1999, the project has sponsored 46 summer internships and nine school-year externships for law students to work alongside experienced attorneys to provide legal services to farm workers in need.

The Laurel Rubin interns work on matters involving worker safety, housing, access to health care, immigration, employment discrimination, unemployment and workers compensation, farmworker youth and education, and consumer rights.

Farm Workers in Our State

Farm workers currently live in third world conditions within the boundaries of our own state. Many agricultural workers live in labor camps or overcrowded apartments. Others spend time living in their cars, in tents or along river banks. Average annual income for Washington farm workers is less than $10,000; and just 5 percent of farm workers report being covered by employer provided health insurance. Nationally, the rate of fatal occupational injuries for farm workers is almost ten times the rate for all U.S. industries.

Each summer and fall, Laurel Rubin Fellows doing farm worker outreach meet more and more indigenous Mexicans and Guatemalans working in Washington fields. These workers do not speak Spanish as a native language; instead they speak languages from the Mayan, Mixtec and other language groups of Central America. These workers are particularly vulnerable because they face even greater language barriers, social isolation and discrimination than other farm workers.

Student Opportunities With the Laurel Rubin Farm Worker Justice Project

The Laurel Rubin Farm Worker Justice Project assists farm workers in their efforts to enforce their right to fair, dignified, humane and safe working and living conditions. The Laurel Rubin Farm Worker Rights Project seeks to bring additional advocates into the community immediately through law student summer internships to help ensure indigent farm workers’ access to justice.

Interns and externs work under the supervision of legal aid services attorneys in several counties throughout the state. Information on how to apply can be found at http://columbialegal.org/Employment/Internships and http://nwjustice.org/externships-internships-law-students.

In 2013, the project sponsored four law students to do farm worker outreach and advocacy:

  • Tony Gonzalez (Seattle University School of Law)–Columbia Legal Services intern
  • Jacob Workman (Gonzaga University School of Law)–Columbia Legal Services intern
  • Damien Villareal (Seattle University School of Law)–Northwest Justice Project intern
  • Stephen Coger (University of Washington School of Law)–Columbia Legal Services extern

Remembering Laurel

The project is named in honor of Laurel Rubin, a talented, idealistic attorney who was serving indigent farm workers in Washington state when she died tragically young in 1998. Laurel was passionately committed to helping migrant workers obtain fairness and respect. Laurel grew up in Wappingers Falls, New York. She was brilliant, indifferent to materialistic concerns, and had many interests in addition to serving social justice. Laurel’s dedication and commitment to farm workers epitomizes the principal of justice for all.

Steering Committee

Emma Zavala-Suarez, Chair; Andrea Schmitt, Vice-Chair; Michele Besso, Rodolfo Cureno, Heidi Noun, Joan Foley, Dan Ford, Matt Geyman, Hon. Jorge Madrazo, Sean Phelan, Omar Riojas, Laura Solis, Lola Velazquez, Fe Lopez, and Greg Zipes. Laurel Rubin Farm Worker Justice Project Advisory Council: Rep. Phyllis Gutierrez Kenney, Governor Mike Lowry, Ricardo Sanchez and Justice Charles Z. Smith (Retired).

How To Give

Make a donation  to the Laurel Rubin Fund by sending a check to Laurel Rubin Fund c/o Latino Community Fund, PO Box 30669, Seattle, WA 98103.