Where we've Been:
Formerly known as the Northwest Labor and Employment Law Office, LELO was founded in Seattle, Washington in 1973 when Black workers from the United Construction Workers Association, Asian workers from the Alaska Cannery Workers Association and Latino workers from the Northwest Chapter of the United Farmworkers of America came together to work for racial and economic justice.
LELO was founded to address the following problems faced by working class people of color in the workplace:
1 . Intense discrimination
2. Patterns of relegating workers of color to the lowest wage jobs in every industry
3. The lack of voice and support from their own trade unions
Initially, LELO used class action lawsuits combined with direct action as a means to empower workers of color and further support the grassroots organizing of the three founding groups. LELO’s first lawsuits were launched on behalf of Black construction workers, led by Tyree Scott. Through LELO’s legal action and grassroots organizing, the number of Black workers in the Seattle construction trades rose from less than 10 in 1970 to more than 600 in 1979.
With money raised through their initial lawsuits, LELO was able to launch successful suits on behalf of Asian and Alaska Native cannery workers and then later, on behalf of farmworkers and their right to organize. In Venegas v. UFWA LELO successfully fought an injunction that a ranch owner had obtained to deny farmworker organizers the right to enter migrant camps to meet with workers. This case set an important national precedent in securing access of union organizers to migrant farmworkers.
In conjunction with our litigation work, LELO organized street protests and direct actions led by workers of color to bring attention and awareness to their struggle for equal treatment, equal opportunity, fair wages, and decent working conditions.
For more information on LELO's history and the demographics of who we serve with our relicensing programs.