Economic Justice for Workers

AALDEF’s Economic Justice Program provides legal representation, legal advocacy, and community education support to Asian immigrant communities on workers’ rights and economic justice issues. Despite their pivotal role in the U.S. economy, immigrant workers confront daily challenges in the labor force: language barriers, exploitative working conditions, immigration status vulnerabilities, and restrictions in access to public services and benefits.

For nearly 50 years, AALDEF has employed innovative legal strategies to protect immigrant workers and enforce labor and employment laws. We have won millions of dollars in back wages and overtime pay for low-wage immigrant workers, and have secured federal rulings that have expanded the ability of workers to hold their employers accountable for violations of worker protection laws.


  • In 1980, we represented Chinese restaurant workers at Silver Palace in NYC, who were fired for protesting against their employer stealing their tips. We also assisted the workers in forming the first independent Chinatown restaurant workers’ union.
  • We represented many immigrant garment workers, who endured poverty wages and sweatshop conditions, to hold clothing manufacturers and factory owners liable for minimum wage and overtime pay violations—including in 1998 when we filed a lawsuit on behalf of Chinese immigrant garment workers, and in 2003 when we represented Asian and Latino garment workers in a federal lawsuit against Donna Karan International.
  • Throughout the last several decades, we represented dozens of immigrant women domestic workers who were trafficked to the United States by their employers. In addition to securing immigration relief for our clients, we also secured millions of dollars in back wages for their labor.
  • In 2019, we represented a group of Korean and Latino restaurant workers and won a federal appeals court decision to hold their employer accountable for fraudulently transferring properties and assets to avoid paying the workers a $2.7 million wage theft judgment.

Program Priorities:

  • Litigation, in partnership with worker centers, to enforce labor and employment laws.
  • Advocacy, in coalition with community groups and other advocates, to improve laws that impact low-wage immigrant workers.
  • Know Your Rights workshops and legal clinics to educate workers about their legal rights and empower them to fight for fair and just labor standards and working conditions.
  • Legal advice and legal services to workers suffering from severe workplace exploitation.