Encompassing the city of Austin in south-central Texas, about 1.2 million people call Travis County home. And District Attorney José Garza is busy holding businesses accountable for failing to respect the rights of Texas workers.
Garza began his political journey as a community organizer, bringing a human-centric vision to government—this vision attracted PRP Fellow Stephanie Gharakhanian to join the Travis County office in September 2021.
As a community-based advocate coming into government service, Stephanie keenly understood the need to separate immigration status from an individual's ability to give voice to a violation of their rights. Fear was ruling workers' lives—they were afraid to speak up against the companies exploiting them for fear of retaliation.
“I just wanna make it really loud and clear that your rights to receive wages that you are promised are not dependent on your status. Our office is committed to investigating and prosecuting all sorts of wage theft cases, regardless of the status of the victim.” –Stephanie Gharakhanian, PRP Fellow
Similarly, in Massachusetts, gig drivers have been battling wage theft from rideshare companies for years. Tech giants like Uber and Lyft have been trying to buy new laws classifying drivers as contractors instead of employees, stripping drivers of vital rights.
Lyft alone donated $14.4 million to a committee supporting the Massachusetts ballot measure aimed at preserving this exploitation. But instead—through collaboration between local government and community organizing—the potential law was removed from the fall ballot.
Because the community shouldn’t be voting on workers’ rights that already exist.
Our work in Texas and Massachusetts is a proven—and successful!—model of government, community, and storytelling working hand-in-hand to equitably enforce the law and empower those who have been silenced to speak up.