Garment Worker Center: Marissa Nuncio
Marissa has been an advocate of worker’s rights for over 12 years, including as a Program Coordinator for Sweatshop Watch from 2000-2003. Sweatshop Watch was a co-founding organization of the Garment Worker Center (GWC). For the past 7 years, Marissa has practiced law as a labor and employment attorney. She earned a Loyola Law School, Post-Graduate Fellowship to work as a staff attorney with the National Day Laborer Organizing Network in 2006. In 2008 she joined Bush Gottlieb Singer López Kohanski Adelstein & Dickinson as an associate, primarily representing car wash workers and a variety of other worker groups and unions. Marissa is an active member of the National Lawyers Guild, where she volunteers on a campaign to end the unjust vehicle impounds of undocumented drivers.
Since February 2013, as the director of the Garment Worker Center (GWC), Marissa has led the only organization that represents garment workers in California, 60% of whom are women. Under Marissa’s leadership, GWC has recovered hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid wages and undertaken creative campaigns to educate and protect workers. Their campaigns are direct responses to the needs and problems identified by garment workers themselves. Because garment workers are not usually notified of their rights and many factories don’t provide water, GWC created water bottles with workers’ rights on their label that members pass around their factories. They are in the process of creating first aid kits because garment factories don’t provide them, creating a dangerous environment where injured workers treat their wounds with machine oil because that’s the only thing available.
Through Ms. Foundation funding, GWC is engaged in an innovative participatory research project, in which garment workers (GWC members) have been trained to conduct surveys about working conditions and related matters, such as access to child care. This is a wonderful leadership development tool and an important way for workers to tell their story through substantive research. It is also laying the foundation for future organizing campaigns.
Reflecting on her work, Marissa is clear about what motivates her: “What I’m inspired by is that women are at the helm of truly innovative organizing.” We honor Marissa Nuncio for embodying that very description herself.