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Worker Justice Center gets new leader

Lewis Papenfuse retiring in December

By: Bennett Loudon//November 21, 2018

Worker Justice Center gets new leader

Lewis Papenfuse retiring in December

By: Bennett Loudon//November 21, 2018

The Worker Justice Center of New York (WJCNY) has announced a change in leadership.

Executive Director Lewis Papenfuse will be retire on Dec. 7, after 26 years with the organization, while Lauren S. Deutsch has been hired to take over as executive director.

WJCNY, the leading provider of non-profit legal assistance for farmworkers and low-wage workers in upstate New York, was created in 2011 through the merger of Farmworker Legal Services of New York (FLSNY) and the Workers’ Rights Law Center.

The organization serves over 5,000 low-wage worker clients annually from offices located in Rochester, Kingston, Ulster County, and Hawthorne, Westchester County.

Papenfuse first joined Farmworker Legal Services of New York in 1993. For more than a decade, he worked on the organization’s litigation efforts while coordinating outreach and training programs for farmworkers.

He served as supervising paralegal for five years, and for seven years as president of the FLSNY’s staff union, represented by the National Organization of Legal Services Workers, UAW Local 2320.

In 2004, Papenfuse became co-director of FLSNY with Jim Schmidt. In 2007, after Schmidt’s retirement, Papenfuse became executive director.

In 2011, Papenfuse led the merger that established the Worker Justice Center of New York. Initially he served as co-director with Milan Bhatt until 2014; he has been executive director since 2014.

In 2009, Papenfuse was invited to speak at a state legislative hearing on the rights of farmworkers, and in 2015 and 2016 he served on the advisory committee of New York State’s Task Force to Combat Worker Exploitation.

Last year, Rural and Migrant Ministry honored Papenfuse at their Harvesting Justice Symposium, where he was presented with the Jim Schmidt Award in recognition of his years of service and advocacy.

“Lew’s transformational leadership of the Worker Justice Center has ensured that its vital mission to protect the rights of immigrants and disadvantaged workers will continue to be fulfilled long into the future,” said Steve Cole, WJCNY’s board president.

“His low-key style belies a vision and determination that guided the Worker Justice Center to tremendous growth and success,” Cole said.

Deutsch brings 10 years of non-profit leadership experience to WJCNY. Previously, she served for four years as executive director of Healthy Baby Network.

Before working at Healthy Baby Network, Deutsch was a domestic violence staff attorney with The Legal Aid Society of Western New York. She has represented more than 300 clients in divorce and custody matters, as well as securing orders of protection and qualified domestic relations orders.

She received her juris doctor degree from The Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. She has a bachelor of arts degree in religion and biblical literature from Smith College in Northampton, Mass.

A native of Berkeley, Calif., Deutsch started working as an advocate for family and women’s health at a free clinic on the U.S.-Mexico border just before law school.

[email protected] (585) 232-2035

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