By Staff –
Worker Justice Center of New York (WJCNY), today, announced the retirement of their Executive Director, Lewis Papenfuse and the hiring of Lauren S. Deutsch, Esq. to lead the organization.
Papenfuse has led the organization—providing non-profit legal assistance in employment law matters for low-wage and farm workers in the Hudson Valley and Upstate New York area—since 1993.
“During his tenure as Executive Director, Mr. Papenfuse has led with integrity, humility, and a staunch commitment to uphold the organization’s core values of equality, justice, and worker empowerment,” the organization said in a press release. “Throughout his career, Papenfuse has advocated to improve labor protections for farmworkers and other immigrant workers, both at the state and federal levels.”
WJCNY was created in 2011 through the merger of Farmworker Legal Services of New York (FLSNY) and the Workers’ Rights Law Center
Papenfuse is praised for working tirelessly to support the organization’s litigation efforts while coordinating outreach and training programs for farmworkers throughout the region.
He served as Supervising Paralegal for five years and as president of the FLSNY’s staff union, represented by the National Organization of Legal Services Workers, UAW Local 2320, for seven years. In 2004, Papenfuse became Co-Director of FLSNY together with Jim Schmidt and, in 2007, assumed the position of Executive Director upon Mr. Schmidt’s retirement.
In 2011, Papenfuse led the merger process that established the Worker Justice Center of New York, serving initially as Co-Director from 2011-2014, together with Milan Bhatt, and then as Executive Director from 2014-2018. Under his leadership, WJCNY has tripled in size and become a powerful force for advancing worker justice in New York State.
In 2009 he was invited to speak at a state legislative hearing on the rights of farmworkers and, in 2015-2016, served on the advisory committee of New York State’s Task Force to Combat Worker Exploitation. In 2017, Rural and Migrant Ministry honored Papenfuse at their Harvesting Justice Symposium, presenting him with the Jim Schmidt Award in recognition of his years of service and tireless advocacy.
Papenfuse will officially retire on December 7 and Deutsch, a Berkeley, California native, will assume the role. Deutsch is joining the organization following four years as the Executive Director of Healthy Baby Network, a non-profit focusing on vulnerable mothers and families to provide every baby the opportunity to be born healthy.
“Deutsch brings ten years of skilled non-profit leadership experience to WJCNY, the release stated. “She has been a lifelong advocate for social justice and equality with a strong commitment to helping vulnerable and at-risk populations.”
Prior to her involvement with Healthy Baby Network, Deutsch was a Domestic Violence Staff Attorney with The Legal Aid Society of Western New York. She has represented over 300 clients in high conflict divorce and custody matters, as well as securing orders of protection and qualified domestic relations orders.
Deutsch earned her Juris Doctor from The Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law and holds a B.A. in religion and biblical literature from Smith College in Massachusetts.
“The Worker Justice Center has been leading the fight for human dignity in labor since 1981. I am humbled by the opportunity to continue that fight, with the talented and dedicated WJCNY team,” she said.