Legal Aid Society of San Francisco opened 100 years ago today, founded by the San Francisco Bar Association, Archbishop Edward J. Hanna, and Phoebe A. Hearst. Our first offices were in the San Francisco Examiner’s then-new building at Third and Mission streets, thanks to Hearst (pictured here and the mother of William Randolph Hearst).
We are marking our centennial with a gala on Sept. 22 at the Hyatt Regency. And we have launched the 100th Anniversary Campaign to Grow Our Workers’ Rights Clinic.
We were honored on Thursday to have Paul Henderson, Deputy Chief of Staff and public safety director for Mayor Ed Lee, in our office to present Lee’s proclamation that April 28 will be Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center Day in San Francisco in perpetuity. Henderson honored the organization and Joan Graff, its president, for a century of service to people who desperately need legal counsel but can’t get it anywhere else.
Our highest-profile recent achievement was to provide key legal support, through staff attorney Julia Parish, in the drafting of San Francisco’s first-in-the-nation requirement for fully paid leave for new parents. California already provides paid leave for many workers, but at only 55 percent of their regular pay; the boost in San Francisco means that it will be affordable for many more low-income workers to take time off in the crucial early days of new parenthood. Lee signed the measure into law on April 21, and it starts taking effect in 2017.
But our record traces back through decades of similar milestones in our pursuit of policy changes that advance justice and economic opportunity for low-income people. In addition to policy change and free direct services we provide limited representation and workshops and online resources, and we lead impact litigation on key issues to help people exercise their civil and employment rights.