Young women leading the fight for social justice
Restaurant worker organizer Veronica Avila wins $10,000 Edna Award!
$1,000 'Awards of Distinction' also will be presented Nov. 14
Taken from October 16 news releaseVeronica Avila, the daughter of immigrants who rose out of Chicago's poor meatpacking yards neighborhood, went on to college and then returned to her community to organize restaurant workers, has been named winner of the 2012 Edna Award.
The Edna, which carries a $10,000 prize, honors women age 35 or younger who already have distinguished themselves as leaders of the social justice movement. It is named after Edna Berger, the first woman organizer of The Newspaper Guild and the inspiration behind the Berger-Marks Foundation.
Organizer became Executive Director leading the fight for changeAvila founded the Chicago chapter of Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC), building on her experience as an organizer for Unite HERE Local 1 to recruit more than 700 Chicago restaurant workers. ROC is a national restaurant worker advocacy organization created in 2001 to help survivors of the Windows of the World restaurant at the World Trade Center. It now has chapters in eight cities.
Besides organizing training programs and helping to place restaurant workers — mostly minorities with limited opportunities — Avila has spearheaded the Chicago campaign for fair treatment of employees of the Darden Group, which owns Chicago's Capital Grille, as well as Red Lobster, Olive Garden and other chain stores.
"She has moved from being an organizer solely responsible for developing the consciousness of restaurant workers and activating them in the fight to raise the restaurant industry's standards, to now being the Executive Director in charge of managing staff, overseeing all programs, and along with ROC leaders developing strategy and guiding work in the fight to change what it means to be a restaurant worker," wrote ROC Executive Director Saru Jayaraman in nominating Avila.
Edna & Awards of Distinction to be presented at reception Nov. 14Avila will receive the Edna at an awards reception Wednesday, Nov. 14, at the National Press Club. Also honored will be three young women who will receive Awards of Distinction, featuring $1,000 prizes. They are:
Nusrat (Jerin) Arifa, National Organization for Women board member and chair of the National Young Feminist Task Force;
Lydia Edwards, director of Legal Services for the Brazilian Immigration Center;
Viridiana Martinez, who is leading the fight for immigrant rights as founder of the North Carolina Dream Team and now as a prisoner in Florida, where she was detained after declaring her undocumented status.
'Truly inspiring' work of winners & finalists impressed judges"It's truly inspiring to see what these young women are doing to lead the fight for social and economic justice in their communities," said Linda K. Foley, president of the Berger-Marks Foundation. "Our judges had their hands full settling on one top prize winner, and we congratulate Veronica Avila for her amazing work. All of our 10 finalists are outstanding young women, and we're very proud of them."
Other finalists for the award were Natalie Foster, CEO of Rebuild the Dream, a grassroots organization that uses sophisticated electronic tools to advocate for the 99 percent; Rachel Goble, who fights human trafficking as president of the SOLD Project; Prerna Lal, a law student who cofounded DreamActivist.org, which provides resources for undocumented students; Lauren Melodia, who founded Milk Not Jails, an organization that provides a positive alternative to mass incarceration; Jovana Renteria, who helped develop neighborhood Barrio Defense Committees in the fight for Arizona migrant rights; and Morgan Weinberg, a Canadian who coordinates a program to aid victims of Haiti's earthquake.
Judging the contest this year were: Liz Shuler, secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO; Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union; Terry O'Neill, president of the National Organization for Women; Carol Rothman, secretary-treasurer of The Newspaper Guild-CWA; and Valerie Ervin, a former union organizer and Montgomery County (Md.) Councilwoman.
View & download October 16 news release.