Our Stories

Cutting the Legal Red Tape for a California Nonprofit Building a Sustainable Food Service Model

Food Chain Workers AllianceThe workers who get our food from the fields to the table have some of our nation’s hardest jobs, and Public Counsel is watching out for them. Public Counsel’s Community Development Project (“CDP”) recently formed and obtained tax-exemption for a locally-based national food chain workers organization – helping to further its mission of building a more sustainable food system that respects workers' rights. Members of the Food Chain Workers Alliance plant, harvest, process, pack, transport, prepare, serve, and sell food, and organize to improve wages and working conditions for all workers along the food chain. 

CDP connected the local alliance to Cat-Uyen Vo, an associate attorney with Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom’s Los Angeles office. Ms. Vo filed incorporation paperwork for the group and then continued to assist the Food Chain Workers Alliance with a range of legal questions related to board and membership governance and setting up a statutory membership structure. Working with the Food Chain Workers Alliance was a “wonderful experience,” said Ms. Vo. Food Chain Workers Alliance Executive Director Joann Lo “took a lot of initiative,” she said. “She herself wanted to understand the legal requirements, which made her a great client.”

“We could not have gone through the whole process of incorporating and obtaining tax-exempt status without CDP and our pro bono attorney,” Joann Lo in turn stated. Obtaining 501(c)(3) status “made it easier for us to fundraise and we are now able to receive donations directly and that has streamlined the whole process.” 

After receiving Skadden attorneys’ initial structuring advice and assistance obtaining tax exemption, this burgeoning nonprofit has moved forward to fundraise, hire more employees, and continue implementing its charitable purpose, including supporting development of their member organizations by providing leadership trainings to worker members, and starting an online resource library for their members to share training and workshop materials. Congratulations to Food Chain Workers Alliance and thank you to Cat-Uyen for the pro bono time you spent helping to foster a sustainable food system!

To learn more about the Food Chain Workers Alliance, please visit: www.foodchainworkers.org.