MacArthur Fellows Program

MacArthur Fellows / Meet the Class of 2001

Julie Su

Human Rights Lawyer

Los Angeles, California

Age: 32 at time of award

Published October 1, 2001

Julie Su is a public interest lawyer who has broken new ground with litigation strategies for protecting the rights of undocumented immigrant garment workers. In 1995, Su represented a group of 80 Thai women and men who were sewing garments for 18 hours a day in a sweatshop in El Monte, California. She filed a landmark federal lawsuit on behalf of these workers, establishing a precedent that expands the scope of employment responsibility beyond manufacturing subcontractors to the retailers and fashion designer labels that initially contract for the work. As a result, Su recovered monetary compensation for her clients, while earning them legal immigrant status from the U.S. government by arguing that statutes written to protect narcotics informants also apply to undocumented workers who expose the criminal behavior of their employers. Her attention to the human and legal dimensions of the abuses of immigrant laborers provides a powerful model for public advocacy.

Julie Su received an A.B. (1991) from Stanford University and a J.D. (1994) from Harvard University. Since 1994, Su has been affiliated with the Asian Pacific American Legal Center (APALC), where she serves as litigation director. She is also the co-founder of Sweatshop Watch, a coalition that addresses labor abuses within the global garment industry.

Last updated January 1, 2005.