¡Reclamo! Awarded 2023 J.M.K. Innovation Prize Among 10 Awardees Selected from 3,209 Applications for Transformative Potential in the Fields of Social Justice, the Environment, and Heritage Conservation
NEW YORK, NY – November 30 2023 – ¡Reclamo!, a digital tool designed to empower workers and non-lawyer advocates to combat wage theft, has been awarded The 2023 J.M.K. Innovation Prize. From a nationwide search for transformative, early-stage projects, The J.M. Kaplan Fund awards the Prize biennially to 10 innovators in the fields of social justice, the environment, and heritage conservation. Awardees receive a total of $175,000 over three years and join a learning collaborative designed to support them through the challenges of a startup organization.
“The ¡Reclamo! app offers a widely accessible way to protect vulnerable workers, particularly the undocumented, from being exploited by their employers,” said Justin Goldbach, J.M.K. Innovation Prize Program Director. “Like their fellow J.M.K. Innovation Prize awardees, they’re poised to reshape our world to be more equitable and just. We are thrilled to support them on that journey over the coming years.”
The J.M.K. Innovation Prize is designed to support nonprofits and entrepreneurs tackling America’s most pressing challenges through social and environmental innovation—focusing in particular on pilot projects, new organizations, or nascent initiatives that involve a certain amount of measured risk, but which may ultimately lead to large-scale, transformative results. This year’s awardees were selected from among 3,209 applications, by far the most participation in the Prize since its inception in 2015.
Wage theft occurs when employers do not pay workers what they’re legally owed, most commonly by paying less than minimum wage but also by requiring off-the-clock work, denying breaks or required benefits, and more. The Economic Policy Institute estimates that wage theft robs American workers of $50 billion annually. Undocumented immigrant workers are at especially high risk and less likely than other low-income hourly workers to approach their employer or seek out the help of legal aid agencies to recover their stolen earnings.
Created by Rodrigo Camarena, Director of Justicia Lab at Pro Bono Net, in collaboration with workplace justice advocates in New York City, ¡Reclamo! (“Reclaim” in Spanish) provides an innovative, accessible alternative. With minimal training, this digital legal tool enables immigrants and their non-lawyer supporters to automate and simplify the wage theft filing process. The app helps workers understand and assess their risk for wage theft remotely, initiate the wage recovery process, and identify opportunities for workplace organizing. In addition, ¡Reclamo! collects aggregated data from users that will eventually be shared with and analyzed by immigrant justice nonprofits to help develop strategic enforcement solutions and legislative reforms.
“By connecting and supporting workers and advocates with this tool, we’ve already been able to file more than $1 million in wage theft claims in New York,” says Camarena. “With the support of the Prize, we hope to scale the ¡Reclamo! platform and bring more national attention to the exploitation of immigrant workers and broader workplace justice issues.”
¡Reclamo! is among several Prize winners committed to social-impact projects that integrate human rights with social, racial, and economic justice. A report accompanying the Prize, Resilient Leadership in Times of Unrelenting Change, sheds further light on this trend and other findings from this year’s selection process and pool of 3,209 applicants.
Find more information about ¡Reclamo! and watch a video interview with Rodrigo Camarena at jmkfund.org/awardee/rodrigo-camarena.
About The J.M. Kaplan Fund
Established in 1945 by philanthropist and businessman Jacob Merrill Kaplan, the Fund has since its inception been committed to visionary innovation. Over four generations of family engagement, the Fund has devoted more than $300 million to propel fledgling efforts focused on human rights, civil liberties, equality and justice, the arts and literacy, and the conservation and enhancement of the built and natural worlds. The J.M.K. Innovation Prize continues the Fund’s legacy of catalytic giving, reaching across America to provide early-stage support for entrepreneurs with 21st-century solutions to urgent social and environmental challenges. Learn more at JMKFund.org.
About Justicia Lab
Justicia Lab is Pro Bono Net’s immigrant justice technology lab, and a nonprofit legal tech initiative whose mission is to transform immigrant justice through collaboration, creativity, and technology. We work hand in hand with immigrants and their advocates to identify common challenges and incubate scalable digital tools to advance help immigrants navigate our immigration system, find workplace justice, and more. Justicia Lab has developed over a dozen immigrant justice legal tools to scale and support the work of advocates and bridge the justice gap, helping over 500,000 people find critical immigration information and relief.