Migrant workers' advocate to be honored at luncheon ceremony
NASHVILLE, Jan. 15, 2010 — Nashville lawyer Douglas L. Stevick will be honored as the state's top public service attorney by the Tennessee Bar Association at its annual public service luncheon this Saturday. Held each year as part of the association's Leadership Conference, the luncheon features award winners in several categories and a keynote address by former ABA President Robert Grey.
Stevick is receiving the Ashley T. Wiltshire Public Service Attorney of the Year Award for his work with migrant and seasonal farm workers across six southern states. Stevick first worked with Texas Rural Aid before moving to Nashville. For the last eight years he has run the Nashville-based Southern Migrant Legal Services, which provides free legal services to migrant agricultural workers in Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee. His work includes making sure that migrant workers are paid what they are owed and provided with adequate housing and medical attention. It also supports migrants' families in cases where children are denied access to education due to their status. The office of five attorneys are serving several hundred workers at any given time.
Working with farmers and farmer worker organizations since the late 1960s, Stevick knows that change in this employment field comes slow. Despite the progress that has been made he says that farm workers still are being seriously exploited in too many circumstances: workers "aren't paid what they're owed, live in atrocious housing, are not educated [and] have no access to the health care system..." Still, he finds satisfaction in "being part of a larger movement for social justice and the betterment of the human condition on behalf of farm workers." A concrete example of that, he says, is when he gets to take a check to a client and say, "Here's the money you are owed.'"
The Ashley T. Wiltshire Public Service Attorney of the Year Award is given annually to an attorney who has committed to a career in public service, and over the course of that career, has gone above and beyond the call of duty in representing indigent clients. The award is named for Ashley Wiltshire, the former executive director of the Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands, who faithfully served the agency in various roles for 37 years.
A headshot of Stevick is available on request.