Member Impact: Interior Design, Justice at Work, and C&J Katz Studio
Interview by Elyse Pipitone
When TPC grantee Justice at Work (JAW) received funding for a second year, little did agency staff expect to receive a gift of expert office design consultation as well. Thanks to TPC member Cheryl Katz, JAW is getting pro bono services from C&J Katz Studio, which Cheryl owns with her husband, Jeffrey. According to JAW Associate Director Katelyn Parady, Cheryl served on the grants review committee for JAW’s first year of funding, and learned that the agency needed help finding new office space. Jeffrey Katz answered the call.
TPC’s funding support is so important to agencies like Justice at Work, but those agencies usually have limited resources for something like an office relocation,” said Katz. “Cheryl and I have a particular interest in Justice at Work’s mission, and it’s been a pleasure helping them. The language of construction and design can be daunting for an agency focused on labor justice, but it’s something our team can do easily.”
JAW currently is housed in a very small workspace, which makes it challenging to meet the legal service needs of its clients: employees in low-paying jobs and deteriorating work conditions, many of whom are immigrants. Clients need to show their ID in order to enter the building where JAW is housed, which Parady said is not a welcoming first impression for them. When the agency learned its lease would be up in February, they decided that this would be the opportunity to find new space that was not only functional, but one with a “community feel.” Parady also mentioned the agency’s need for space to train more than 200 community workers and organizers a year to provide legal counsel and support to employees to assist workers in asserting their rights.
Private meeting space is another a priority in the new location, Parady explained, because clients often share personal and confidential information. “The workers we serve face obstacles to accessing the justice and legal systems,” she said. “They are amazing people who stand up for themselves. They deserve space where they feel at home and like they belong, as they participate in a legal fight to perpetuate change.”
Since they started working together this past summer, Katz and his team have helped Justice at Work design a new workspace, including floor plans, lease negotiations, questions for the building manager, reviewing the general contractor’s plans, and much more, said Parady. “Jeffrey has ushered us through this process and helped us to understand physical space and design using a holistic approach. It’s been transformative. He taught us how to read floor plans. He is so responsive and has gone above and beyond.”
As of the publication of this article, JAW was in final lease negotiations for what Parady hopes will be its “long-term home.” Katz said he and his team plan to continue working with JAW once it secures the new space and do the build-out that is retrofitted to the agency’s needs, including tweaking the architectural plans to fit the space’s layout.
This relationship has been beneficial to both parties: “When I started discussing furniture companies with Katelyn, I suggested IKEA. She brought up the questions as to whether it was an American company, if it was unionized, etc. It made me realize that these are factors I should be thinking of all the time when I consider furniture for clients,” said Katz. “Justice at Work’s team are the nicest people. They are easygoing and appreciative. We’ve enjoyed taking them under our wing.”
“There’s the saying about ‘bread and roses,’” said Parady, referencing the Lawrence, Massachusetts, labor strike in the early 1900s, in which workers fought for better pay and hours — as well as for respect. “Jeffrey is giving us the roses. It’s a true gift.”