BY: | DATE: Jul 01, 2024
Congratulations to the 2024 Peggy Browning Fund Fellows from CUNY Law

Congratulations to the 2024 Peggy Browning Fund Fellows from CUNY Law: Astrid Aune, Claudia Lara, Alejandra Patlán Brenda Valladares-Belleza, and Haley Wen

The Law School’s fellows are experienced advocates for workplace justice. Among them are the Deputy Chief of Staff for NY State Senator Jessica Ramos, a dedicated organizer and former immigration paralegal, a legal services worker inspired to address the harms marginalized communities face, a returning Fellow previously at the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, and a former paralegal at The Legal Aid Society in disability advocacy. 


Five CUNY School of Law students have been awarded prestigious, highly competitive public interest fellowships through The Peggy Browning Fund (PBF): Astrid Aune, Claudia Lara, Alejandra Patlán Brenda Valladares-Belleza, and Haley Wen. This year, the Peggy Browning Fund accepted 118 law students into its nationwide fellowship program. This is the largest cohort in the Fund’s history — with over 3,958 applications for the 2024 program. 

In her opening letter introducing this year’s PBF Fellows, Executive Director Rachel Del Rossi says, “The Fellows you will read about here are some of the best and brightest, who while at the start of their labor law careers, are all already labor advocates. Most of these Fellows grew up in a union household or are union members themselves. Many come from working class backgrounds to support working class people. This is more than a job for them: this is their calling.” 



CUNY Law’s 2024 PBF Fellows


Astrid Aune ’25 

Service Employees International Union 

A third-year evening law student, Astrid earned a bachelor’s degree in Global Studies at NYU and a master’s degree in social policy from the London School of Economics and Political Science. Astrid serves as the Deputy Chief of Staff for State Senator Jessica Ramos, who represents neighborhoods in central and western Queens and chairs the Senate Committee on Labor. In her nearly three years working for Senator Ramos, Astrid has worked on legislation to raise and index the minimum wage, codify salary transparency in job descriptions, protect workers and whistleblowers from retaliation, recover stolen wages, and protect warehouse workers from dangerous and predatory surveillance. She is a founding member of the organizing committee of the New York State Legislative Workers United, who are organizing state legislative staff toward their first collective bargaining agreement. 


Claudia Lara ’25  

Arriba Las Vegas Worker Center 

Claudia, a first-generation Mexican American from Maui, Hawaii, holds bachelor’s degrees in Ethnic Studies and Political Science from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. A dedicated organizer, she has supported various campaigns, including securing driver’s licenses and in-state tuition for all Hawaii residents, regardless of immigration status. After working as an immigration paralegal at Northern Manhattan Improvement Corporation (NMIC), she joined CUNY Law, committed to serving immigrant women workers. During law school, Claudia has interned with the Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU) and worked for Julien Mirer Singla & Goldstein PLLC, where she deepened her understanding of labor negotiations, supported a hearing before the NLRB, and witnessed the power of collective bargaining. Claudia hopes to return to Maui, as a movement lawyer for low-wage workers. 


Alejandra Patlán ’25  

Hotel & Gaming Trades Council, AFL-CIO 

Born and raised in Huntington Park, Los Angeles, Alejandra grew up in a working-class migrant community. She went into direct legal services work after witnessing and experiencing the openly exploitative treatment of her community by employers, gentrifiers, and the government. Although she enjoyed the work, she was dissatisfied by its failure to address the direct causes of harm and suffering for marginalized communities. They then chose to enroll at CUNY Law, hoping to find a way to support and honor the immigrant community that raised her. In law school, she found a community that pushed her to alchemize these feelings of frustration into the realization that the only future based in justice is one created and shaped by the working class. Alejandra continues to develop the necessary skills and knowledge that will contribute to creating a world where the working-class migrant community is empowered and liberated. 


Brenda Valladares-Belleza ’25  

Hayes Dolce 

Brenda was first introduced to the immigrant and worker’s rights movements during the 2006 “Un Dia Sin Inmigrantes” marches and strikes. After spending over a decade organizing immigrant workers in national, state, and local campaigns, she came to law school to focus on the intersection of labor and immigration law. Last summer, she was a Peggy Browning Fellow at the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), where she supported worker centers and unions implementing the Deferred Action for Labor Enforcement (DALE) program with workers across different industries and states. Brenda hopes to become a labor attorney and support immigrant workers in increasing their power and presence in the labor movement. This summer she is excited to help workers and unions as a Peggy Browning Fellow at Hayes Dolce. 


Haley Wen ’25 

New York State Nurses Association 

Haley was born and raised in Columbia, Missouri before moving to attend college at New York University. There, she created her own major, examining the connections between the Civil War and Reconstruction with current political structures in America. After completing her undergraduate studies, Haley worked at The Legal Aid Society as a paralegal case handler in the disability advocacy practice. Her experiences as part of the union at Legal Aid inspired her to return to school and pursue a career in labor law and workers’ rights. As the daughter of a nurse who never had the protection of a union, Haley is particularly excited to join the New York State Nurses Association as a Peggy Browning Fellow this summer.