Nicole Girard 0000-00-00 00:00:00
Snow & Carpio, PLC Worker Warriors At Snow & Carpio, PLC., their niche is workers' compensation and social security law. That description can hardly suffice when trying to encompass the firm's whole identity. The firm's partners take community involvement to a whole new level. Each played an integral role in the recall of former Arizona State Senator, Russell Pearce. Prior to his November 2011 ouster, Pearce served as Arizona Senate President. His controversial style and sponsorship of Senate Bill 1070—a polemical anti-immigration measure— attracted national attention. Pearce is the first Arizona legislator to have been unseated in a recall election. Firm founder Chad Snow served as chairman of the Russell Pearce recall campaign, while firm partner, X. Alex Carpio, was general counsel. As immigrant rights advocates they view Arizona's political atmosphere as part and parcel of what creates the circumstances surrounding not just the cases, but the lives of their clients as well. "We fight for our clients, inside and outside the courtroom," Snow said. Snow & Carpio limit their practice to representing injured workers before the Industrial Commission of Arizona and the Social Security Administration. They have a staff of 10 paralegals and secretaries with a combined 100 years experience in the field. Their entire staff and all attorneys are fluent in Spanish. "A big percentage of our clients are immigrants. We saw firsthand what was happening with immigration," Snow said. "You hear all the heartbreaking stories about families being torn apart." The workers compensation firm is the only one in Arizona with offices in both Phoenix and Tucson. Institutional organizations such as the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Mexican Consulate, Roofers Local 139, Carpenters Union and others have come to trust Snow & Carpio to represent their members. "The work we do affects me, on a personal level," said firm comanaging partner, Alex Carpio. "For me, it takes me back home to when my father was injured. No one helped him." Snow explained that the nature of their connection with the plight of immigrants is an organic one and deeply ingrained for the firm partners. "Alex and I have both done blue collar work," he said. "We've worked in construction, roofing, landscaping, etc., A lot of people in our field have never done manual labor, or had to live paycheck to paycheck like that. I think it's perhaps for that reason that they sometimes don't have a whole lot of empathy. We have a lot of personal empathy. We know how hard it is to make it when you're injured at work and trying to get by on a little meager pay." Snow and Carpio were co-founders of Citizens for a Better Arizona. The grass-roots organization advocates for what they view as a more moderate and balanced approach to state politics. Fresh off the heels of their successful Pearce recall, they currently have their sights set on removing Maricopa County Sherriff Joe Arpaio. The group's stated causes include improved schools, health care, jobs and government for the Southwestern state. "We're not just representing our clients and trying to make a buck," Snow said. "We really try to advocate for them in other ways also. We donate money and invest a lot of our time into causes that are important for workers." Firm Associate Erica Gonzalez-Melendez is a former chairperson of Chicanos Por La Causa and still sits on its board of directors. Carpio's most recent work at the legislature this session involved leading the defeat of some proposed bills that would have taken away the rights of injured workers to choose their own treating physician. "It would essentially give the insurance carriers almost complete control over the medical care an injured worker receives," Carpio said. Another bill, House Bill 2365, would give insurance companies greater power in determining the treatment received by workers suffering from workplace sustained injuries. "It gives doctors a manual and says they can only treat according to these guidelines," Carpio explained. "So this manual and this law would be limiting the care that our clients could receive. Of course, it also promotes the cheapest types of treatment, the ones the insurance company wants to pay for." Beginning According to Snow, the atmosphere for immigrants is a lot worse now than it was when the firm opened its doors in 2003. "When times were good and the economy was booming, nobody cared about the people that were coming in to clean hotel rooms, cut grass, do laundry, do landscaping, but when the economy started going bad, things got bad for immigrants," he said. "Politicians see that they can play on peoples' fears. The atmosphere is pretty much anti-worker, not just anti-immigrant. You find some employers are taking advantage of the real conservative, real anti-worker legislature." Snow said it is something he sees often. For years an immigrant works faithfully for a company for twenty years or more, building a life and contributing to society. Then one day they are injured at work. Shortly after, immigration control enforcement shows up at their house and deports them. "We get calls like that all the time. Families are divided, and employers are taking advantage of people because they're vulnerable," Snow said. "Our theory is that the insurance company, or the employer, decides to have the injured worker deported, so they don't have to worry about taking care of them. They don't care that the employee is an immigrant until they get injured." Carpio said he often finds that the staff has their work cut out for them. Since many of their clients are immigrants, they are often uneducated, and have been employed with the same company for 10 years or more. It's all they know, so when they are injured and unable to return to work, or they are cleared to work and then are fired, the implications can be disastrous. "In most cases, this particular job, trade, or line of work is all they know how to do and then suddenly, they can't do it anymore," Carpio explained. "Sometimes they have two or three kids they have to raise. It's taking away their manhood in a sense." Snow explained that these are the circumstances that drive the firm's ongoing community involvement. "A lot of people ask us if we're afraid that our political activism will cost us business, and we realize that it might. But we also believe that attorneys have a special obligation to fight for their clients' rights outside of the courtroom just as much as inside." "We are always asking ourselves, 'how can we help our clients as workers, as immigrants, their families?'" he said. Unfortunately, the workers' compensation attorneys say they have found that blue collar workers tend to have very little understanding of their rights. "A big part of what we do is just educating people," Carpio said. "We get involved with unions, churches, or anyone who wants us to go speak to them. We tell them, 'these are your rights,' 'this is what you should do.'" Upon reflection, Snow and Carpio attribute nearly a decade of consistent growth for the firm to their unparalleled level of commitment to the individuals they serve. They believe in taking customer service to a whole new level. "It's very fulfilling to be able to help a client when they're at the lowest point in their life," Snow said. "They're broke, injured, in pain, and we try to make the best of that horrible situation. So many times when I finish a big case there's tears and we get a big hug. Some of our clients feel like family."
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