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RAICES Texas Workers Union stages 'sick out' after appointment of new CEO

Members of RAICES Texas Workers Union from the organization’s San Antonio offices gathered to protest the appointment of a new CEO at the organization after almost 150 members of the union staged a “sick out”.
RAICES Texas Workers union
Members of RAICES Texas Workers Union from the organization’s San Antonio offices gathered to protest the appointment of a new CEO at the organization after almost 150 members of the union staged a “sick out”.

This story was updated on 4/6/22 at 4:00 p.m. CST.

Nearly 150 workers at the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) staged a “sick out” this week in response to the recent appointment of Dolores K. Schroeder as CEO of the nonprofit.

Members of the RAICES Texas Workers Union (RTW) denounced the organization, the largest immigration legal services provider in Texas, for neglecting to carry out an extensive search for a new CEO. RTW says the board of RAICES had originally assured attorneys that it would hire a third party to carry out a nationwide search for a qualified candidate.

According to RTW, Schroeder recently appointed John Agather as chair of the board. Days later, Agather appointed Schroeder as CEO.

“The RAICES Texas Workers Union, which represents close to 250 of my colleagues, is highly concerned that the actions of the Board implicate self-dealing, bad faith, and are not in the best interest of RAICES,” said Maria Osornio, supervising attorney in the RAICES Litigation Department, in a statement released this week.

“The process of identifying and selecting the new CEO of RAICES has been successfully completed,” said the RAICES Board of Directors in a statement to TPR. “Through the search process to identify a highly qualified candidate, the RAICES Board of Directors identified and selected Ms. Dolores Schroeder. We are confident in her experience and leadership skills to move RAICES forward in guiding the mission and work of our leadership team and staff.”

Schroeder started her career as a medical social worker and attorney in the nonprofit sector with a one-year practicum assessing child abuse and neglect investigations at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago. She also served as the operational head for North, Latin and South America for a large publicly traded company that included responsibilities for strategy development and oversight in fiscal matters.

“Schroeder has a family legacy of service to others and a lifelong interest in and commitment to social justice, human rights, and advocacy,” said the RAICES Board of Directors in the statement. “This includes affiliations with Corporate Counsel Women of Color, Lawyers for the Creative Arts, and Texas Bar Online Legal Advice Clinic.”

However, Osornio said Schroeder lacks the specific qualifications that would have been included as criteria in a search for a new CEO.

Texas Public Radio is supported by contributors to the Border and Immigration News Desk, including the Catena Foundation and Texas Mutual Insurance Company.

“Ms. Schroeder does not appear to have any experience in immigration law, civil rights law, or federal litigation,” said Osornio in her statement. “She lacks the experience of managing a unionized nonprofit organization, which are critical to the operation and success of RAICES.”

But according to a person familiar with the board’s decision, the choice to appoint Schroeder as CEO was based on the need for strong governance and fiduciary responsibility.

Osornio said the RAICES board originally communicated its intention in September of last year to carry out a national search for a CEO and then abruptly changed course.

“Since September when our previous CEO stepped down, the board had promised us that they would engage a third party's firm to do a national search for a CEO,” said Osornio in a call with TPR. “As staff, obviously, we were very excited that day. (RAICES said they were) really going to be out there searching for the best of the best to run an organization that represents people of color and where the staff is mostly people of color.”

“We didn't hear from the board for months and months, and we were following up with them. But the board gave both the union and staff leadership the runaround,” Osornio said. “Fast forward to about a week ago, when the union found out about it. The board never hired a third party firm as they had promised. It doesn't look like they interviewed anybody else for the position. They just appointed one of their own.”

RTW demands that RAICES “rescind Ms. Schroeder’s contract immediately and reinstate the search for a new CEO as soon as possible.”

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Pablo De La Rosa is a freelance journalist reporting statewide with Texas Public Radio and nationally with NPR from the Texas-Mexico border in the Rio Grande Valley, from where he originates. He’s the host of the daily Spanish-language newscast TPR Noticias Al Día.