Madeline P. Janis, 1982

Doctor of Humane Letters


Madeline Janis is co-founder of the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE), where she served as executive director from 1993 to 2012 before assuming her current role as national policy director. LAANE, a nonprofit dedicated to improving the status of the working poor in L.A. County, is a nationally recognized leader in innovative social reform.

A native of California’s San Fernando Valley, Janis attended Amherst before enrolling at the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law, where she earned her J.D. in 1986. Her time as a law student gave Janis greater exposure to the plight of L.A.’s working poor. Clerking during the summer of 1984, she assisted the Central American Refugee Center (CARECEN) in establishing its first full-time legal clinic for disenfranchised refugees. Later, as an attorney for L.A.’s Inner City Law Center and for the private firm of Latham & Watkins, Janis continued advocating for her native city’s most vulnerable constituents, often pro bono. In 1989, she returned to CARECEN as executive director, successfully campaigning to legalize and regulate the activities of sidewalk vendors and combating civil rights abuses of Central American immigrants by the L.A. Police Department and the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

In 1993, Janis left CARECEN to co-found LAANE, where she later led the historic campaign to pass L.A.’s “living wage”ordinance and negotiated the nation’s first community-benefits agreement, which has become a model for activists across the U.S. Under Janis’ leadership, LAANE also spearheaded the defeat of the 2004 ballot initiative that would have placed a Walmart superstore in Inglewood, Calif. The organization also played a key role in the 2008 establishment of L.A.’s Clean Trucks Program.

From 2002 to 2012, Janis was an appointed commissioner to the board of L.A.’s Community Redevelopment Agency. She currently serves as a senior fellow at UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs and on the boards of directors of several progressive nonprofits. She and LAANE have received numerous honors, notably the UCLA School of Law’s Antonia Hernández Public Interest Award and the Los Angeles Roman Catholic Archdiocese’s Empowerment Award.

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