UPLC was founded in 1975 by former coal miners and their widows in an effort to secure black lung benefits for disabled coal miners. In 1978, it was incorporated as an Illinois not-for-profit and obtained federal 501(c)(3) status. Over the last 35 years UPLC has been based in Uptown, but has served poor and working people not only in Uptown, but also in surrounding Chicago communities and statewide. Our work focuses on landlord-tenant issues, Social Security disability benefits, and protecting the civil rights of people in prison.
The mission of UPLC is to establish, administer, and promote programs providing legal aid to indigent persons, assisting community residents in obtaining legal services and benefits, and educating and training residents, paraprofessionals and community attorneys. However, this mission has always been as much about raising awareness as handling cases. UPLC operates on the belief that educating people on their legal rights will help enable them to fully exercise self-help – an essential step in building and preserving a strong and vibrant community. The Chicago Area Foundation for Legal Services succinctly described UPLC as “a classic community organization that just happens to practice law.”