On December 7, 2009, the Kalmanovitz Initiative hosted Ruth Milkman, director of the UCLA Labor Center, for a discussion of the problem of “wage theft” — systematic efforts by employers to deny workers the wage to which they are entitled. Milkman shared a copy of the report which she co-authored on this subject, “Broken Laws and Unprotected Workers.” The most extensive study ever conducted on this spreading problem, Milkman’s co-authored report documented the rise of wage theft and the costs it has exacted on America’s most vulnerable workers. Her briefing was attended by faculty from Georgetown University, Georgetown Law Center, union staff members, and community members fighting against wage theft.
On November 18, 2009, the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor, in partnership with the the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, sponsored a forum exploring the problems created for workers when transnational corporations which bargain collectively with unions overseas refuse to do so in the United States. The forum explored the case of Deutsche Telekom and its American business T-Mobile and their conflict with the Communications Workers of America. The forum was held at the Equality Center of the Human Rights Campaign, 1640 Rhode Island Avenue, NW, Washington, DC.
Participants included President Larry Cohen of the Communications Workers of America (CWA), T-Mobile workers, representatives of German unions, and KI director Joseph A. McCartin. The forum discussed a report prepared by John Logan, Director of Labor Studies at San Francisco State University. That report, titled, “Lowering the Bar or Setting the Standard? Deutsche Telekom’s U.S. Labor Practices,” is available here.
A reception on November 10 in Riggs Library at Georgetown University marked the formal launch of the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor. A gathering of over 100 supporters from the university, metropolitan Washington, organized labor, business, religious, and community organizations was on hand for the event. The gathering was addressed by Georgetown President John J. DeGioia, Lou Giraudo of the Kalmanovitz Charitable Foundation, and Joseph A. McCartin, Executive Director of the Initiative.
On November 4, 2009, the Kalmanovitz Initiative welcomed Baldemar Velásquez, President of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee and attorney Leonel Rivero for a discussion of the union’s struggle against the abuse of migrant workers on both sides of the U.S. – Mexico border. They presented a briefing on FLOC’s ongoing independent investigation into the April 2007 assassination of farm worker organizer Santiago Rafael Cruz in Monterrey, Mexico.
Santiago Rafael Cruz was found murdered at the Monterrey, Mexico offices of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee on April 9, 2007, where he worked as a field organizer for farm workers traveling to the United States. Since that time, FLOC President Baldemar Velásquez and thousands of supporters have called on the government of the state of Nuevo Leon to conduct a thorough investigation into the circumstances surrounding Cruz’s murder. Despite an order from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, says Velásquez, authorities have refused to pursue the political and economic motives that may have led to his killing.
FLOC President Baldemar Velásquez and attorney Leonel Rivero addressed the connection between the U.S. labor market that draws Mexican workers across the border and the corruption of human trafficking. They also presented a briefing of FLOC’s independent investigation into the circumstances surrounding this crime.