On Friday, October 22, 2010 the Kalmanovitz Initiative co-sponsored a lunch talk on flexible work arrangements in the union context. Dr. Peter Berg of Michigan State University presented his recent research on this topic, which offers original insights for unions, employers, researchers, and advocates. Discussants included Elizabeth Bunn, Organizing Director at the AFL-CIO; Armeta Dixon, Vice President, 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East; and Kris Rondeau, Organizer and Negotiator, AFSCME. Jennifer Luff, Research Director of the Kalmanovitz Initiative, moderated.
The Kalmanovitz Initiative is excited to welcome Elisabeth Springer and Grace Wallack as our Day Laborer Exchange coordinators in 2010-2011!
Elisabeth Springer (COL ’11) is majoring in Government with a minor in Chinese. She helps facilitate the DLE program’s growth and greatly enjoys traveling to the 14th and P corner each week to tutor and talk with the workers. After graduation she will live in Yogya, Indonesia, doing community development and education work on a Princeton in Asia fellowship.
Grace Wallack (COL ’13) is majoring in American Studies with a minor in Economics. Before DLE, Grace worked at Jews United For Justice, a DC-based social justice organization, where she coordinated their annual Labor Seder. She is currently a tutor at the Georgetown University Writing Center, and she can often be spotted around Georgetown on a Capital Bikeshare bike.
On May 26, 2010, the Kalmanovitz Initiative held a briefing at Georgetown University Law Center aimed at policymakers titled “Rethinking Labor Policy: History and Prospects.”
The event was chaired by Professor Daniel Ernst of the Georgetown University Law Center and featured presentations by noted labor historian Nelson Lichtenstein of the University of California, Santa Barbara, Emily Stewart of the United Food and Commercial Workers union, and Jennifer Luff, Research Director of the Kalmanovitz Initiative (left to right above). The audience included policy analysts, Congressional legislative staff, attorneys, and labor and welfare advocates.
I decided to attend the screening of Igual Que Tú because I’d found the Kalmanovitz Initiative’s previous events to be very educational, and had heard wonderful things about the filmmaker, Ellie Walton. But I really wasn’t sure what to expect. I have little understanding of labor issues; and as someone who was born into a comfortable middle-class family in Indianapolis—and now spends most of his waking hours staring at a computer screen in an office on Georgetown’s campus—I wasn’t sure whether I’d be able to identify with anything in the stories of migrant day laborers, whose days were so full of hardship and uncertainty over where their next job (and meal) would come from.
But as the film began, and I was pulled into the stories of the people appearing on-screen, I quickly realized that the differences between my experiences and theirs weren’t an obstacle to my appreciating the film; rather those differences were exactly the reason why I needed to see the film.
Usually, the documentaries I’ve seen are about some exotic, far-off place or people or circumstances. But as I watched scenes from the Home Depot parking lot that I’d glimpsed so many times from the window of a Red Line train, I realized this was the first time I’d watched a documentary and felt, ‘This is about my world! I know these places. I know these people. I’m involved in this story.’
The film was grounded in the familiar settings of ‘my’ DC; but it forced me to recognize that DC wasn’t really ‘mine’ at all—that it belonged just as much to those day laborers. It reminded me that the DC that I saw from my limited perspective was only one facet of the ‘real’ city, in which human beings experience challenges and struggles and triumphs so different from my own. And now, through the courage of the people sharing their stories on-screen, I was starting to hear those stories.
I feel grateful and privileged that I was able to view the film, and glimpse the realities of life as a migrant day laborer that Ellie Walton and her collaborators have so powerfully captured on-screen.
April 14, 2010
Kalmanovitz Initiative Seminar Series:
“The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same: Continuity and Change in Labor Codes in Latin America,”
Professor Matt Carnes, S.J.
When do labor laws protect workers from workplace risks, and when do they serve to institute or insulate the privilege of particular political and economic actors? Come hear Prof. Matt Carnes of the Georgetown University Government Department discuss the Latin American experience with labor codes.
As a scholar and priest, Matthew Carnes bridges the academic and spiritual worlds with a focus on labor and social welfare policy. His regional interest in Latin America traces back to service work in Ecuador and Paraguay, where he was shocked by the unequal distribution of wealth he encountered while working on immunization projects in rural villages. For Carnes, the holes in the social safety net came into sharper contrast while doing relief work in Honduras following the destruction of Hurricane Mitch. Subsequent work with families of the disappeared among the Christian Base Communities in Chile helped set the trajectory of his career as, in his words, “an advocate and student, scholar and servant,” pursuing the goals of greater economic justice and broader access to social services. For Carnes, such pursuits cannot only be normatively motivated, but also must be informed by “rigorous and well thought out answers based on solid research and a careful consideration of the incentives and institutions that foster just social relations.”
Carnes entered the Jesuit order in 1992, eventually planning to combine his paired vocations of scholarly research and religious service, later completing his PhD in political science at Stanford. Through the course of his graduate training, he traveled extensively in Mexico, Peru, Argentina, Uruguay, and Chile. He observed that in Latin America, organized labor has been a central actor in the political arena in pushing for (and occasionally limiting) the universal provision of social welfare. This has produced a paradox of conflicting reforms in the region, with the privatization of many social services coexisting with resilient and quite protective labor codes, segmenting the labor market and calling into question how social services will be administered and distributed in the future. For Carnes, the need for just treatment in the workplace and basic floors for retirement security and health care must be met both by traditional labor protections and newer policy innovations such as conditional cash transfers. Such policy puzzles motivate his research into labor law, pension and health care reform in Latin America.
After spending a year as a visiting fellow at the Kellogg Institute of International Studies at Notre Dame, Carnes came to Georgetown, where he is an assistant professor of government. Being at Georgetown “allows me to work with people doing cutting edge research and writing,” he says, while DC “provides a unique opportunity to dialogue with others who can put those ideas into practice.” Carnes presented a talk entitled, “The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same: Continuity and Change in Labor Codes in Latin America” for the Kalmanovitz Initiative’s interdisciplinary seminar on labor studies on Wednesday, April 14 at Georgetown.