• empowering-leaders
  • campus and commmunity

Practitioner Fellowship Program
Overview

The Practitioner Fellowship Program offers labor activists and strategists the opportunity to take a step back from their work and think creatively about challenges facing working people today.

Project Details

In the course of their daily work, labor activists, advocates, and strategists develop insights into the broader challenges facing working people and think of new and creative ways to overcome them. But day-to-day responsibilities rarely allow the time or resources to transform creative ideas into action. The goal of the Kalmanovitz Practitioner Fellowship is to provide practitioners the support they need to advance innovative worker organizing and bargaining strategies, particularly those projects with a focus on low-wage and excluded workers.

After their four-month residencies at Georgetown, the practitioner fellows return to their work but retain their connection to the Kalmanovitz Initiative, constituting a growing network of activist-thinkers that support its mission.

2013 Practitioner Fellows Hilary Klein and Melody Webb are funded in part by the Berger-Marks Foundation.

2013 Kalmanovitz Practitioner Fellows

Melody Webb

Melody Webb is a Washington, D.C. native, and a graduate of Harvard Law School and Harvard College, where she graduated magna cum laude with a degree in Social Studies. Following law school she clerked for the Honorable Emmet Sullivan on the District of Columbia Court of Appeals. Thereafter she held several public interest positions: Equal Justice Works Fellow at the Legal Aid Society of D.C., executive director of the Ancostia Congress Heights partnership, and systemic reform attorney at the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless.

After spending several years at home with her young family, Melody served as Legislative Counsel to US Senator Robert P. Casey (D-Pa), and then as Associate General Counsel of Service Employees Internaional Union (SEIU). She is the founder of a non-profit organization that focuses on employment rights of low-income women. Melody is currently Of Counsel at Katz, Marshall and Banks, a plaintiff-side employment law firm.

Melody’s project will examine existing models and explore alternative ones for training workers to detect, document, and ultimately connect with others to address discriminatory hiring, promotion, and compensation practices. It will generate and pilot the use of conventional tools and technology based media to instruct workers in identifying, investigating and reporting violations of Title VII and other equal employment laws. In conjunction with this, it will develop a body of legal resources and an attorney network to guide and provide representation to workers and job applicants, as needed.

Hilary Klein

Hilary Klein is the Director of Strategic Campaigns at Make the Road New York, where she oversees the workers’ rights, affordable housing and leadership development programs. Hilary is originally from Washington DC and has been engaged in social justice and community organizing work for more than 15 years, on issues such as affordable housing, immigrants’ rights, and violence against women. Hilary also spent six years in Chiapas, Mexico, working with women’s projects in Zapatista communities, and is working on a book about women’s participation in the Zapatista movement.

While at Make the Road New York, Hilary helped to launch and coordinate the WASH NY campaign, which seeks to improve working conditions in New York City’s car wash industry. WASH NY is a joint effort between Make the Road New York (MRNY) and New York Communities for Change (NYCC) and supported by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). In the past year and a half, the WASH NY campaign has won seven National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) elections to unionize car washes throughout New York City, saved the jobs of workers at the Soho Car Wash, won a successful strike at the Sunny Day Car Wash in the Bronx, and ratified two union contracts – at Sunny Day and Astoria Hi-Tek Car Wash & Lube. This campaign has also brought about significant change in how workers are treated, even at car washes that are not yet organized.

Hilary’s research project at the Kalmanovitz Initiative seeks to deepen and expand on this innovate model of low-wage worker campaigns. Hilary will research a number of key framing questions in order to build on the successful collaboration between dynamic community-based organizations and progressive labor unions in order to achieve the scope and scale necessary in these campaigns to raise wages and improve working conditions for some of this country’s most vulnerable and exploited workers. The key framing questions include researching the current landscape, organizational structure, resources and scale, strategic targets, and viable alternatives to traditional collective bargaining agreements.

Saket Soni

Saket Soni is the Executive Director of the New Orleans Workersʹ Center for Racial Justice. The Center is dedicated to organizing African American and immigrant workers for a just reconstruction of post‐Katrina New Orleans. Saket has worked as an organizer in Chicago at the Coalition of African, Asian, European, and Latino Immigrants of Illinois, a city‐wide immigrant rights coalition, and at the Organization of the North East. Saket was born and raised in New Delhi, India.

Saket joined the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice to take the first staff position in 2006. Since then he has steered the organization’s growth. Saket co-authored “And Injustice For All: Workers’ Lives In the Reconstruction,” the most comprehensive report on race in the Reconstruction of the post-Katrina Gulf Coast, and “Never Again: Lessons of the Gustav Evacuation,” an account of the treatment of African Americans in the sheltering process. Saket has testified before Congress on racial justice and labor rights issues. He has crafted strategic campaigns with direct organizing, litigation, communications, and research components to advance the human rights of guestworkers.

2012 Kalmanovitz Practitioner Fellows

Erik Forman

Erik Forman has been active in groundbreaking solidarity unionism campaigns at Starbucks and Jimmy John’s as a member of the Industrial Workers of the World. As a labor educator, he has led workshops and trainings on contemporary syndicalist praxis in 22 countries. At the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor at the Working Poor, Forman conducted research on union organizing and power strategies for the food service and retail sectors. His research on union renewal has now taken him to Montréal, where he is developing a student unionism organizing manual based on the successful Quebec student strikes of 2005 and 2012. He studied critical theory at Macalester College. You can follow him on twitter @_erikforman.

Check out Erik’s April 2013 Labor Notes article: The ‘Organizing Model’ Goes Global

Joe Uehlein

Joe Uehlein was elected Secretary-Treasurer of the AFL-CIO’s Industrial Division, and served as Director of the AFL-CIO Center for Strategic Campaigns before starting the Labor Network for a Sustainable Future. Joe’s work has explored ways to bring the labor and environmental movements together, and as a Practitioner Fellow he examined the ways that labor can help build a sustainable future for the planet while addressing workers’ economic concerns.

In February 2013, Joe convened a meeting of labor and environmental leaders at Georgetown University that resulted in a joint statement on Labor-Environment Solidarity for a More Just and Sustainable Economy.

Michelle Miller

Michelle Miller is the co-founder of Coworker.org, a digital platform that will provide the tools to any worker, anywhere to join with fellow employees and advocate for change in the workplace. A Practitioner Fellow at the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor, she is researching historical precedence for alternative organizing models, implications for the project under current labor and employment law and potential partnerships, strategy and direction for the project. She is working in partnership with Jess Kutch, a Senior Fellow at the New Organizing Institute.

Click here to check out a great article about Coworker.org!

For over a decade, Michelle was the Lead Cultural Organizer for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). In this role she integrated the creative process into organizing, political and public engagement strategy through innovative partnerships between artists and workers. Michelle oversaw the production of over 25 original art pieces for the union, trained hundreds of members in storytelling, basic digital media production and live performance, and spearheaded major public events with audiences of up to 20,000. Miller was invited to the first-ever White House Briefing on Art, Community, Social Justice, and National Recovery and is nationally recognized leader working at the intersection of art and social change. Her work has been featured in the New York Times, Newsweek.com, Boing Boing, and Washington Post as well as the Guggenheim Museum and countless art shows, public spaces and conferences across the country.

Madeline Janis

Madeline Janis’ 2012 fellowship explored how national policy could better support community-based efforts to create good jobs and a healthy environment. She looked at how federal regulation could support major Los Angeles-based initiatives around key sectors of the economy. Madeline also worked with allied organizations to design initiatives that could be coordinated with groups from other US cities that want to advocate for national regulations and policies to support local campaigns.

Madeline is the founder, and, until February 2012, was the Executive Director of the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE), a non-profit agency that conducts research, education and advocacy around issues affecting low-income working families in Los Angeles. She currently serves at the National Policy Director at LAANE. She holds a law degree from the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law.

Donald Cohen

Donald Cohen’s 2012 fellowship explored the consistent rhetoric used over the last 100 years to fight against consumer, environmental, and labor protections and built out effective counter-narratives to those attacks. His research looked at past legislative and regulatory battles around workplace safety, minimum wage, family leave, consumer and product safety, and environmental protection.

Donald has been an organizer and leader of progressive and labor organizations for nearly thirty years. He was the leader of the California universal health care movement in the early 1990s. He later developed a political program for the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council, AFL-CIO, and founded a labor-connected non-profit, the Center on Policy Initiatives (CPI) that served as the research, policy, communications, and community alliance building arm of the labor movement. Donald is the developer and leader of the Cry Wolf Project, which creates new tools to better respond to criticisms of progressive policy. Donald is also the Chair of In the Public Interest, a resource center on privatization and responsible contracting, and is on the board of directors of Green for All, the Ballot Initiatives Strategy Center, and the Labor Project for Working Families. He also co-founded the Partnership for Working Families.

2011 Kalmanovitz Practitioner Fellows

Edgar Aranda-Yanoc

Edgar Aranda-Yanoc’s 2011 fellowship focused on alternative grassroots and social media strategies to enforce wage theft judgments. He researched wage theft practices in Virginia and across the region and identified a range of media and organizing strategies that could help overcome employers’ unwillingness to comply with judicial orders for wage theft claims. Edgar examined the use of transparency mechanisms—such as social media and public disclosure campaigns—as a means to educate the public on the prevalence of wage theft and shift the norms of acceptable business practices.

Edgar currently works with Virginia Legal Aid Justice Center’s Immigrant Advocacy Program as a Community Advocate and Educator where he promotes the employment rights of immigrant workers in Virginia. He also serves as the Chair of the Virginia Coalition of Latino Organizations (VACOLAO) and is a member of the Executive Committee of the Board of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON). Edgar was the recipient of the 2010 Linowes Leadership Award presented by the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region. He earned an LL.M. degree in 2006 from Temple University Beasely School of Law where he received the Professor Samuel Gyandoh Award for outstanding professional and personal service to the law school community. Prior to his work in the United States, he was a practicing lawyer in Peru.

Pilar Maria Weiss

Pilar spent her 2011 fellowship conducting an investigation and analysis into the potential for organizing the unemployed into a political force. Her research question came from her observation that organizing and political campaigns failed to account for the growing ranks of the unemployed. Pilar’s research included interviews with organizers who had or were trying to organize the unemployed and with historians and economists who have studied unemployed organizing during the Great Depression, in post-industrial steel towns, and other historical periods or locations with high unemployment.

Pilar is currently the Civic Engagement Director at the New Organizing Institute (NOI), where she works with organizers across the country building locally-based electoral campaigns that put the power back into the hands of voters. Pilar’s work at NOI focuses on increasing access to practice-based research and new technologies among field organizers, increasing the capacity for volunteer-based voter registration, and building long-term civic engagement capacity around issue-based campaigns. Prior to joining NOI, Pilar spent a decade running political organizing campaigns for UNITE HERE, the hospitality workers’ union. Pilar served as UNITE HERE’s National Deputy Director of Politics and Communications as well as the Political Director of the Culinary Workers Union Local 226. Pilar holds a Masters in Public Health from UC Berkeley.

Netsy Firestein

Netsy used her 2011 fellowship to explore what it would take to make the issue of paid family and medical leave a high priority for federal and state policy makers. Netsy researched successful national campaigns on disability rights, early childhood education, and LGBT equality to understand the innovative, key strategies that propelled them to victory. Her research resulted in presentations at the AFL-CIO and Columbia University and helped lay the foundation for new paid family and medical leave strategies at the national level.

Netsy is the founder and Director of the Labor Project for Working Families. The Labor Project is a national non-profit organization working with labor unions to negotiate and advocate for better work/family policies, including child care, paid family leave, elder care, and flexible work hours. Netsy has over 20 years of experience working with labor and work/family issues. She has worked with many local and international unions and labor/management committees on developing work/family contract language and programs. Netsy does trainings around the country on labor and work/family issues and is the co-author of numerous articles on these issues. She holds a Masters in Social Work from Columbia University.