Yesterday’s Summit on Worker Voice brought an impressive score of labor leaders and advocates from around the country to the White House to discuss strengthening employee bargaining power and overcoming the problems facing the working class. The Kalmanovitz Initiative was part of the main event of the Summit, a Town Hall discussion with President Obama about the future of labor. The President moderated the Town Hall with Kalmanovitz Fellow Michelle Miller of Coworker.org.
Following a decade as the Lead Cultural Organizer at SEIU, Michelle joined the Kalmanovitz in 2012 as a Practitioner Fellow researching alternative organizing models and planting the seeds for the digital platform dedicated to workplace advocacy that ultimately became Coworker.org. This new platform, which she cofounded with Jess Kutch from the New Organizing Institute, provides the tools to any worker, anywhere to unite with fellow employees and promote change in the workplace. Coworker.org was recently awarded the Echoing Green Fellowship, and its recognition at the White House Summit is further evidence of its great potential to amplify workers’ voices.
“In five years, we want Coworker.org to be a hub for a new behavior in the workplace. When people encounter a problem or come up with an idea they want changed, instead of griping at the water cooler or venting over drinks, we want the first thing that they think to do is go to Coworker.org and start working on it.”
Coworker.org is entirely a product of Michelle, Jess, and their team’s hard work, dedication, and ingenuity. We are honored to have provided the initial space and support for Michelle to develop and ultimately flesh out her vision. She credits the KI’s early vote of confidence for making it possible to advance the Coworker.org project.
“We had this incredible, luxurious space to actually think about the things that we wanted to do… In our day-to-day lives, we don’t generally just get to email someone who is a brilliant expert about something and say ‘I’d really like to get lunch with you.’ What Kalmanovitz is able to do is make that happen and be thoughtful about who to meet with.”
Advocates and strategists in the labor movement often gain insights into the broader challenges facing working people and think of new and creative ways to overcome them. Yet their day-to-day responsibilities rarely allow the time or resources to make it happen. The KI Practitioner Fellowship offers the ideal environment to transform ideas into action the way Michelle did with Coworker.org.
Georgetown University’s Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor develops creative strategies and innovative public policy to improve workers’ lives in a changing economy.