The Kalmanovitz Initiative is excited to welcome Hilary Klein and Melody Webb as our Practitioner Fellows for the fall of 2013! The KI’s 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. Read more about the Practitioner Fellowship program and the work of past Practitioner Fellows here.
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 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. 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 innovative 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.
Melody Webb is a DC native and 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 DC, executive director of the Anacostia 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 International 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.