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. The Initiative draws on Georgetown’s distinctive identity—its commitment to intellectual excellence, grounding in the Catholic and Jesuit traditions, history of inter-religious cooperation, global reach, and prominence as an arena of policy debate in the nation’s capital—to advance prosperity, broadly-shared economic justice, and respect for the dignity of labor.
“Our times have changed, but the imperative has not. Still with us are the working poor and all those who are in need of economic justice. We are called anew to uphold the dignity of the laborer, to answer the challenge of globalization.”
– Georgetown President John J. DeGioia
Founded in 2009, the Kalmanovitz Initiative was created as a space to engage questions of workers’ rights and the future of the labor movement. Since then, the KI has taken on special projects that explore policies supporting workers’ rights, coalition building between labor and community groups, and connecting students to local advocacy and organizing opportunities.
Joseph A. McCartin is a historian of the U.S. labor movement and 20th century U.S. social and political history. He is a Professor of History at Georgetown University, where he has taught since 1999, and served as the founding Executive Director of the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor & the Working Poor, since 2009. His research focuses on the intersection of labor organization, politics, and public policy. His first book, Labor’s Great War: The Struggle for Industrial Democracy and the Origins of Modern American Labor Relations, won the 1999 Philip Taft Labor History Book Award. His book, Collision Course: Ronald Reagan, the Air Traffic Controllers, and the Strike that Changed America, examined the origins and implications of the 1981 PATCO strike of air traffic controllers and won the Richard A. Lester Award for the Outstanding Book on Industrial Relations and Labor Economics. Most recently, he is co-author with Melvyn Dubofsky of Labor in America. He is the author of more than 140 articles, chapters, and reviews in the fields of labor history and labor studies, and his writing has appeared in a wide variety of venues including the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, Dissent, and the American Prospect. His current research explores the intersection of labor organization and democracy, tracing the decline and attempted reconstruction of collective bargaining in the United States. He is a member of the boards of the Catholic Labor Network, and the Interreligious Network for Worker Solidarity, and a contributing editor to Labor: Studies in Working-Class History. And he is the Vice President of the Labor and Working-Class History Association.
Lane Windham is an experienced organizer, educator, historian and activist. She holds a doctoral degree in U.S. history and her book about union organizing in the 1970s, Knocking on Labor’s Door: Union Organizing in the 1970s and the Roots of a New Economic Divide, was awarded the Organization of American Historians’ 2018 David Montgomery Award. Windham spent nearly twenty years working in the union movement, including as media outreach director for the national AFL-CIO and as a union organizer in the South. Windham’s current research focuses on the intersection of gender, race and class, and how working people can build power by forging a new social contract. She has published widely on issues of class, race, gender, economic justice and the future of work, and is a frequent guest commentator in the media. She is active with the Labor and Working Class History Association (LAWCHA) and is on the Advisory Committee of Labor and Research Action Network (LRAN). Windham co-directs WILL Empower, an ambitious collaborative project with Rutgers University to promote women’s leadership in the labor movement and the struggle for economic justice.
James Benton is a U.S. historian who studies labor history and the ways in which organized labor has been affected by trade policy, economic change, and industrial decline from the New Deal to the present. His forthcoming book, Fraying Fabric: How Trade Policy and Industrial Decline Changed America (University of Illinois Press) explains how missteps by business, labor, and government leaders on trade policy after World War II contributed to the backlash that benefited Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election. Before joining the Kalmanovitz Initiative, he worked in the Office of the President at Georgetown, where he assisted university leaders in their ongoing work, with the Society of Jesus and descendants of enslaved people sold by the Jesuits, of honoring and remembering the university’s connection to slavery. He earned a Ph.D. in United States history and a master’s degree in liberal studies from Georgetown University, and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Dawn Carpenter is an ethicist and a leading authority on the theological nature of work and the moral responsibilities of wealth. She is the host and executive producer of the What Does It Profit podcast that seeks to tell the stories of the solidarity economy through the lens of contributive justice theory. She comes to this work as a veteran of Wall Street where she engineered the capitalization of over $3 billion for some of the country’s most venerable social purpose corporations. Her first podcast, More than Money, reached the Top 15 on the iTunes Business chart and was rated as a Top 15 Podcast that Will Inspire You to Change the World by Causeartist.com.
Her work seeks to provide a moral foundation for economic and social justice. In recognition for her work, she was awarded the 2020 Spirit of Georgetown Award. She is currently completing her first book entitled “Co-workers with God: Contributive Justice and God’s Plan for Work and Wealth.” She serves as a senior advisor to the Vatican’s Economy of Francesco’s Finance and Humanity working group and is a member of the economic working group of its Laudato Si Action Platform. She also serves on the finance and investment committees of several organizations. She holds graduate degrees in political science, public finance, and Catholic theology. Her doctorate is in the multi-disciplinary field of liberal studies.
Sara Myklebust is the Research Director at KI focused on Bargaining for the Common Good. Previously, she worked for the Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers (BAC) as their Deputy Director for Research and Education and as a Senior Lead Researcher at the Center for Strategic Research (CSR) in the Organizing Department of the AFL CIO. Sara is originally from Tucson, Arizona and has worked with the Ironworkers as a strategic researcher organizing immigrant rebar workers across the Southwest. Sara worked as a community organizer and policy analyst at FRESC, now UNE, around the commuter and light rail expansion and development impacts. She has experience in legislative campaigns, advocacy work and community organizing, and extensive knowledge of municipal planning and procurement processes. She earned a Master’s Degree in Public Affairs from the University of Texas at Austin, where she focused on immigration policy. She loves backpacking with her partner Noah and discovering new recipes to cook at home.
Jessica Chilin serves as the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor’s Assistant Director for Research, Programming, Advocacy & Operations. At KI, Jessica works to advance respect for the dignity of labor and workers. Jessica is a graduate of Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service (SFS). She holds a Master’s in Latin American Studies with a concentration in Political Economy and a graduate certificate in Global Human Development. Prior to joining the Kalmanovitz Initiative, she worked for the Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University working to advance and support interfaith relations. Jessica is a proud 2012 graduate from the College of William & Mary. She is originally from San Salvador, El Salvador.
Alisha Volante is the Strategic Initiatives Director at KI focused on Bargaining for the Common Good. Previously, she worked for Private Equity Stakeholder Project (PESP) as a research coordinator in Labor and housing, Senior Program Director at Restaurant Opportunities Center United (ROC-United), and Research and Communications Director at SEIU Local 26. Alisha is a Minnesota native and has worked with the University of Minnesota, The Minnesota Historical Society, and Twin Cities Public Television on various projects focused on the history and lived experience of Black, Indigenous, and people of color across the state. She has experience in community engagement and conducting community based projects. She conducted her graduate work at the University of Minnesota with a focus in United States History (Modern), African American History, Race & Race relations. Alisha is a proud soldier in the fight to secure more rights for poor and working class citizens in the United States.
Patrick Dixon graduated from Georgetown University with a doctoral degree in History in 2015. His areas of specialization and research interests include the food and restaurant industries, agribusiness, and the nature of work in rural communities. His dissertation was entitled, “The Hamlet Factory Fire and the Political Economy of Poultry in the Twentieth Century.” He has also carried out research on public and private sector unionism, the tech industry, and workplace safety, and is presently focused upon new models of university procurement. He is the Managing Editor of LABOR: Studies in Working-Class History, and frequently carries out interviews on Union City Radio’s Labor History Today podcast. Prior to moving to the United States he received a bachelors degree in American Studies at the University of Sussex and a masters in Modern History at University College London.
Juan Belmán Guerrero graduated from The University of Texas at Austin in 2017 where he received a Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology. During his time at UT Austin, he organized with the University Leadership Initiative, a student organization that focuses on supporting immigrant students and community members. Through his five years of community organizing he was able to foster community relationships. In recognition of his efforts, he was awarded the Social Justice Award by American Gateways. Prior to joining the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor in Fall of 2018, he was working at Workers Defense Project to build and facilitate a coalition among legal service providers in Central Texas. At KI, Juan serves as Program Manager, coordinating KI’s research and organizing internships and working with immigrant and housing coalitions in DC.
Alexis Harper is a student, community organizer and freelance writer located in the DC area. She currently serves The Kalmanovitz Initiative as the director of communications and events. She joined KI through the WILL Empower Apprenticeship program in 2022. Alexis is finishing her dissertation in African American literature at Howard University where she focuses on racialization, nationalism and geographies in contemporary Black speculative fiction. In addition to her work with KI, Alexis organizes mutual aid in DC’s Ward 1 neighborhoods through various grassroots organizations. She is a graduate of Fisk University (B.A. ’13) and Virginia Tech (M.A. ’16).
Stephen Lerner is a labor and community organizer and architect of the groundbreaking Justice for Janitors campaign. Over the past three decades Lerner has organized hundreds of thousands of janitors, farm workers, garment workers, and other low-wage workers into unions, resulting in increased wages, first-time health benefits, paid sick days, and other improvements on the job. A leading critic of Wall Street bankers and the increased financialization of the U.S. economy, Lerner argues the growing power and influence of the finance industry has led to record income inequality and served as the primary driving force behind the creation of overwhelming debt obligations seen at the state and local level. He advocates for the use of non-violent civil disobedience as a tactic to challenge the influence of Wall Street and corporations. Lerner is a frequent contributor on national television and radio programs and has published numerous articles charting a path for a 21st century labor movement focused on growth and meeting the challenges of a global economy.
Leon Fink is Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of Illinois Chicago where he taught for many years as a member of the Department of History. He is a specialist and researcher in American labor, immigration history, and the Gilded Age/Progressive Era. The author or editor of a dozen books, Leon’s most recent work adopts a transnational and comparative view of the Gilded Age/Progressive Era as well as seeking out the roots of today’s “globalized” economic order. Currently, Leon serves the editor of the LABOR: Studies in Working-Class History, which is the official journal for the Labor and Working-Class History Association (new window). LABOR is housed and sponsored by the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor at Georgetown University. A subscription to LABOR is available through membership in LAWCHA. Leon also contributes to KI as a Senior Scholar and Director of International Initiatives.
Clayton Sinyai is the Executive Director of the Catholic Labor Network, an association of Catholic union activists – clergy, religious and lay – committed to Catholic Social Teaching on labor and work, and to fostering collaboration between Church and labor organizations to advance worker justice. A former rubberworker, railroad clerk, and letter carrier, he has spent the past two decades in a variety of union staff roles as a researcher, organizer, and communications director. Clayton is a member of (Construction) Laborers’ Union Local 11 in Washington DC and Knights of Columbus Council 17056 in his home parish of St. Philip the Apostle Catholic Church in Falls Church VA. He’s also the author of Schools of Democracy: A Political History of the American Labor Movement (new window) (Cornell, 2006).
Br. Ken Homan is a Jesuit brother and doctoral student at Georgetown University. Ken started helping with the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor by volunteering with the Just Employment Policy Project at Jesuit colleges and universities. He now works as a graduate assistant, organizing with the Interreligious Network for Worker Solidarity, a network of clergy and religious leaders committed to advocating in support of worker rights. As a Jesuit, Ken is passionate about the connections between faith and work for justice. His graduate work focuses on the Catholic Church and the labor movement in the United States, especially in the intersection between faith, work, and racism. Ken has a master’s in history from Fordham University and a master’s in theology from Boston College.
Debbie Berkowitz is a worker safety and health policy expert and advocate. She was the Worker Safety and Health Program Director at the National Employment Law Project for six years where she worked with national and state partners to develop successful policies and campaigns that improved conditions for vulnerable, low-wage workers in dangerous industries, including temporary workers and those in the meat, poultry and food industry. Most recently she helped lead campaigns for stronger State and Federal standards to protect workers from COVID-19. She is the author of widely cited reports and research on model policies to improve worker safety and workers’ compensation systems. Her past positions include serving as chief of staff and then the senior policy advisor for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (2009-2015). Debbie was also the health and safety director of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union and the health and safety director of the Food and Allied Service Trades Department of the AFL-CIO. She has testified before Congressional and state legislative committee hearings and her writing has been published in the Washington Post, Bloomberg BNA, Workers’ Compensation, Quartz, the Hill and more. Debbie is regularly quoted by major news outlets for her expertise on worker safety and health. Debbie is the recipient of numerous awards, including the American Public Health Association’s Alice Hamilton Award.
Jason Moyer-Lee has spent just under a decade as an activist in the UK trade union movement, including over seven years in elected leadership roles at the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB), a leading trade union for precarious, “gig economy”, and migrant workers in the UK. During that time membership grew from a few hundred to over 5,400 (including janitors, foster care workers, Uber drivers, couriers, video game workers, and others). The union also acquired a large media profile, won various campaigns for improved wages, terms and conditions, and worked with a predominantly pro bono network of lawyers to bring or participate in some of the most high-profile legal cases in the country. Jason Moyer-Lee holds a Ph.D. in Economics from the University of London and is currently writing a book on effective activism. The book draws on experiences of the IWGB as well as successful lessons in activism from grassroots organizations in the US, UK, Brazil, India and elsewhere.
Sherry Lee Linkon is a Professor of English and Director of the Writing Program at Georgetown University. Her teaching and research involve two main areas: teaching and learning in the humanities and the interdisciplinary study of working-class culture. In working-class studies, Linkon’s work focuses on social class in higher education, deindustrialization, and contemporary working-class literature. Her edited collection Teaching Working Class (Massachusetts, 1999) was named one of the most important academic books of the 1990s by Lingua Franca magazine. With John Russo, she co-authored Steeltown USA: Work and Memory in Youngstown (Kansas, 2002) and co-edited New Working-Class Studies (Cornell, 2005). She is currently working on a new book, The Half-Life of Deindustrialization, examining early twenty first-century working-class narratives reflecting the continuing effects of economic restructuring. She was the founding President of the Working-Class Studies Association, and she edits a weekly blog, Working-Class Perspectives.
John B. Russo was a founding member and Co-Director of the Center for Working-Class Studies at Youngstown State University. Along with conducting research on working-class history, labor studies, urban studies, and deindustrialization, he helped design and taught in the first certificate program in Working-Class Studies in the United States. John brings to the Kalmanovitz Initiative the long-running, renowned weekly blog, Working-Class Perspectives, which he edits with Georgetown English professor Sherry Linkon. In 2019, the blog published 43 posts that were read over 94,000 times by readers in 176 countries. You can read posts from the Working-Class Perspectives blog here. Read more about John and our other visiting scholars.
The Kalmanovitz Initiative is located in 209 Maguire Hall at Georgetown University in Washington, DC. Please find directions to our office here.
209 Maguire Hall
37th and O Streets NW
Washington, DC 20057