Innovating Change in a Time of Uncertainty

Posted in News

The KI continues to serve as an innovative hub for the next-gen workers’ justice movement, despite the challenges of the pandemic. We’ve been working online since March 2020.  As we prepare to make a limited return to campus for the Fall semester, we want to share what we’ve been working on and where our work is going in the rest of 2021. For a detailed description of our activities, see below.

Convening for Change

In March and April of 2020 and in April and May of 2021, the Kalmanovtiz Initiative hosted major national and international conversations bringing together labor, worker justice, and community activists to strategize on building a more just, equitable, and sustainable future. KI also partnered with our colleagues at Georgetown to host an ongoing dialogue between public health experts and labor activists.

  • New Social Compact Convening– In April and May of 2021, the Kalmanovitz Initiative sponsored a multi-day virtual convening attended by nearly 1200 activists, scholars, and leaders from every continent. In a series of conversations, panelists discussed building a new social contract that addresses longstanding racial and gender inequities and centers care, sustainability, and the needs of working people. Watch recordings from all the panels here.
  • COVID-19 and Workers Calls – Beginning in early March 2020, KI partnered with the Georgetown Global Health Initiative and the School of Nursing and Health Sciences to host regular calls on the impact of COVID-19 on workers and their families. Regular calls continued through 2021 and brought together representatives of the public health and labor communities to address a wide range of policy issues impacting working people.
  • Interreligious Network for Worker Solidarity – KI has been central to the development of the the emerging Interreligious Network for Worker Solidarity, a group of clergy, faith leaders, and lay people committed to supporting, building relationships with, and advocating for workers, organized labor, and worker organizations. Members of the network represent a diversity of religions and hail from across the United States but are united by vision for a more just and equitable economy for all workers.
  • Bargaining for the Common Good (BCG) – With our partners at the Action Center on Race and the Economy and the Center for Innovation in Worker Organization at Rutgers University, Bargaining for the Common Good has been central in convening conversations around worker justice.
    • Climate and Environmental Justice Convening – The network hosted hundreds of union activists and representatives of a diverse group of climate and environmental justice groups to discuss and strategize on building campaigns that can bridge labor and community at the bargaining table. Read more about the event here.
    • Essential Workers Organizing Committee – With partners at national organizations like Jobs with Justice and United for Respect, BCG has worked with a broad coalition to advocate for essential workers during the pandemic and design aggressive campaigns to challenge the wealthy and fight for the needs of communities.
    • Capital Strategies for the Common Good Workshop Series – Convened with a number of national partners, this workshop series aims to build a community of campaigners, organizers, and activists that work together to fight corporate power using capital strategies and strategic research.

Cultivating Leaders

Despite the pandemic, we continued our programming with students and young people through our Organizing in Action and Research in Action internships, our Labor Capital Strategies Fellowship, and our WILL Empower programming.

  • KI Organizing and Research Interns – We hosted Summer 2020, Fall 2020, and Spring 2021 classes of interns, engaged with local and national worker justice organizations. Through the virtual internships, interns were able to gain experience as researchers, organizers, and communicators in the worker justice movement. Georgetown students can apply for the Fall 2021 KI internships at this link.
  • Labor Capital Strategies Fellowship – In partnership with Heartland Capital Strategies, we hosted Summer 2020, Fall 2020, and Spring 2021 classes of interns. Through the LCS program, undergraduate and graduate students from Georgetown and institutions across the United States work with labor and progressive investment groups. Read about our Summer 2021 fellows and apply to be a Fall 2021 fellow here.
  • WILL Empower Apprenticeship and Young Womxn’s Labor Leadership – WILL Empower will welcome ten new apprentices this Fall, and has continued its Apprenticeship Program throughout the pandemic. The apprenticeship places young women in positions in the worker justice movement to build skills and experience for future leaders. Ariana DeLaurentis worked with the International Labor Organization and Taylor Davis worked with the National Black Worker Center Project. Read more about our 2020-2021 apprentices here. In July of 2021, WILL Empower launched its Young Womxn’s Labor Leadership Series to bring together young leaders in the labor movement in conversation with seasoned activists and organizers.
  • Worker Justice DC Alternative Break – A group of student leaders carried on the tradition of our Worker Justice DC Alternative Spring Break Trip Program, participating in a virtual version or the event. Student on our WJDC trip met with local DC organizers to learn about the labor movement, housing, immigration and local issues impacting workers.

Engaging Virtually

To adapt to a changing world, KI’s programs hosted many online webinars, open to the public on topics ranging from immigration to housing to labor justice. KI’s virtual events attracted over a thousand activists, students, and scholars from around the world to reflect on and discuss the issues of the day and look into the future. Nearly all of our virtual events and events co-sponsored through WILL Empower and Bargaining for the Common Good are available to view online with the links listed below.

Shaping Dialogue

Through work with partner organizations, in the media, and beyond KI and our programs are working to shape the narrative around worker justice and the economy. Check out some of our research, media engagement and more below.

  • Working Class Perspectives Blog, a weekly blog featuring stories, commentary, and scholarship from the world of labor and working class studies run by KI Fellow John Russo
  • Bargaining for the Common Good research – Throughout the last year and a half, BCG has published a number of high profile reports detailing inequities and disparities exacerbated by the pandemic. Read all three: “Make Them Pay,” “Billionaire Wealth vs. Community Health Report,” and “Cashing in on Our Homes Report.” In addition, BCG released an interactive mapping tool tracking union contracts across the United States. See the tool here.
  • Labor: Studies in Working Class History, the official journal of the Labor and Working Class History Association is based out of KI and publishes commentary on labor and social movements. You can find out more about the journal here. Be on the lookout for our February 2022 issue on “Class and Consent: Labor, Work, Gender, and the Problems of Sexual Harassment.”
  • KI In the News – Check out KI’s staff quoted in the media on issues related to worker justice and the labor movement.

Looking Ahead

As we enter a new academic year, we are faced with an uncertain path forward. The pandemic continues to affect working people across the country and across the world and the labor movement continues to grapple with an ever-changing economy. KI will continue to face these challenges head on and looks forward to engaging with Georgetown students and the DC community during this time. Below are some of our plans for the year ahead.

  • We will welcome an expanded class of WILL Empower apprentices in September of 2021 who will serve in new roles and locations across the country. We will also welcome Fall classes of KI organizing and research interns and LCS fellows.
  • We will build on our work documenting the labor movement, particularly in a time of social upheaval through our Labor History Research work. See some of our initial work on frontline workers during the pandemic here.
  • Our New Social Compact work continues with planned gatherings in Fall of 2021 and Spring of 2022 with a focus on housing and the crisis facing renters and communities in the midst of the pandemic.
  • This year we were excited to have received funding for our work from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), the Ford Foundation, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). CCHD and Ford will support our Bargaining for the Common Good work while RWJF will fund a collaboration on ethical poultry purchasing with the Georgetown University Law Center.