Call for Nominations: The Pandemic Worker Wave and a New Social Compact

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The Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor at Georgetown University will convene a major public virtual gathering entitled, “The Pandemic Worker Wave and a New Social Compact: A Public Forum on Working-Class Prosperity in a Transformed World,” June 2-3, 2022, to explore and amplify the intersection of a fresh wave of global worker activism and new social compacts. The conference invites participants who can contribute to the exploration of ideas about workers’ rights and power and social compacts, through scholarship and / or activism.  The gathering will build on and expand the discussion launched at Constructing a New Social Compact, a major virtual gathering in 2021.

The coronavirus pandemic has exposed and exacerbated the enormous pressures impacting working people across the world.  Decades of low wages, long hours, precarious work, limited access to unions and little respect on the job have taken an enormous toll during the crisis. Though the public celebrated essential workers during the pandemic, there was no corresponding improvement in working conditions, and workers’ compensation remains too paltry to cover rising housing, education, child care and health care costs.  People of color and women have been hit particularly hard by the multileveled impact of the pandemic, coupled with deep-seated economic precarity.  

Consequently, we are in the midst of a period of working-class ferment, which holds the possibility of a global workers’ rights revival. Working people are increasingly engaging in collective action, such as through organizing and striking, in order to gain better wages, improved working conditions and increased agency on the job.  Public approval of unions is at a nearly fifty-year high in the U.S., especially among young people. 

Meanwhile, working people are voting with their feet and refusing to return to or accept the sorts of low-wage, no-security jobs that have become the norm over the last forty years.  Record number of workers quit their jobs in 2021 in the “Great Resignation,” forcing a job market churn that has disrupted business as usual.  

It remains unclear, however, whether current social compacts – – the constellations of laws, policies, organizations, and institutions that govern people’s social welfare – – can serve as viable platforms for the renewal of worker power and prosperity.  Fissures along racial and gender lines, coupled with unchecked harm to the climate, have long undergirded the Social Democratic and New Deal-based social contracts. Neoliberalism has weakened workers’ rights across the globe, leaving working people with fewer tools and protections as they face enormous technological changes and workplace changes in today’s economy.  What kinds of social compacts do we need in order to secure worker prosperity in a pandemic-altered world?  To what extent are health care, housing, education, climate, and care core labor issues for the working class? What roles can governments, unions, worker-based organizations, non-profits, philanthropy, transnational organizations, universities and individuals play in building a revised social compact that rises to the reconfigured requirements of today’s economy and climate? Should we create new types of institutions to bolster workers’ power? 

In addition, history reveals that moments of worker unrest, such as the strike waves that followed the world wars, were followed by intense periods of conservative backlash. Is such resistance emerging to eclipse workers’ current uprising, and how might workers and their organizations respond? 

The Advisory & Organizing Committee of the New Social Compact project invites worldwide participation in the forum by activists, academics, faith leaders, policy experts, global labor activists, workers, philanthropists, labor organizations, elected leaders and others to explore building working-class prosperity in a post-pandemic world. The committee plans to curate a selection of panels, workshops, presentations, individual talks, cultural offerings, and videos that will convey ideas around this theme.  We are accepting nominations for people, organizations, or topics to be covered by the forum. Please submit your nominations through this form, no later than February 28, 2022.  Self-nominations are acceptable.  

Some or all of the meeting will be closed captioned and interpreted into languages other than English.  If you plan to participate in the meeting and need accommodations or interpretation, please email  

Organizing Committee (in formation): 

Laura Gutierrez AFL-CIO 

Carlos Jimenez                     AFL-CIO

Cathy Feingold                     AFL-CIO

Mary Cathryn Ricker             Albert Shanker Institute 

Carlos Torrealba                   Central Florida Climate Action / Jobs with Justice

Alan Barber                          Congressional Progressive Caucus Center

Michelle Miller            

Wilneida Negron        

Ruth Milkman                       CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies

Stephanie Luce                    CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies

Margaret Poydock                Economic Policy Institute

Rev. Alvin Herring                Faith in Action

Knut Panknin                        Friedrich Ebert Foundation

Ben Wilkins                          Fight for $15

John Monahan                     Georgetown University

JJ Rosenbaum                     Global Labor Justice / Int’l Labor Rts Forum

Tessa Bloechl               ILO-USA

Sarah Morgan                      ILO-USA

Owen Tudor                         International Trade Union Confederation

Adam Shah                          Jobs with Justice

Shailly Barnes                      Kairos

James Benton                      Kalmanovitz Initiative / Georgetown University

Joseph McCartin                  Kalmanovitz Initiative / Georgetown University

Lily Ryan                              Kalmanovitz Initiative / Georgetown University

Lane Windham                     Kalmanovitz Initiative / Georgetown University

Lauren Burke                       Labor Network for Sustainability

Tanya Wallace-Gobern         National Black Worker Center Project

Taylor Davis                           National Black Workers Center Project

Alana Eichner                       National Domestic Workers Alliance

Haeyoung Yoon                   National Domestic Workers Alliance

Sarah David Heydemann      National Women’s Law Center

Dale Templeton                    National Education Association

Anthony K. Rogers-Wright    New York Lawyers for the Public Interest

Meseret Araya Office of Representative Andy Levin (MI-9)

MaryGrace Menner Office of Representative Andy Levin (MI-9)

Shawna Bader-Blau              Solidarity Center

Ryan Gerety                 United for Respect

Claudia Quinonez                 United We Dream

Gerson Quinteros                 United We Dream

Juan Manuel Guzman           United We Dream

Michael Mendez                   University of California

Guilherme Machado Dray     University of Lisbon 

Julie Greene                         University of Maryland

Dwjuan Frazier                     University of Minnesota / History

William P. Jones                   University of Minnesota / History / LAWCHA

Jessica Champagne             Worker Rights Consortium 

For more information please contact