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This month’s organization spotlight :
Economic Policy Institute
Pictured: Heidi Shierholz, Senior Economist and Director of Policy
The Economic Policy Institute
(EPI) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank created in 1986 to include the needs of low- and middle-income workers in economic policy discussions. EPI believes every working person deserves a good job with fair pay, affordable health care, and retirement security. EPI’s mission is to inform and empower individuals to seek solutions that ensure broadly shared prosperity and opportunity. To achieve this goal, economists and analysts at EPI conduct research and analysis on the economic status of working America and the economic policies that affect their lives, and advocate for policies that protect and improve the economic conditions of low- and middle-income workers.
EPI was the first think tank to focus on the economic condition of low- and middle-income Americans and their families. EPI’s research spans a broad range of economic policy issues, including jobs, wages, and living standards; labor policy; regulation; retirement; federal budget, deficits and taxes; health; immigration; macroeconomic performance; education; public investment; race, ethnicity, and the economy; and trade and globalization. We approach all of our policy issues by documenting the experiences of low- and moderate-income workers and families and asking how public policy can and will impact jobs, economic growth, and the well-being of workers. EPI’s Perkins Project
on Worker Rights and Wages, named after Frances Perkins, is a watchdog project EPI established for the Trump era. This project tracks the wage and employment policies coming out of the White House, Congress, and the courts, and keeping an especially close eye on the federal agencies that establish and defend workers’ rights, wages, and working conditions, including the Department of Labor, the National Labor Relations Board, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
When President Roosevelt asked Frances Perkins to become Secretary of Labor in 1933, she said she would accept only if she would be allowed to advocate for legislation that would put a floor under wages, a ceiling over hours, and abolish child labor. She did just that, and eighty years ago this month — on June 25th, 1938 – President Roosevelt signed the Fair Labor Standards Act into law. For more than 30 years, EPI has advocated to preserve and strengthen the rights and protections for working people, like those in the Fair Labor Standards Act, that Frances Perkins fought to establish.
May 2018 Organization Spotlight
Jobs with Justice
Photo: Sarita Gupta, Executive Director, Jobs With Justice
Everyone deserves the freedom to earn a decent living and a have brighter future. Yet millions of individuals today—in particular women, people of color and immigrants—aren’t able to support their families and afford basic necessities because the economy no longer works for workers. But when working people do come together in union, they achieve a fair return on their work. By negotiating collectively, men and women establish standards that improve conditions for people across communities and industries.
Jobs With Justice
is a national network expanding people’s ability to come together to improve their workplaces, their communities, and their lives. We create solutions to the problems working people face by leading campaigns, changing the conversation and moving labor, community, student and faith voices to action. With our network of 36 labor coalitions in 22 states across the country, we’re building a movement to ensure more of us can earn a fair return on our work. Jobs With Justice advocates for family-sustaining wages, and fair, safe, and equitable policies and workplaces. We win real change at the national and local levels by challenging corporate greed and demanding an economy that works for all.
Sarita Gupta is the executive director of Jobs With Justice and the co-director of Caring Across Generations
, and a nationally recognized expert on the economic, labor and political issues affecting working people across all industries. She is a key leader and strategist in the progressive, labor, economic justice, women’s, and caregiving movements, and in 2016, she received the Open Door Award of the Frances Perkins Center. Her background mirrors that of Perkins’, as well as her commitment to improving the lives of others. Like Perkins, Sarita attended Mt. Holyoke College with a focus on science coursework. However, her career path took a pivotal turn when she began exploring socioeconomic barriers to women’s healthcare, and gained greater exposure to student activism.
Under Sarita’s direction, alongside co-director Ai-jen Poo of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, Caring Across Generations is spearheading a national movement to transform the way we care in this country. By harnessing the power of social action, social media and storytelling, the organization seeks to spark connections across generations and strengthen family and caregiving relationships. As a member of the “sandwich generation,” Sarita is grappling with and speaks to the care issues facing more and more Americans,
balancing caring for young children with caring for aging parents.
Elder and child care are becoming critical issues. Our current care system, is costly, broken and unfair. Too often caregivers, who predominantly are women, have to leave their jobs because the burden of family care is not affordable or sustainable. And they often neglect their own health and personal needs. We’re testing out a bigger solution to the care dilemma with Home Care for All in Maine. In November 2018, voters will have the opportunity to pass the first universal home care program in the nation. Home Care for All will ensure all Maine families can access the care they need, invest in care jobs, support family caregivers, and keep vital members of our communities at home. We believe that Frances Perkins would approve of our efforts to dream big in creating programs that address working people’s needs in this era.
April 2018 Organization Spotlight
Coworker.org, Co-Founders and Co-Directors, Jess Kutch and Michelle Miller sharing tools to empower to today’s workers.
Coworker.org is helping to build a labor movement for the 21st century — one that is open to all workers and is powered by data and technology. When workers come together as a digital community and start to discuss the challenges they are facing inside a particular industry or company, they can surface problems that may not be so obvious to one individual worker.
In its four years, Coworker.org has been used by nearly half a million workers participating in hundreds of campaigns on issues ranging from aggressive sales goals, to dress codes, to sexual harassment, to wage theft. For example, employees at a major U.S. retailer led a Coworker.org effort to boost wages in their stores. Through their effort on Coworker.org, they recruited co-workers across the country, generated national media coverage, and enlisted support from elected leaders and community groups. After several months, the employer announced they were boosting wages by 10 to 15 percent in stores across the country. The employees at that retailer have gone on to launch new Coworker.org efforts and are currently urging their employer to commit to raising the wage floor to $15 per hour at stores across the United States.
Over the next few years, we aim to grow the number of workers using our platform and increase the rate of change in workplaces throughout the United States, Canada, and other regions. We believe that, by 2020, it will be possible to have 10 to 15 percent of the workforce of every Fortune 500 company engaging in leadership and advocacy on our platform. This representation would create a power center for workers to identify problems and advocate for improvements across workplaces and industries. If we are successful, we believe it will lead to a true shift in the checks and balances that are currently present in our economy.
Frances Perkins Center Mission Statement
The Frances Perkins Center honors the legacy of Frances Perkins by sharing her commitment to the principle that government should provide all its people with the best possible life, and by preserving the place that shaped her character. The Center convenes leaders and future leaders in public policy, labor and related fields to generate creative solutions to today’s social and economic problems and teaches students of all ages about a remarkable woman whose work continues to improve the lives of ordinary Americans.
The Frances Perkins Center was founded in 2008 to make the exemplary work and career of Frances Perkins both better known to the American people and to preserve her policy legacy.
The Center inspires people to address current economic and social problems as Perkins would through work in the areas of education, outreach and advocacy. The nonprofit, nonpartisan Center is currently headquartered in downtown Damariscotta, Maine where it offers a free interpretive exhibit on the life and achievements of Frances Perkins — the first woman to serve in a U.S. Cabinet, a key advisor to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and a lifelong advocate for social justice and economic security. Responsible for initiating groundbreaking New Deal programs that are a bulwark of American society today — Social Security, the 40-hour work week, unemployment insurance, worker’s compensation, and the minimum wage — Perkins had deep roots in Maine. In ten short years, the Center has produced publications, sponsored conferences and research, and recognized leaders who exemplify Perkins’ values. Information on current programs, events, and activities are posted on this web site and shared in our monthly online newsletters and social media.
The Center seeks to acquire and preserve the place Perkins called home — her family homestead on the Damariscotta River in Newcastle. This 57-acre property was announced as a National Historic Landmark on August 25, 2014 by Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell.
The Center is currently studying alternative future uses for the Perkins Homestead that will preserve the site’s integrity while providing a home for the Center’s educational programs.