Watch the April 10th discussion on our website here.
What Would Frances Perkins Do? Adapting New Deal
Worker Protections to the 21st
By Allison Beck
What would Frances Perkins do? That was the question
debated by a distinguished panel of labor and new economy thought leaders in a lively symposium hosted by the Harvard Law School Labor and Worklife Program and the Frances Perkins Center. The two organizations joined forces to celebrate the April 10th birthday
and extraordinary legacy of Frances Perkins, FDR’s Secretary of Labor, the first woman to serve in a U.S. cabinet, and the principle architect of New Deal worker protections.
Symposium panelists included: Maureen Conway, Vice President for Policy Programs at the Aspen Institute, Executive Director of the Economic Opportunities
Program, and Founder of the Workforce Strategies Initiative; Erin Johansson, Research Director, Jobs With Justice; Tom Kochan, George M. Bunker Professor of Work and Employment Relations, MIT Sloan School of Management and Co-Director of the MIT Institute
for Work and Employment Research; Jess Kutch, Co-Director of Coworker.org; and Heidi Shierholz, Senior Economist, Director of Policy and the Perkins Project on Worker Rights at the Economic Policy Institute (EPI).
Sharon Block, Executive Director of the Harvard Labor and Worklife Program framed the discussion, starkly observing that “the basic nature and continuing
viability of the American middle class is under extreme stress.”
The Woman Behind the New Deal in Needham, MA, April 8, 2018.
Above: Sarah Peskin introducing author Kirstin Downey. Below: A crowd of over 130 attended the day’s event. Bottom right:League member, Sarah Peskin,
and host Karen Price.
Photos by Georgina Arrieta-Ruetenik.
Photos by Georgina Arrieta-Ruetenik
On April 8th, 2018 The League of Women Voters of Needham along with Progressive Needham, Women’s Surage Celebration Coalition of MA, Needham History Center & Museum, Needham Women’s Club hosted author and Frances Perkins Center board member Kirstin Downey for
a standing room only crowd at the The Center at the Heights. Downey shared an engaging talk followed by discussion about her book, The Woman Behind the New Deal: Frances Perkins, FDR’s Secretary of Labor.
Many thanks to Karen Price and Susan Kirk for spearheading this fabulous event.
Coworker.org, Co-Founders and Co-Directors, Jess Kutch and Michelle Miller sharing tools to empower 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.
How religion can help: resources that faith communities offer for the restoration of the common good.
Robert B. Reich teaches Public Policy at the University of California, served in three presidential administrations, and is the author of fifteen books and a
vast number of articles. The Frances Perkins Center is honored to count him as a member of our Advisory Council. Second only to Frances Perkins, he is my favorite United States Secretary of Labor!
Reich’s newest book, The Common Good explores the concept of the common good in American society, how it has been eclipsed in recent decades, and ways it can
be restored as an essential element of our national life. He defines the common good as consisting of “our shared values about what we owe one another as citizens who are bound together in the same society–the norms we voluntarily abide by, and the ideals
we seek to achieve.” The common good, as Reich presents it, is essentially the same as the public good advocated in the Frances Perkins Homestead Campaign motto, Seeking the Public Good.
Preservation and restoration activities are in full swing at the Frances Perkins Homestead. This National Historic Landmark in Newcastle, Maine serves as a tangible reminder that America is intended to be a vast homestead for all its people, a lively household for one and all, and that concern for the common good should govern our life together. We look forward to welcoming visitors in 2023.