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New Initiative to Address Labor Needs

20090831 Joe McCartin_0007

November 11, 2009 – Workers face new problems in today’s global economy that need to be solved with new ideas, history professor Joseph McCartin said during the Nov. 10 launch of Georgetown’s Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor.

Led by McCartin, the initiative will draw upon Georgetown’s academic and research capabilities and its commitment to service to find new approaches in improving labor and workplace relations.

“Today’s labor movement stands at a crossroads,” explains McCartin, an expert on the social and labor movements of America’s 20th century. “After decades of declining strength, this is a moment to explore new ideas and encourage a new generation to take on these critical challenges. The time is right for an innovative initiative such as this.”

The initiative will explore a range of issues, from the large structural concerns viewed by the general workforce to specific problems experienced by low-wage workers. It also will address the realities that beset workers in the contemporary economy through research, pilot projects and the promotion of ongoing collaboration among employers, unions and policymakers.

Taking a Global Focus

McCartin says the broad issues to consider include the way globalization has changed work and the way technology accelerates that change.

“The global economy is affecting workers at all levels, from white-collar workers to manufacturing workers in the factories that still remain in the United States,” he says. “Workers and employers alike are being held back by our system’s lagging response to problems involving workplace representation, the lack of affordable health care and securing a decent retirement among other issues.”

Georgetown students already are working on a pilot project through the initiative to provide English-speaking skills to immigrant laborers combating the problem of “wage theft.” Often experienced by day laborers, wage theft occurs when workers have no recourse for not being paid at all or given checks that bounce.

“As this project expands in scope over the coming months, it will not only provide a critical service to working people, but also present an opportunity to enrich the academic process through a substantive encounter with the effects of economic and social injustice,” McCartin says. “We have to find a better way of integrating immigrant workers into the American workforce.”

The labor initiative was made possible through a gift from the Kalmanovitz Charitable Foundation, which was created to benefit hospitals and universities after the death of millionaire real estate and brewing company magnate Paul Kalmanovitz.

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