More than 250 scholars and practitioners gathered for the fifth annual national Labor Research and Action Network conference (link to conference program) on June 15th and 16th. The two-day event, hosted by the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor at Georgetown University, brings together academics, organizers and graduate students from across the country with the aim of bridging the gap between research and worker organizing. This year’s conference opened with a conversation on the fissured economy, featuring U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Administrator Dr. David Weil, CTUL Co-Director Veronica Mendez, Teamsters Port Division Representative Christina Montorio and Workers United Organizer Jack Mahoney. All four speakers highlighted the creative and innovative strategies they are deploying to organize and raise standards given this new economic reality. A second plenary was focused on the fight for a stronger public sector, keynoted by AFSCME President Lee Saunders. British scholar Guy Standing gave a special lecture, “A Precariat Charter: A Progressive Strategy for Today’s Dangerous Class.” Workshops spread across the two days were divided into four tracks: Developing New Membership Models and Sustainability, Innovating Campaign Strategies That Build Power, Advancing Worker Rights in a Changing Economy and Holding Corporations Accountable.
LRAN, which has now grown to include more than 1,000 scholars and practitioners, uses its national conference each year as a time to learn from labor’s successes and setbacks. In addition to providing a space for researchers and practitioners to come together, LRAN supports new scholarship in the field through its new scholars research grant competition. 2015 grant winners, who were awarded a combined $16,000, presented on their ongoing research at the conference. Their research spanned topics from organizing immigrants in Chicago worker centers to labor-environmental coalitions in rural areas.