Women Leading the Way in Labor

By Sheri Davis-Faulkner, PhD
Co-director, WILL Empower

WILL Empower (Women Innovating Labor Leadership) is a joint initiative launched in 2017 by SMLR’s Center for Innovation in Worker Organization (CIWO) with the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor at Georgetown University (KI). WILL Empower is designed to identify, nurture and train a new generation of women labor leaders. Co-directed by Dr. Sheri Davis-Faulkner (Rutgers) and Dr. Lane Windham (Georgetown), WILL Empower promotes a multi-pronged approach to women’s leadership development with a diverse set of programs including: Apprenticeships, Innovative Women Fellowships, Cohorts of Learning and Mentoring, and more.

Jokebed “Jojo” Morinvil (pictured left), a Rutger’s alumna (c/o 2018) and former campus leader with United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS), was selected for WILL Empower’s first class of apprentices. The apprenticeship program, launched this September, is designed as an on-ramp to movement staff positions. Jojo works in the research department at the National Jobs with Justice office headquartered in Washington, D.C. As part of the apprenticeship program she researches corporations for national campaigns and she has two mentors to support her throughout the program. She completed a 3-day training, hosted in Washington, D.C. at Georgetown University, focusing on women in the labor market and the labor movement, new power building strategies, and women who lead various forms of worker organizations.

Speaking of women leaders, SMLR is pleased to welcome Erica Smiley (pictured right), Co-Executive Director of Jobs with Justice, as the Innovative Woman Fellow working in-residence with CIWO, a joint fellowship with KI, through October 2019. Prior to becoming co-director, she held many roles at Jobs With Justice, including organizing director, campaign director and senior field organizer for the southern region. Smiley is known for developing innovative strategies to expand collective bargaining power, including strategies that position working people to negotiate directly with the corporate actors that impact all aspects of their lives. She has authored several articles highlighting some of the organization’s most exciting developments in the New Labor ForumDissent, the Journal on Class, Race and Corporate Power, and other publications.

The fellowship program helps activists develop new ideas for advancing social and economic justice in today’s transforming economy, especially on issues that impact women workers and organizing. As part of the fellowship Smiley will complete the manuscript for her new book, co-authored with Sarita Gupta, and benefit from university research and resources including mentoring by academic and movement leaders. She will present on the progress of the work through public and closed forums ranging from roundtable discussions to class visits. “We look forward to linking Erica Smiley’s innovative vision of expanded bargaining with the work we are doing with Bargaining for the Common Good at CIWO and KI,” says Marilyn Sneiderman, Executive Director for CIWO.

Do you know dynamic emerging labor leaders? We are recruiting for the Cohorts of Learning and Mentoring. This program identifies, trains and nurtures cohorts of emerging leaders and cohorts for executive leadership. For further information and to apply for the emerging cohort please review the information guide, visit the CIWO website, or email willempower.labor@gmail.com. We hope to hear from you soon!