Power means influencing how resources are allocated, possessing the ability to create change, and having a seat at the table. The allocation of power within our workplaces, our schools, our communities, and our political systems has been at the core of major events that have dominated headlines over the past several years: from the Black Lives Matter, #MeToo, and “March for Our Lives” movements to the teachers strikes, the Fight for $15, and advocacy to stop repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Each of these movements acknowledges the inextricable link between economic and political power. We are seeing smart, determined, and organized individuals demanding policy changes that strengthen communities, improve equity, and empower workers and families.

The 2018 EARN Conference will celebrate this nationwide momentum, evaluate EARN’s contributions to these movements, and discuss how we can challenge structural and historical disparities of political and economic power. This 3-day gathering will bring together EARN’s nearly 60 groups from 44 states to share stories, discuss strategies, sharpen skills, and plan for the year ahead.

The conference will continue EARN’s tradition of bringing together leading economic thinkers, policy experts, members of the labor movement, social services providers, community organizers, faith leaders, and academic researchers to learn from each other and develop strategies and policies that will improve job quality and economic security, while also considering ways to improve our democracy and make political representation more equitable.

Conference dates: October 3–5, 2018*

*A pre-conference meeting for EARN state group executive directors will take place on Wednesday, October 3rd at 1:00 pm. On-site registration for all attendees will open Wednesday, October 3rd at 4:00 pm. Program will run until Friday, October 5th at 3:00 pm.

Marriott Marquis Chicago
2121 South Prairie Avenue
Chicago, IL, 60616, USA
Tel: (‎312) 824-0500

 Detailed agenda

Book hotel room | RegisterContact the organizers

For EARN members: Click here to access previous years’ conference materials.

Agenda items subject to change.

Agenda

Wednesday, Oct. 3

EARN Directors’ meeting

  • Glessner House AB
  • 1:00–4:00 pm

Annual strategy meeting for EARN group executive directors and designated representatives.

Registration

  •  Great Lakes Foyer
  • 4:00–7:00 pm

Opening Dinner: Welcome to Chicago! Illinois’ evidence-based education funding model as a blueprint for inclusive policy

  •  Great Lakes C
  • 5:30–7:30 pm
  • Plenary

Illinois’ evidence-based education funding model provides a comprehensive formula for refocusing state education funding on the most under-resourced students. The Illinois policy provides a framework for achieving funding that is equitable and meets the needs of students, teachers, and administrators. The panelists, who include some of the most influential advocates behind the legislation’s passage, will discuss the political will and grassroots advocacy which laid the groundwork for this progressive victory. Attendees from all 50 states will find lessons in how Illinois-based advocates balanced the interests of stakeholders, conducted outreach, highlighted the implications for teachers as well as students, and are following through to implement the policy.

  • Moderator: Ralph Martire, Center for Tax and Budget Accountability
  • Representative Christian Mitchell, Illinois General Assembly
  • Stacy Davis Gates, Chicago Teachers Union
  • Dr. Stephanie Schmitz Bechteler, Chicago Urban League
  • Kedda Williams, Opportunity Institute

Welcome reception

  • Great Lakes B
  • 7:30–9:30 pm

Thursday, Oct. 4

Group run

  •  Meet in hotel lobby
  • 7:00 am

Runners of all paces are encouraged to join, as are those who prefer a good walk.

Breakfast

  •  Great Lakes B
  • 8:00–8:55 am

Housing policy failures: How housing policy has failed workers and served as an obstacle to racial justice

  • Great Lakes C
  • 9:00–10:25 am
  • Plenary

A shortage of affordable housing– both for renters as well as potential homeowners– remains a central obstacle to working families hoping to accumulate savings, build their wealth, and afford ever-increasing costs of health care and higher education. Given that improvements to working class families’ standard of living can so easily be undermined by housing costs, pursuing common-sense housing policies which alleviate the shortage of affordable housing in a progressive way, while also remediating historical inequities in access to credit and home ownership, should be a central part of the progressive agenda.

  • Moderator: Ed Lazere, DC Fiscal Policy Institute
  • Leah Levinger, Chicago Housing Initiative
  • Jawanza Brian Malone, Kenwood Oakland Community Organization and the United Congress of Community and Religious Organizations
  • Molly Parker, The Southern Illinoisan
  • Ben Winter, City of Los Angeles

Session 1.1 10:35–11:50 am

First day fairness: An initiative to build worker power and ensure job quality

  • Glessner House A
  • 10:35–11:50 am
  • 1.1

From their first day on the job, the rules governing work in this country are rigged against working people. This rigged system has helped produce the inequality that characterizes the United States economy. There are many factors contributing to this economic inequality, but the common thread that binds them is the erosion of the bargaining power of low- and middle-wage workers. The situation of weak economic leverage for most workers is not the “unfortunate-but-inevitable” result of natural trends in technology and global integration; it is instead the product of decades of concerted attacks on workers’ leverage. There is an understandable desire among those seeking shared prosperity to agree on and advance one simple, bold, “big fix” to this situation. However, there is no single reform that can reverse the trends that have done so much to harm working people. Multiple reforms are needed to meaningfully address the decades-long campaign waged to disempower America’s workers. EPI’s First Day Fairness agenda is based on the right of all workers in the U.S. to a fair system of work from their first day on the job. This session will discuss a series of state-level “first day fairness” reforms that will help to unrig the system and ensure a fair first day for working people.

  • Moderator: Celine McNicholas, Economic Policy Institute
  • Najah Farley, National Employment Law Project
  • Jane Flanagan, Illinois Attorney General’s Office
  • Gordon Lafer, University of Oregon
  • Heidi Shierholz, Economic Policy Institute

Data 201: Building essential skills for data analysis

  • Glessner House B
  • 10:35–11:50 am
  • 1.1
  • Training

Many economists evaluate the effects of state and local policies using an empirical technique called “difference-in-differences.” Using minimum wage increases as an example, this session will cover how and why this technique is widely used when estimating employment and wage effects of the policy. We will show how to calculate a “difference-in-differences” estimate with a spreadsheet and, time permitting, Stata. Finally, we will explain common problems and limitations in order to better equip you to understand the potential weaknesses of research using this technique.

  • Ben Zipperer, Economic Policy Institute

Championing racial equity and inclusion policies in the South

  • Glessner House C
  • 10:35–11:50 am
  • 1.1
  • Seminar
  • EARN in the South

Groups pushing for progressive policy change in the South have often sought to avoid issues and framing that explicitly involve race, ethnicity or immigration status. But as the region rapidly grows and diversifies, tackling historic inequities and pursuing welcoming policies for newcomers is more important than ever to build a regional economy that works for everyone. And as recent developments like the Alabama Senate and Georgia Governor’s races illustrate, leaning in to equity and inclusion may also be emerging as a powerful new strategy to achieve durable change in the region. This panel will host EARN groups and community partners from Georgia and North Carolina to walk through their own experiences incorporating racial and ethnic inclusion into their campaigns, including some tangible policy, advocacy and outreach examples of what it looks like on the ground. Discussion encouraged!

  • Moderator: Corey Wiggins, Mississippi NAACP
  • Ana Pardo, North Carolina Justice Center
  • David Schaefer, Latin American Association
  • Kerrie Stewart, Coalition of 100 Black Women, Inc. – Queen City Metropolitan Chapter
  • Wesley Tharpe, Georgia Budget & Policy Institute

Introductory remarks: Randi Weingarten, American Federation of Teachers

  • Great Lakes B
  • 12:15–12:30 pm
  • Remarks

Brief remarks from Randi Weingarten, American Federation of Teachers.

The teacher strikes: Takeaways for the progressive movement and consequences for the future of public sector employment

  • Great Lakes B
  • 12:30–1:40 pm
  • Lunch Plenary

This session will focus on the experiences of educators, who have themselves walked out of schools to improve conditions for their colleagues and their students. In addition to discussing the teaching profession, the panelists will offer their thoughts on the ability of teachers to demand change, the factors which led them and their colleagues to take action, and the various models for coordinating actions across the various states.

  • Introduction: Sylvia Allegretto, University of California Berkeley
  • Overview: Eric Blanc, Jacobin
  • Moderator: Ted Boettner, West Virginia Center for Budget and Policy
  • Sylvia Allegretto, Institute for Research on Labor and Employment
  • Katie Endicott, High school English teacher in Mingo County, WV, and West Virginia Education Association
  • Michelle Rudolph, Kentucky public school teacher
  • Joe Thomas, Arizona Education Association

Session 1.2 1:45–3:00 pm

Paid family and medical leave and paid sick days: Creating good policy, winning campaigns

  • Glessner House A
  • 1:45–3:00 pm
  • 1.2

A bright spot in the U.S. policy landscape is recent victories on paid sick days and paid family and medical leave. But neither creating good policy nor winning campaigns is easy. This panel will explore the themes of: creating thoughtful policy that will provide access for those who need it the most; answering tough questions; and building power to win campaigns. We’ll hear from leaders of recent campaign victories on paid sick days in Austin and paid family and medical leave in Massachusetts, and staff who are pioneering creation of a new administrative structure for PFML in Washington state.

  • Moderator: Marilyn Watkins, Economic Opportunity Institute
  • Ana Gonzalez, Workers Defense Project
  • Elizabeth Whiteway, Greater Boston Legal Services
  • Matt Buelow, Washington Employment Security Department

Data 101: We make the mistakes so you don’t have to

  • Glessner House B
  • 1:45–3:00 pm
  • 1.2
  • Training

Data 101 is a foundational workshop for people new to the network or interested in getting more mileage out of the Job Watch, Recession Watch, and State of Working X (SWXX) data. Jessica Schieder, economic analyst with EPI & EARN, will provide an overview of the data packages available to EARN groups and best practices related to wage data. Andrew Bradley, senior analyst with the Indiana Institute for Working Families, will present a short overview of how his shop uses the data and walk participants through building a couple of charts focusing on employment-to-population ratios (EPOPs). Hannah Halbert, project director with Policy Matters Ohio, will moderate the panel and close out the session describing the organization’s new data page. Bring your data questions and your laptops loaded with the SWXX data to create social media content from the workshop.

  • Andrew Bradley,  Indiana Institute for Working Families
  • Hannah Halbert, Policy Matters Ohio
  • Jessica Schieder, Economic Policy Institute & EARN

 

The Janus Decision: Implications for union workers, non-union workers, and worker power

  • Glessner House C
  • 1:45–3:00 pm
  • 1.2
  • Seminar

Janus vs AFSCME is only the latest step in a long running campaign from the right wing and the State Policy Network in particular to undermine workers’ freedom to join together in strong unions in the public sector. This session will review the decision’s impact, the right’s campaign and organized labor’s responses. It will also offer an opportunity to assess what’s next.

  • Moderator: Naomi Walker, EARN
  • Steve Kreisberg, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees
  • Ed Muir, American Federation of Teachers 
  • TBD

Coffee and snack break

  •  Great Lakes B
  • 3:00–3:25 pm

Session 1.3 3:25–4:40 pm

Taking the high road: Improving the effectiveness and equity of state and local economic development

  • Glessner House B
  • 3:25–4:40 pm
  • 1.3
  • EARN in the South

All too often, state and local governments pursue “low-road” economic development marked by lowering tax and labor costs for businesses rather than improving business productivity and generating broadly-shared prosperity. This panel focuses on creative “high-road” policy alternatives that ensures inclusive economic growth, build human capital capacity, connect firms and workers to productivity-enhancing institutions, and leverage existing assets within a community. Examples include equitable development tools like minority contracting, first source hiring, and sector strategies, alongside new ways to convert traditional tools like business incentives into more progressive approaches that genuinely benefit the states and communities using them.

  • Moderator: Allan Freyer, Workers’ Rights Project at the North Carolina Justice Center
  • Lindsay Baker, Missouri Budget Project
  • William Munn, NC Justice Center
  • Chandra Villanueva, Texas Center for Public Policy Priorities

Number stories: The changing nature of work and the erosion of quality jobs

  • Glessner House A
  • 3:25–4:40 pm
  • 1.3

This workshop will take participants in an interactive gallery walk through 4 visually compelling data stations that provide insight into the changing nature of work. Each station will paint a number story using data infographics that highlights key findings on the changing nature of 4 precarious, low-wage industries: retail sector and schedules, gig economy and ride-hailing, temporary help agencies, and independent contractors (including a discussion of Handy bills).

  • Tim Bell, Chicago Workers Collaborative and Chicago Worker Collaborative’s Worker Theater
  • Lucero Herrera, UCLA Labor Center
  • Tia Koonse, UCLA Labor Center
  • Edgar Ortiz, Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy
  • Maya Pinto, National Employment Law Center
  • Saba Waheed, UCLA Labor Center
  • Kathy White, Colorado Fiscal Institute

Immigrant inclusion as economic development

  • Glessner House C
  • 3:25–4:40 pm
  • 1.3

A growing number of cities and states have come to see immigrants as an asset to local economic growth, not – as Donald Trump was hardly the first to suggest – a hindrance. This session will explore strategies for helping immigrants and communities of color while also fostering local economic growth: nurturing entrepreneurship in low-income communities, allowing immigrants with foreign certification and degrees to use them to their fullest, eliminating barriers to home ownership, and more. This strategy – a focus on inclusion, neighborhood revitalization and building from within – is relevant almost everywhere, but is of particular interest in areas where overall population is declining yet immigration is offsetting or even reversing that trend.

  • Seemi Choudry, Chicago Mayor’s Office of New Americans
  • David Dyssegaard Kallick, Fiscal Policy Institute
  • Lisa Xiong, Neighborhood Development Center

Making the point visually: How to change minds and expand your audience with effective (and doable) graphics

  • Great Lakes B
  • 3:25–4:40 pm
  • 1.3
  • Training

For wonky organizations high on research and low on marketing budgets, simple graphic content—charts, shareables, infographics, and data visualizations—can multiply your reach by orders of magnitude. But you don’t need a design firm to take your graphic game to the next level. You can go a long way with a few basic principles of design, readability, and messaging. In this workshop, we’ll show what works and what doesn’t, and share tools, tips, and templates for more effective graphics—even if you don’t have a designer on staff.

  • Eric Shansby, Economic Policy Institute

Owned: A Tale of Two Americas – Film screening and a discussion with the director

  • Great Lakes B
  • 5:30 pm – 7:30 pm

Featured on MSNBC host Chris Hayes’ “Why Is This Happening?” podcastOwned: A Tale of Two Americas is a “visually stunning documentary” that documents the United States’ obsession with real estate, our history of policy-driven housing discrimination, the lasting effect that discrimination has had on generations of Black Americans, and the way that real estate and housing policy continue to have an enormous impact on the economic outcomes of families, communities, and the country as a whole.

During this special evening event, we will present a screening of the film, followed immediately by a discussion with the film’s director, Giorgio Angelini.

EARN group excursions

  • Various locations

Details forthcoming.

Friday, Oct. 5

Group run

  •  Meet in hotel lobby
  • 6:45 am

A group of EARN members will lead a morning jog.

Breakfast

  •  Great Lakes B
  • 8:00–8:45 am

Session 2.1 9:00–10:15 am

State responses to the retirement financial crisis

  • Glessner House A
  • 9:00–10:15 am
  • 2.1

Corporations have abandoned the social contract of 40 years ago, leaving workers on their own when it comes to retirement. One consequence is that most families—even those approaching retirement—have little or no retirement savings. In the state of Washington, more than three out of five workers do not have retirement savings plans at their places of work. States developed universal retirement plan in the first third of the 20th century. These became the seeds for Social Security. States are again developing new retirement security vehicles. We will discuss some of these approaches.

  • Moderator: John Burbank, Economic Opportunity Institute
  • Monique Ching, Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center
  • Steve Kreisberg, AFSCME
  • Sarah Zimmerman, SEIU 1000

Defense against the dark arts: Creating wins in challenging policy environments

  • Glessner House B
  • 9:00–10:15 am
  • 2.1
  • EARN in the South

How can EARN members and partners create wins that build long-term power, even in the 31 states with all-red legislatures and in other challenging policy environments? Panelists will discuss how they lead victories in inhospitable climates, including a successful ballot effort repealing so-called “Right To Work”, flipping a local preemption bill into opening occupational licensing for people with records, and crafting a ‘defense-to-offense’ policy platform. Attendees should bring their own examples of challenging work, and be prepared for a discussion about positive ways to assemble coalitions of diverse voices and strange bedfellows; using creative data, messaging, and leadership to create short-term success; and stacking those wins up to sustainable achievements for a progressive agenda.

  • Andrew Bradley, Indiana Institute of Working Families
  • Ryan Burke, AFL-CIO
  • Taifa Smith Butler, Georgia Budget and Policy Institute

State and local policies to expand access to care services and improve workers’ wages

  • Glessner House C
  • 9:00–10:15 am
  • 2.1

Childcare and homecare both face a dual crisis: costs are prohibitively expensive to consumers, while workers’ wages are too low. State and local organizations are taking the lead on innovative new policies to expand access to care services, improve workers’ wages and create infrastructure for organizing. Two important examples are a ballot initiative in Alameda County to fund an expansion of childcare subsidies and improvements in wages and benefits, and an initiative in Maine to raise taxes on the wealthy to fund universal long-term care. Both policies would require recipients to allow dues deduction for workers’ organizations. These models point to an important new direction for organizing in the care industries.

  • Laura Dresser, COWS
  • Alexa Frankenberg, SEIU
  • Ken Jacobs, Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education
  • Kevin Simowitz, Caring Across Generations

Session 2.2 10:20–11:35 am

State and local campaigns for progressive taxation

  • Glessner House A
  • 10:20–11:35 am
  • 2.2

The new federal tax law delivers a massive windfall to corporations and those with the highest incomes, while the less affluent already pay a greater portion of their incomes in state and local taxes. How can states and localities recoup these funds though progressive taxation? What approaches hold strategic promise to win passage?

  • Sarah Anderson, Institute for Policy Studies
  • Phineas Baxandall, Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center
  • John Burbank, Economic Opportunity Institute
  • Tasha Green Cruzat, Voices for Illinois Children
  • Meg Wiehe, Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy

Manufacturing’s rebound: Analyzing the effectiveness of state industrial policy in creating equitable access to good jobs

  • Glessner House B
  • 10:20–11:35 am
  • 2.2

Manufacturing has gained back more than 1 million jobs since 2010, reversing a decade-long decline. The panel will discuss how automation, re-shoring, trade, an aging workforce, and changes in job structure have created a different manufacturing sector. Panelists will provide an analysis of how state policy can accelerate manufacturing’s recovery while creating a more inclusive, equitable and sustainable sector.

  • Teresa Córdova, University of Illinois Chicago Great Cities Institute
  • Steve Herzenberg, Keystone Research Center
  • Andrew Stettner, The Century Foundation

Working with the media and breaking through the noise to get your research covered

  • Glessner House C
  • 10:20–11:35 am
  • 2.2
  • Training

Have you ever given what you thought was a great interview, only to not show up in the final story? Does anyone read press releases anymore? How important is being on Twitter?

EARN groups have great research and brilliant researchers, but it doesn’t matter if no one knows about your work. Good public relations means building strong relationships with members of the media, coming up with pitches that reporters want to hear, and using your research to tell a compelling story. We’ll sit down with Chicagoland reporters who cover business, economics, and politics to learn about what they’re looking for in a pitch, what they want in a source, and how they decide who to quote in their stories. Bring your questions about how to work with members of the media to get your research covered.

  • Moderator: Dan Crawford, Economic Policy Institute
  • Rebecca Burns, In These Times
  • Alden Loury, WBEZ Chicago Public Radio 

Session 2.3 11:40 am–12:55 pm

Towards a workers’ agenda for new technology: research, policy, and organizing

  • Glessner House C
  • 11:40 am–12:55 pm
  • 2.3

Are the robots coming to take our jobs? Should state and local advocates pay attention to the new technology debates? Is it possible to organize against the tech sector? And how do we conduct research on the future? This panel will give an overview of what researchers and worker organizations are thinking and doing about how to respond to new technology. We will give a state-of-play of the automation debates and highlight examples of industry research, local organizing strategies, and public policy solutions being developed. Ultimately, the goal is to build a progressive strategy that inserts the interests of workers and their communities as a core constituency in decisions over which technologies are developed, to what ends, and how they are incorporated in the workplace.

  • Moderator: Annette Bernhardt, UC Berkeley Labor Center
  • Maria Noel Fernandez, Working Partnerships USA
  • Andrew Stettner, The Century Foundation
  • Steve Viscelli, University of Pennsylvania

Strategies for advancing progressive economic policies in the South: Organizing with a gender and racial lens

  • Glessner House B
  • 11:40 am–12:55 pm
  • 2.3
  • EARN in the South

Women are absolutely essential to the economic security of Southern families and the strength of Southern economies. Indeed, South Carolina, Mississippi, and Louisiana have some of the highest percentages of primary or co-breadwinner mothers in the country. But women in the South—especially women of color and mothers—have long been overlooked, shortchanged, and penalized by employer and public policies, leading to Southern states having some of the largest gender wage gaps and poverty rates in the country. In recent years, however, women, and women of color in particular, have been fighting for progressive economic advancements in the South—and succeeding. By using a gender and racial lens to message and build coalitions around progressive economic policies and an economic lens to build support where policymakers might otherwise be averse to “women’s rights” policies, advocates have made progressive economic, gender, and racial justice advances possible in the South. This session will highlight the coalition, messaging , and policy strategies that went into the recent passage of a bill providing reasonable workplace accommodations to pregnant workers in South Carolina; the development of bipartisan support for equal pay legislation in Mississippi; and the growing support for Louisiana’s 3-Point Economic Justice Platform: Fight for $15, Equal Pay, and Ban The Box. The session will include a dialogue with some of the state-based and national partners involved.

  • Moderator: Andrea Johnson, National Women’s Law Center
  • Maria Harmon, Step Up Louisiana
  • Ashley Lidow, South Carolina Women’s Rights and Empowerment Network
  • Cassandra Welchlin, Mississippi Women’s Economic Security Initiative & Mississippi Black Women’s Roundtable

Safeguarding our democracy: Automatic voter registration, public financing, single transferable vote, and other proposals

  • Glessner House A
  • 11:40 am–12:55 pm
  • 2.3

Our democracy is only a semi-democracy, with voter suppression, winner-take-all elections, and private financing. States have passed laws to intentionally disenfranchise people of color and suppress voter turnout. Moreover, with winner-take-all elections, votes often don’t even translate into representation. In this session, we will discuss some of the mechanisms being employed to make elections genuine instruments for a true democracy. Speakers will discuss both the mechanics of the policies and the campaigns that have led to their implementation in various states and cities.

  • Katrina Gamble, Sojourn Strategies
  • Robin Garwood, FairVote Minnesota
  • Amber McReynolds, Vote at Home
  • Harish Patel, New America Chicago
  • Rob Richie, Fair Vote
  • Cynthia Richie Terrell, Representation2020 and FairVote

The Future of EARN

  • Great Lakes B
  • 1:00–2:35 pm
  • Plenary

This year, EARN celebrates its 20th anniversary. The closing plenary session will feature four EARN directors stepping back and reflecting on where EARN should be heading in its next 20 years.

  • Moderator: Annette Bernhardt, UC Berkeley Labor Center
  • Taifa Smith Butler, Georgia Budget and Policy Institute
  • Amy Hanauer, Policy Matters Ohio
  • David Lujan, Arizona Center for Economic Progress
  • Joel Rogers, COWS