The 2019 EARN Conference will be held in downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – an ideal setting to discuss many of the country’s most pressing questions around economic development and racial equity. This year’s EARNCON is being organized in collaboration with the Economic Policy Institute’s Program on Race, Ethnicity, and the Economy (PREE) to ensure that race and racial justice are front and center in the conference’s discussions of state and local policy.

Pittsburgh is frequently celebrated as a model of progressive change, and often appears in lists of the most “livable” and “greenest” cities in the United States. Historically a locus of heavy manufacturing, “Steel City” underwent a dramatic transformation after the deindustrialization of the North and collapse of the steel industry in the 1980s. Pittsburgh successfully leveraged its strong educational and healthcare institutions to build one of the country’s most vibrant regional economies, one centered on education, technology, and healthcare. In fact, Pittsburg’s healthcare sector today is a larger share of the regional economy than the steel industry was in its heyday. And just as workers joined together in unions to ensure jobs in the steel mills were good, safe jobs, health care workers in Pittsburgh are organizing now for fair pay and benefits.

Yet, Pittsburgh is also a place of stark racial divides. The gap in household income between black and white families in the Pittsburgh area is wider than the national average. People of color in the region have disproportionately low rates of employment and homeownership, and significantly higher rates of poverty. Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods are some of the most segregated in the country. And as technology and financial services companies have come in, community leaders have had to combat gentrification and involuntary displacement of long-term residents, particularly in historically black neighborhoods.

EARNCON is a three-day gathering that brings together EARN’s nearly 60 groups from 44 states—along with thought leaders on issues related to socioeconomic and racial inequality—to share stories, present research, discuss strategies, sharpen skills, and make plans to advance pro-worker and racial justice policies in the 2020 legislative session, and help shape the debate around economic policy in advance of the 2020 state and national elections.

The 2019 EARN Conference will continue EARN’s tradition of bringing together leading economic thinkers, policy experts, labor activists, community organizers, faith leaders, and academic researchers to learn from each other and develop strategies and policies that improve job quality and economic security for all workers while addressing long-standing racial disparities in economic outcomes. Building power in states and cities is more important than ever and EARN is an essential foundation for progressive action across the country.

Conference dates: October 2–4, 2019*

*A pre-conference meeting for EARN state group executive directors, as well as a boot-camp for EARN data users, will take place on Wednesday, October 2nd at 12:00 pm.

On-site registration for all attendees will open Wednesday, October 2 at 3:00 pm. The program will run until Friday, October 4 at 3:00 pm.

Omni William Penn Hotel
530 William Penn Place
Pittsburgh, PA 15219
Tel: (412) 281-7100

 Detailed agenda | Register Contact the organizers

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

Agenda items subject to change.

Agenda

Wednesday, Oct. 2

EARN Directors’ meeting

  • Three Rivers
  • 12:00–4:30 pm

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

Data boot camp

  • Sternwheeler
  • 1:00–5:00 pm
  • Training

In this intensive, hands-on training session, EPI experts will teach participants useful quantitative techniques, statistical tools–including microdata analysis in Stata–as well as some key economic theory. Participants will leave with skills that they can apply immediately in their work to manipulate data in Excel and Stata. The microdata techniques presented in Stata will be applicable in other statistical software as well. Participants will learn how to use EPI’s new microdata library, and learn a variety of other potentially online data sources. Participants will also learn some basic economics and econometric training, such as how to interpret regression coefficients.

  • Zane Mokhiber, Economic Policy Institute
  • Jhacova Williams, Economic Policy Institute
  • Ben Zipperer, Economic Policy Institute

Registration

  • Mezzanine Level
  • 3:00–7:00 pm

Dinner

  • William Penn Ballroom
  • 5:00–5:30 pm

Opening plenary: Uniting to create an economy that works for all: A Western Pennsylvania case study

  •  William Penn Ballroom
  • 5:30–7:30 pm
  • Plenary

Western Pennsylvania has a hallowed tradition as a strong union region and was the birthplace of Rachel Carson. It has experienced a traumatic last four decades riven by the loss of manufacturing jobs, falling wages, rising inequality, the perpetuation and deepening of big racial economic gaps, and a seemingly unbridgeable blue-green divide. In the absence of an effective or enduring vision for unifying working people, Western Pennsylvania outside Pittsburgh has see-sawed red and blue between elections and gradually drifted conservative. This workshop will begin with a historical overview of the racial and class politics of the region followed by a discussion of the practical challenges of the next year and years: how can we create and unite behind a vision of an environmentally sustainable economy that works for all, and then build that vision?

Thursday, Oct. 3

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

  •  William Penn Ballroom
  • 8:00–8:55 am

Critical issues at the intersection of race, ethnicity, gender, and class

  • William Penn Ballroom
  • 9:00–10:30 am
  • Plenary
  • PREE

Description forthcoming.

Workshop Session 1.1 10:45 pm–12:00 pm

Race-neutral policymaking: fact or fiction?

  • Sternwheeler
  • 10:45 am–12:00 pm
  • 1.1
  • PREE

Description forthcoming.

Getting the word out: strategic communications to educate workers, employers, policymakers and the public about workers’ rights issues

  • Three Rivers
  • 10:45 am–12:00 pm
  • 1.1
  • Training

This workshop will discuss the lack of knowledge about labor laws and workers’ rights; the potential impact of strategic communications on employer compliance, worker power, and policymaking; and will provide nuts and bolts guidance on building relationships with reporters and an effective media strategy.

Allies to co-conspirators: Building effective partnerships among state and local grassroots organizations, research and policy organizations, and national organizations

  • Riverboat
  • 10:45 am–12:00 pm
  • 1.1
  • Seminar

Description forthcoming.

Reflecting on the movement: Fight for $15, the Teachers’ strikes, Black Lives Matter

  • William Penn Ballroom
  • 12:15–2:00 pm
  • Lunch plenary

Description forthcoming.

Session 1.2 2:15–3:30 pm

Economic justice for people and families impacted by incarceration: Eliminating employment and income barriers

  • Sternwheeler
  • 2:15–3:30 pm
  • 1.2
  • PREE
    |
    EARN in the South

Description forthcoming.

Our homes, our future: What are the impacts of rent regulations on rents, owners, and regional economies?

  • Three Rivers
  • 2:15–3:30 pm
  • 1.2

Boilerplate at work: How employment contracts limit workers’ job mobility and rights—and what we can do about it

  • Riverboat
  • 2:15–3:30 pm
  • 1.2

Employers are increasingly imposing boilerplate employment contracts on their workers, including even low-wage hourly workers.  These contracts may include terms like shortened statutes of limitations that cut the time that workers have to bring a legal claim; mandatory arbitration clauses that deny workers’ access to court; non-disparagement clauses that prevent workers from talking about things that happen at work; non-competes that limit what jobs workers can take after they leave a job; the list goes on and on. This workshop will cover some common employment contract terms and the impact of these terms on job workers’ mobility, workplace rights enforcement, and power. The workshop will also explore exciting new legislative, legal, and organizing initiatives to combat unfair employment contract terms.

Session 1.3 3:45–5:00 pm

The cumulative effect of historical discrimination: how it shapes policy and outcomes for people of color today

  • Sternwheeler
  • 3:45–5:00 pm
  • 1.3
  • PREE

Description forthcoming.

The gig is up: Organizing campaigns with contract workers

  • Three Rivers
  • 3:45–5:00 pm
  • 1.3

Employers have long structured work arrangements outside the traditional employment relationship – for example, through subcontracting, temporary and staffing agencies, franchisee models, or independent contractor arrangements—in efforts to cut costs and shed the requirements of baseline labor laws. These work structures too often drive labor standards erosion, rising income and wealth inequality, and the shifting of power away from workers and toward corporations. They are frequently employed in low-wage sectors in which people of color have long been shunted – domestic work, delivery, janitorial and logistics, to name a few, intensifying old patterns of occupational segregation. Workers and their advocates have struggled to fight this trend, but recently policy and organizing have started to move the needle, particularly in the area of worker classification as independent contractors. This panel will present some of these strategies for discussion and consideration.

Saving the planet & the people

  • Riverboat
  • 3:45–5:00 pm
  • 1.3

EARN groups recognize that the climate crisis is happening, that we must rapidly transform our economy if we are to preserve life on this planet, and that this transition needs to protect, support, and empower working people and highly-impacted communities, which are often communities of color. Yet, many EARN groups may not know how they can engage on these issues. Moreover, some groups may be wary to engage on a set of issues that is not popular with particular constituencies with whom they work, with large portions of the public in their state/region, or the dominant political forces. This workshop will discuss efforts underway at the state and local level to fight the climate crisis, describe some of the research and policy work supporting these efforts, and discuss how climate advocates have been able to build strong and diverse partnerships and coalitions to support their campaigns.

Reception

  •  Bob & Dolores Hope Room
  • 5:00–6:30 pm

Friday, 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

  • William Penn Ballroom
  • 7:30–8:25 am

Session 2.1 8:30–9:45 am

EARN 101: Intro to EARN & data resources

  • Sternwheeler
  • 8:30–9:45 am
  • 2.1
  • Training

Description forthcoming.

  • Dave Cooper, Economic Policy Institute
  • Julia Wolfe, Economic Policy Institute

Child care and workplace demands for women’s dignity, equity and well-being

  • Three Rivers
  • 8:30–9:45 am
  • 2.1

Description forthcoming.

Messaging the moment: Communications, messaging, and research on race, class, and economic justice in the South

  • Riverboat
  • 8:30–9:45 am
  • 2.1
  • EARN in the South

Description forthcoming.

Session 2.2 10:00–11:15 am

New strategies to build worker power

  • Three Rivers
  • 10:00–11:15 am
  • 2.2

In industries and occupations where traditional forms of organizing are challenging or unworkable, labor rights groups are employing new strategies for worker outreach and organizing that achieve many of the same goals of traditional unions. In some cases, these efforts have led to new or unique forms of state and municipality-based worker organizations. In this session, panelists will describe the novel strategies being used to reach new sectors of the workforce, and the ways in which these “new forms of organizing” increase worker power and wages.  Speakers will also discuss the degree to which these new models are replicable in other industries or areas, as well as the best practices and pitfalls they have learned in the process. Panelists will also discuss broader issues around new forms, including sustainability, funding, impact, and scale.

Preemption campaigns and research for worker and racial justice in the South

  • Three Rivers
  • 10:00–11:15 am
  • 2.2
  • EARN in the South

Description forthcoming.

Holding strong for the next recession

  • Riverboat
  • 10:00–11:15 am
  • 2.2

Due to lackluster policy responses and a concerted political spin campaign to misdirect “blame,” the recovery from the Great Recession, after 11 years, has yet to reach many of the most marginalized communities in the U.S, and the human costs of massive job loss, insecurity, and economic financialization are still being felt. It is clear that previous state level responses of budget austerity and cuts to public services and employment have kept some states from truly experiencing an economic recovery. It is more urgent than ever, with warning signs of a downturn on the horizon, to build consensus and power now – before crisis mode hits – around the policies we need to protect low- and middle-income people and ensure a robust and equitable recovery from the next recession.

Session 2.3 11:30 am–12:45 pm

Policies and campaigns to create fair schedules

  • Sternwheeler
  • 11:30 am–12:45 pm
  • 2.3

Description forthcoming.

Transparency as a tool for worker power

  • Three Rivers
  • 11:30 am–12:45 pm
  • 2.3

As the old adage goes, “sunlight is the best disinfectant.” But sunlight doesn’t only serve as a good disinfectant, it can also be a critical tool for building worker power. We know that keeping information secret from workers and the public allows employer abuses to grow undetected in the shadows. Secrecy also allows companies to become richer and more powerful without accountability.

In a push against workplace secrecy, states are increasingly using transparency as a policy tool to hold employers accountable and increase worker power by shifting control over information from employers to workers. For instance, Washington State and others are proposing and passing measures to require employers to disclose salary ranges to job applicants; seven states have banned nondisclosure agreements, and others are working to limit forced arbitration; and many localities, including Philadelphia, are working to ensure employees have advance notice of and a say in their work schedules. And as surveillance and data collection of workers becomes commonplace, working people are engaged in ensuring transparency about what is collected and how surveillance occurs.

Join us to explore the movement for workplace transparency blossoming across the country.

Immigrants are welcome here: State-level action for immigrant and worker rights

  • Riverboat
  • 11:30 am–12:45 pm
  • 2.3

Description forthcoming.

Setting the agenda: How EARN groups can shape the narrative for the legislative agenda and election season

  • William Penn Ballroom
  • 1:00–2:45 pm
  • Plenary

Description forthcoming.