International Comparative Labor Studies
the rights of workers are inextricably linked to justice
Serving workers and communities of color in the quest for meaningful lives.
“Our needs are identical with labor’s needs — decent wages, fair working conditions, livable housing, old age security, health and welfare measures — conditions in which families can grow, have education for their children, and respect in the community.”
-Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Morehouse College Alumnus
We envision a world-class global comparative labor studies program that serves African American workers and communities in the quest for meaningful lives, social justice, and a sustainable environment.
International Comparative Labor Studies (ICLS) was established in 2017 to create pathways for Morehouse graduates to enter social justice careers in leadership, research, and community organizing. Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have played an inextricable role in fostering scholars who spearheaded academic disciplines that support the advancement of human and civil rights in the South.
ICLS seeks to embed the labor studies discipline at Morehouse College and provide an education that examines the role of black workers in the civil rights movement and American labor history to offer a 21st-century vision for sustainable meaningful work lives for African Americans and all workers. Through this lens, we aim to close the gap conceptually, organizationally, and pedagogically between mental and manual labor for the cultivation and proper remuneration of all work. In the words of Morehouse Alumnus Rev. Dr. Martin Luther, “all labor has dignity.”
Africana Digital Education & Work Collective (ADEW)
Launched in 2019 with a meeting and site visit to Ghana of a faculty, union leaders, and community delegation, the ADEW program seeks to engage union members with their work expertise in helping to create sites for internet-based high school education that is coordinated with student’s need to earn while learning.
The William “Bill” Lucy Fund Award
The William “Bill” Lucy Fund Award is conferred to support experiential learning. This may be their own organizing campaign, participation in other events or research related to the labor movement. ICLS also provides accredited student internships. For more information about applying to the Bill Lucy Fund contact Ilana Lucas at email@example.com.
Annual Social Justice and Advocacy Internship Fair
The Annual Social Justice and Advocacy Internship Fair was inaugurated in 2022 with a visit by Alicia Garza published author, activist, and Director of the Black Futures Lab visited Morehouse College on March 16th and 17th, 2022.
ICLS sponsors Crown Forums to provide worker-leaders an opportunity to engage our students. Mr. Ray Saunders, the First African-American President of the AFSCME, largest union in the U.S., was the first union president to speak at Morehouse College in October 2021.
The Research Fellows Program
The Research Fellows Program is A collective of eight top national and local researchers. This is soon to expand with the formal launching of the Inclusive Economies Program of research and public dialogue. Current projects:
- Survey of conditions of the poultry workforce in middle Georgia;
- Quantitative and qualitative analysis of the impact of the public sector in Georgia;
- Employee Ownership (EO) potential for Black worker forces; and
- The Production Imperative – a study of the filmmaking workforce for inclusion and equity program implementation (under planning).
OpEd Fellows of the South
Faculty and community organizer participants are trained and mentored toward success in writing and placing opinion editorials.
Educational Programs for Workers
Educational Programs for Workers include four major types
- Degree Completion (under development);
- Certificate with Academic Credit;
- Educational leadership training; and
- Short seminar events
Cooperatives for Student Housing and Social Justice Organizations
The Employee Ownership research above is a first step toward identifying the requirements to propose a Morehouse Partnership of Purpose to build or renovate a student coop.
The ICLS Alumni Fundraising Group
The ICLS Alumni Fundraising Group is led by Co-chairs James Gee and Rev. Otis Moss, III. This group-in-formation has the central intent to create an ICLS Endowed Chair.
Dr. Cynthia Lucas Hewitt
Dr. Hewitt is an associate professor of sociology and faculty of the sustainability minor and the African American Studies Program at Morehouse. She received her Ph.D. from Emory University, M.A. from Howard University, and B.A. from Brown University. Dr. Hewitt’s areas of specialization are the political economy of the world-system, race/class/gender inequality, sustainable development, and environmental sociology. Her current research includes the historical and contemporary impact of matrist (particularly the “dual-gender” authority heritage in Ghana) and patriarchal authority structures on social well-being; and labor market outcomes of racial and ethnic inequality in Atlanta and the United States. Dr. Hewitt is also a member of the SERC/InTeGrate HBCU Working Group to increase minority participation in geosciences. She was co-chair of the annual Africa Awareness Week program for many years, and co-chair of the Nile Valley Conference II – From the Nile to the Niger to the Mississippi,” held in the Atlanta University Center, 2011. Dr. Hewitt is also a Kettering Foundation Whisenton Public Scholar.
Ilana Lucas is a Project Coordinator for the ICLS Program at Morehouse College. She is pursuing a B.A. in Sociology with a Minor in Data Science at Lehman College in New York. Ilana brings experience in youth-based community organizing and education. Ilana is interested in discovering alternative models of learning and working that can challenge capitalist models of overproduction and inspire the spirit of solidarity amongst working class people and youth. Ilana was drawn to Morehouse College for its commitment to black history which she considers synonymous to American history and essential to envisioning a healthier, safer and more sustainable future for black and brown people.
ICLS AFFILIATED FACULTY
Dr. Algernon Austin
Algernon Austin has over a decade of experience conducting policy-focused research on the economic aspects of racial inequality. He is also skilled at effectively communicating his research findings to a variety of audiences. He has discussed racial inequality on PBS, CNN, NPR, and on other national television and radio networks.
Dr. Taura Taylor
Dr. Taura Taylor’s research interests are diverse, including: sociology of education, social determinants of health; social movements; and entrepreneurship; all of which converge into her express interest in intersectionality and micro-level resistance.
Professor Taylor’s approach to teaching revolves around her belief that college has the potential to foster enlightened citizenship by teaching students how to relate to others as members of a community. Thus, as an instructor, her goal is to facilitate this process by cultivating a learning environment where students value diversity, respect alternative perspectives, challenge their proclivities towards unfounded opinions, and think critically about a myriad of viewpoints and interpretations. Professor Taylor’s instruction and allyship centers and explores how effects of social divisions such as race, gender, class, ethnicity, sexuality, ability, and political affiliation impacts worldviews and life chances. To preserve and advance her students’ wholeness and integrity, she advocates for their wholistic well-being. Overall, she strives to hold space for students to tap into their wholeness and see themselves as agents of social change and members of local and global pluralistic communities.
Dr. Stephane Dunn
Dr. Dunn is an associate professor and Director of the Cinema, Television, and Emerging Media Studies program. She received her M.A., M.F.A., and Ph.D. from the University of Notre Dame. She specializes in film, creative writing, and African American and American cultural and literary studies. She authored the 2008 book, "Baad Bitches & Sassy Supermamas: Black Power Action Films" (U of Illinois Press), which explores the representation of race, gender, and sexuality as they play out in the Black Power and feminist influenced explosion of Black action films in the early 1970s, including, Sweetback Sweetback's Baad Assssss Song, Cleopatra Jones, and Foxy Brown. Her writings about film and Black popular culture and history appeared in several edited books, Ms. magazine, Screening Noir, The Chronicle of Higher Education, TheRoot.com, AJC, CNN.com, and the Best African American Essays (2009), among others. Her plays include You a Baad N***, Titty, Chem Girls, and The Box. She wrote and co-produced the winning first place short film in the 2013 Georgia Lottery- Bronze Lens Film Festival Lights, Camera, Georgia competition. She received a Napa Valley Writer's Conference Scholarship and an FMS Postdoctoral Mentoring Fellowship. She is working on a novel and a short film. Dr. Dunn traveled with a delegate of students and faculty from Morehouse and Spelman to the A. Philip Randolph Institute National Convention in Phoenix.
Dr. Andrew Douglas
Dr. Douglas is an associate professor of political science at Morehouse. He teaches political theory courses and is affiliated with interdisciplinary programs in Africana Studies and International Comparative Labor Studies. He is the author of two books—"W. E. B. Du Bois and the Critique of the Competitive Society" (2019) and "In the Spirit of Critique: Thinking Politically in the Dialectical Tradition" (2013)—and is at work on another, a study of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s critique of capitalism (coauthored with Jared Loggins). Articles and other writings have appeared in, among other outlets, The Du Bois Review, The C.L.R. James Journal, Constellations, Philosophy and Social Criticism, Contemporary Political Theory, The Review of Politics, Boston Review, and Political Theory. Douglas was a 2016-2017 residential research fellow at the Whitney Humanities Center at Yale University. He holds a B.A. from the University of California at Berkeley and a Ph.D. from the University of Virginia.
Dr. Haile Larebo
Dr. Larebo is an associate professor of history at Morehouse College with a Ph.D. in History from the School of Oriental and African Studies of the University of London in 1990, specializing in the History of Africa with emphasis on Italian colonial history. His B.D. and S.T.L. are from the Angelicum University in Rome, Italy. He has an M.Phil. in History and Philosophy of Religion from Kings College, London, UK. Dr. Larebo has been teaching the History of Africa alongside World History and Western Civilization since 1991 in a number of academic institutions.
Dr. Laredo's magnum opus, "The Building of an Empire: Italian Land Policy and Practice in Ethiopia, 1935-1941," published by Clarendon Press Oxford University Press in 1994, was a winner of a prestigious award for his unique contribution to Italo-Ethiopian studies. He has also published several articles on the field of his specialty and has presented academic papers on Ethiopia at national and international conferences. Beyond being a member of many professional bodies, Dr. Larebo has been awarded several prestigious grants and fellowships, including the National Endowment for the Humanities and senior fellowship at the National Humanities Center at Research Triangle, in N.C. He has also been a special guest speaker at, or interviewee by, many community and political organizations, paltalks, satellite TV, and radio programs on issues relating to Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa. Currently, Dr. Larebo is working on Ethiopic/Geez medieval manuscripts and the relationship between the Ethiopian state, church, and society. Apart from being fluent in Ge'ez and Latin, Dr. Larebo speaks and writes in several languages, including Amharic, Ge'ez, Italian, and Tigrinya.
Dr. M. Adrienne Jones
Dr. Jones teaches courses in American politics, race, and law. Adrienne serves as the Morehouse College Pre-Law Director. Adrienne’s research broadly focuses on the history and politics of black Americans and legal and public policy issues related to the black experience. Her doctoral dissertation, The Voting Rights Act Under Siege: The Development of the Influence of Colorblind Conservatism on the Federal Government and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, is currently being excerpted for journal publication. She is a regular opinion editorial writer on issues of race and politics.
Edward "Buzz" Palmer
Palmer is a visiting lecturer and honorary chair of the ICLS Advisory Council. Palmer is a retired Chicago police officer and activist. He was married to activist Alice Palmer. He was a founder of the Afro-American Patrolman's League. Palmer is also the co-director of the PEOPLE Programme. Palmer has also been a senior fellow for the Institute for Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois, an affiliate of the Great Cities Program, the chairman of Chicago' s Sister Cities Committee under the late Mayor Harold Washington, chair of the Senate Advisory Committee on South Africa, member of the International Board of United Townships in Paris, the president of the Black Press Institute. Palmer acted as a confidante to Prime Minister Michael Manly of Jamaica; Glyn Ford, Member of European Parliamentary for the UK; and Harlem Desirs, MEP for France. In these capacities, he advises policymakers on the issues surrounding urban instability. Palmer is presently a visiting professor of practice at Morehouse College and the honorary director of the ICLS conference.
Marc Bayard is an Associate Fellow and the director of the Institute for Policy Studies’ Black Worker Initiative., and ICLS Visiting Adjunct Faculty. He is a leading expert on racial equity and organizing strategies with extensive experience in building partnerships between labor, faith groups, and civil rights communities. A frequent speaker and social commentator for a number of institutions and organizations, Bayard's dedication to achieving just and humane treatment for workers worldwide is grounded in his first-hand work and experiences in nearly 50 countries. From 2003 to 2011, he was the Africa Regional Program Director for the American Center for International Labor Solidarity, AFL-CIO, and was recently a fellow with the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor at Georgetown University. Bayard holds master's degrees from Cornell University and Georgetown University and is a highly regarded labor politics scholar. He is the author of the forthcoming biography "Standing Together in Service: William Lucy, Civil Rights and the American Labor Movement" (University of Illinois Press).
Organizing for Social Justice: Unions and Black Workers (Sociology)
This course introduces students to African American and Pan-African working people's experiences and their histories and engagement with philosophies and strategic political questions underlying the development of a global network of workers organizations, including principles of ethics and justice from different theoretical perspectives. These include the meaning of work, division of labor, hierarchy, cooperation and the role of the state. Philosophies of work and human rights, and social relations will begin with Kemetic society (Egyptian) and African culture, look at slave labor, industrialization and labor migrations, and investigate key questions for the future of work.
Politics and Protest (Political Science)
Course work in political science at Morehouse College was initiated in 1948 by the late Dr. Robert Brisbane, who sought to augment a traditional political science curriculum with an emphasis on more engaged teaching, learning, and scholarship. "Black Protest" was Dr. Brisbane’s signature course, which he taught into the 1980s and which inspired generations of political science graduates in the Morehouse tradition of service and leadership. PSC 100, “Politics and Protest,” is meant to give students a stimulating introduction to the study of politics and draws very explicitly upon the Department’s distinctive heritage, in particular the legacy of its founder. The seminar uses the histories and living legacies of Black protest, in the United States and worldwide, as an entrée into the study of politics and political science theories and methodologies. “Politics and Protest” explores, among other questions: how political claims and identities are forged through protest; how political agency takes shape within relations of power, oppression, and domination; how moral and ethical values, principles, narratives, and traditions foment or suppress political conflict and change.
Senior Seminar (2018, Douglas and Jensen): "Martin Luther King and Racial Capitalism"
It has been nearly fifty years since Morehouse alumnus Martin Luther King, Jr. sacrificed his life battling in solidarity with the poor. King was killed at a time when despair, tension, and bitterness were widespread, when the confluence of racial and economic inequity had set urban ghettoes aflame. Younger generations are left to wonder what has changed. Today, American cities teeter on the brink and grassroots activists work to vivify the deadening vulnerability of Black lives. Indeed, today’s unrest extends far beyond the extrajudicial and state-sanctioned killings of African Americans. Key economic indicators reveal that Black Americans as a whole are no better off now, and in some ways are worse off, than they were a half-century ago. The Black unemployment rate is unchanged; income, wealth, and educational attainment disparities between White and Black Americans have worsened. While it is remarkable, given the history of pro-capitalist, market-friendly attitudes in this country, it should come as no surprise that the language of democratic socialism is again moving more squarely into the public discourse, and in ways that resonate especially among a diverse cadre of young people who are eager to think more clearly about where we are and more creatively about where we might go from here. Few know about King’s socialist leanings. Recent scholarship has sought to intervene on this score, to reveal to a popular audience a less “sanitized,” more “radical” King. The course will also provide an entrée into the burgeoning scholarly literature on racial capitalism.
Employee Ownership for Black Workers: Closing the Racial Wealth Gap
This study looks at the potential of employee ownership transitioning Black
workers from employees to cooperative owners in their place of work as one
possible route to asset building that has growing interest. Low inheritance of
assets leads to poverty as a driver of the racial wealth gap. With a focus on the
nexus of low income and even lower wealth, the importance of transitioning
employees into ownership in their places of work comes into focus—creating
employment resilience and conserving assets benefiting both the owners and the
workers. Two undeniable facts make employee ownership a viable solution: The
wealth gap in America, and Atlanta in particular, is widening; and even steady
employment is failing to make a difference because of low wages.
Employee Ownership Defined
There are several different forms and pathways possible to employee ownership — through creation of
inclusive employee-owned cooperative enterprise or enriched traditional employee stock option plans
and trusts. Transitions to employee-owned cooperative are the focus of this paper. EO cooperative
transitions are distinguished as those business situations where:
• The people who worked there in agreement with the owners buy out and acquire ownership of a
profitable or potentially profitable ongoing enterprise from the current owners.
• This proceeds with all the comparative advantages over start-ups or buy-outs that do not have worker engagement.
• The former owner may be bought out altogether or gradually, or the owner may choose to remain an investor in the business by holding some of the shares.
EMPLOYEE OWNERSHIP IS A PATH FORWARD
By selling your company to your employees, you capture market value with potential tax advantages, enjoy the flexibility to craft an exit on your own timeline and preserve the legacy of your business as an anchor in your community to retain good jobs.
Employee ownership provides workers with business equity, this can help to resolve economic inequality.
Employee-owned enterprises provide consistent, steady employment with benefits. This is another driver of initial wealth accumulation for American families and another domain in which Black families find themselves at a disadvantage relative to White families.
Workers develop leadership skills as they engage in decision-making in the business.
The stability provided by employee ownership gives workers the opportunity to plan, save, build credit, purchase property, and pursue a path to prosperity.
This method opens the door of business ownership to Black workers while reducing many of the risks of traditional entrepreneurship.
Employee ownership helps communities retain good businesses and jobs, increases civic engagement and circulates more money locally.
Employee ownership can be a tool to directly empower working people to preserve and acquire community assets.
NEW Morehouse College Report Finds Women, Black, and Rural Workers Being Left Behind in COVID Recovery
“No One Left Behind: Economic Justice and Georgia’s Public Sector Workers” report lays out key findings and solutions to strengthen Georgia’s public sector and bring minority workers back into the workforce.
The International Comparative Labor Studies Program at Morehouse College released “No One Left Behind: Economic Justice and Georgia’s Public Sector Workers,” a labor report diving into the COVID job recovery in Georgia.
With nationwide unemployment at 3.7% and Georgia unemployment at 3.1%, the numbers show a pre-pandemic job market. The new report from Morehouse College, however, finds that although jobs have recovered, women, Black and rural workers have not returned to the workforce.
Georgia has cut budgets and disinvested in the public sector eliminating jobs and preventing a full recovery from the 2008 Great Recession, let alone the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now, with 71% of Americans supporting labor unions, a record high since 1965, Morehouse’s report finds that the key to bringing minority workers back into the workforce is collective bargaining in the public sector. Currently banned in Georgia for most public sector workers, collective bargaining will create good paying public sector jobs for all workers, correcting the private sector COVID recovery that has left many workers behind.
“The No One Left Behind: Economic Justice and Georgia’s Public Sector Workers report underscores the urgency in protecting the essential workers,” said Dr. Cynthia Hewitt, director of the International Comparative Labor Studies Program at Morehouse. “Ask your state representative whether she or he will legislate to protect collective bargaining rights of all public workers. Georgia’s families and communities depend upon this.”
Key findings from the report include:
- Georgia’s private sector recovery is leaving behind too many people, especially workers who are Black, women, and those living in rural Georgia.
- Collective bargaining is banned for most public sector workers in Georgia–a major reason why the Peach State has the fifth-lowest union membership in the country for public sector workers.
- Collective bargaining in the public sector creates jobs for everyone, including white, Black, and brown workers, especially those in the working class.
- Frequent state and local budget cuts and long-term disinvestment in the public sector have eliminated many of the jobs that pay union premium wages. Overall, public sector employment is down 4.3 percent since the start of the pandemic in March 2020 and down almost 12 percent since the start of the Great Recession–meaning that more than one in every ten public sector jobs has vanished over the past decade.
- These public sector job losses hit workers without college degrees the hardest– the number of working class jobs in state and local government dramatically declined since the start of the Great Recession, from about 151,000 in December 2007 to about 105,000 in May 2022.
- Public sector collective bargaining benefits local communities.
- Collective bargaining empowers women working in the public sector workforce, protects women from discrimination and harassment, and leads to better wages.
- A unionized public sector plays a key role in removing barriers to an equal recovery for all Georgians. It is critically important for rebuilding the state’s economy as the pandemic wanes. In two sectors in particular, unions and organized public workers have a special role to play: childcare and transportation.
The report recommends that Georgia policymakers take the following actions to strengthen collective bargaining for state and local government workers:
- Expand collective bargaining rights to all 680,000 public employees in Georgia.
- Enact merit-based staffing for public employees.
- Create an OSHA State plan to extend health and safety protections to state and local public workers.
- Enact higher labor standards for state and local government contractors.
Dr. Cynthia Hewitt