Inaugural class of summer labor fellows engages in research, organizing for the common good

June 24, 2022

This June the Center for Social Concerns launches its new summer labor fellowship program, giving three undergraduates a fully-funded opportunity to engage in labor-focused, project-based work while developing their skills in organizing, research, advocacy, and communications. In a time of intense economic uncertainty, these students will gain invaluable insights into the debates, disputes, and decisions that drive labor markets, conditions, and outcomes for ordinary American workers, all while contributing to the efforts of national organizations that promote labor solidarity, workplace dignity, and the common good.

Two fellows, Madilynn O’Hara and Andrea Sanchez Tercero, are conducting research at the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) in Washington, DC. A nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank, EPI was created in 1986 to include the needs of low- and middle-income workers in economic policy discussions. According to EPI Policy Analyst Margaret Poydock, “We are very happy to be hosting Andrea and Madilynn this summer. During their time at EPI, they’ll be working on a variety of projects that range from documenting employer opposition towards union organizing drives to cataloging the current administration’s policy changes that affect labor markets. Andrea and Madilynn’s interest in the role that research plays in the policymaking process made them the perfect fit at EPI and we are excited to work with them this summer.”

In Chicago, summer labor fellow Edward Brunicardi is working with Unite Here Local 1 (UH1), a labor union representing about 16,000 hospitality workers across Chicago and northwest Indiana. As UH1 research analyst Sarah Lyons (herself a 2009 Notre Dame alum) puts it, “UNITE HERE Local 1 is thrilled to be hosting a Summer Labor Fellow this year and grateful for this partnership with the University of Notre Dame. We hope this opportunity allows young people to both learn about organizing and share their energy, creativity, and unique perspectives with the labor movement. We look forward to being part of the journey of the next generation of social justice leaders.”

Communicating from their placement sites in-mid June, the fellows––all rising seniors majoring in political science––expressed an enthusiasm for the work and how it will help them discern their future plans. As Madilynn, who also majors in English, sees it, “Working at EPI has allowed me to combine my research interests with my passion for social justice. By the end of the summer, I hope to come away with both a better understanding of the public policy process as well as the knowledge that my work will be used to create tangible policy change.” According to Andrea, double majoring in Economics, “It is a privilege to work and learn from people who are so passionate about their field of work. So far, the EPI fellowship has encouraged me to work more purposefully, and it has helped me discern my career interests and goals after Notre Dame.” And Edward, who combines minors in Poverty Studies and the Hesburgh Program in Public Service, shares, “My time with Unite Here Local 1 has taken me around the city of Chicago––picketing alongside striking workers, knocking on aldermen’s doors, and visiting houses to try and unionize workers. Every experience deepened my understanding of how even the most overlooked positions like a janitor or cleaning lady can catalyze entire labor campaigns, bringing higher hopes and higher pay to the people who always deserved it.”

Upon returning to Notre Dame for their senior years, each fellow will make a campus presentation reflecting on their experiences and recommending ways for the center to deepen its relationships with these national partners for social justice.