A Special Announcement from Sarita Gupta JwJ National Co-Executive Director
Jobs With Justice has been an incredible movement home for me and has given me the opportunity to learn and grow with so many of you. After 22 years of serving in various roles, that have included building a strong network of relationships with partners like you, I have decided to leave Jobs With Justice.
I have had the great privilege of advancing the work of Jobs With Justice from many different perspectives over the years. I began as a student leader at USSA serving on the steering committee and board, working to deepen the ties between the labor and student movements. Then serving as the director of Chicago Jobs With Justice, I got to work with an incredible set of local leaders who helped me learn what it takes to mobilize people, work at the intersections of issues, design campaigns, innovate new approaches, and build lasting relationships rooted in our values. As a regional field organizer in the northeast and then as the national field director, I led our team to support and strengthen our local coalitions, develop national campaigns and programs, and engage new partnerships. And finally, for the last 12 years, I have served as the Executive Director.
I am proud of what we’ve accomplished as a network over the last two decades through our relentless commitment to protecting, strengthening, and expanding bargaining rights for all working people. There are countless campaigns that Jobs With Justice local coalitions have supported, standing with workers taking major risks to demand rights on the job and the right to live a dignified life.
We have always understood the need to link the struggles around a broader set of issues impacting working people and their communities to the struggle for bargaining rights. From seeding the early demands for health care reform, to lifting up the voices of working people and communities on issues of trade and globalization, to building partnerships and mobilizing to support immigrant workers, to training and engaging student leaders through our Student Labor Action Project, to developing partnerships with social movements across the globe and launching an ambitious global campaign called Asia Floor Wage, to building the demand for changes to our labor laws through the Employee Free Choice Act, to deepening partnerships with a burgeoning workers’ center movement, to connecting our work with racial, gender, and climate justice movements, to launching and growing the Caring Across Generations campaign.
In a moment of great discussion about the future of workers and the labor movement, Jobs With Justice is clear about its role in shaping all that is to come. I believe Jobs With Justice was built for this moment.
Jobs With Justice is stepping up as a strategic hub that can leverage the many relationships we have built over the years and unite as a network to develop and experiment with new approaches to expand peoples’ abilities to join together to negotiate for changes in their lives, communities and workplaces. Jobs With Justice is more committed than ever to develop new organizing, legal, policy, and cultural frameworks that inspire working people and our movements to strengthen bargaining rights.
Erica Smiley, our current co-executive director, will become the executive director as of July 1st. Smiley has been with Jobs With Justice since 2005. She has held many roles at the organization over the years, including serving as the National Workers’ Rights Board coordinator, senior field organizer for the southern region, director of campaigns, and most recently the organizing director. Smiley came to Jobs With Justice with a breadth of experience in labor, community, and student organizing, having worked at groups like Tenants and Workers Support Committee, Progressive Maryland, SEIU Local 500, and Choice USA. This experience coupled with her background as a Black southerner and someone who did not grow up in a union household enhances her ability to innovate on building worker power in the 21st century. National board members and I are confident and inspired by the vision and leadership that Smiley brings to Jobs With Justice as she leads the organization moving forward.
Jobs With Justice has always been about people, and our boards of directors and staff are a dynamic, powerful collective determined to build the movement to evolve and strengthen bargaining rights, connect across movements to achieve social and economic justice, broaden and deepen our partnerships, and to support organizing and base-building efforts across the country.
Personally, I am looking forward to taking some much-needed time off to spend with my family. I am also finishing a book that I am co-authoring with Smiley about evolving bargaining rights in the 21st century, which we hope to have published by the end of the year. And I plan to continue providing leadership to the Caring Across Generations campaign and team. My work up until now has been very rich and I am craving some time to reflect on the lessons I have learned and to assess what my next chapter will be.
In the time leading up to July 1st, I look forward to seeking out opportunities to connect with you.
Thank you for being an important part of my experience at Jobs With Justice. I may be saying good-bye for now, but I am confident our paths will stay connected as I journey into my next chapter in this movement.
Jobs With Justice