Grants:PEG/The Workerpedia Project/Workerpedia Start-up
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Grant request details
- Are you an organization, a group, or an individual?
- The Workerpedia Project is a California nonprofit organization.
- Please provide your name, or the name of the group or organization requesting this grant.
- The Workers' WEB AKA The Workerpedia Project.
- Please provide the name (or username) of the main contact for this grant request. You do not need to disclose your legal name publicly.
- Sean C. Murphy - Founder & President of The Workerpedia Project.
- For groups and organizations only: Please provide the name (or username) of a second contact for this grant request.
- Joan Messing Graff - President of Legal Aid Society - Employment Law Center.
- Please link to any relevant documents, including your website if you have one.
- The Workerpedia website is up and running but for the time being can only be viewed by users with a password. To see the site go to www.workerweb.org/workerpedia and use one of the temporary accounts available for demonstration purposes. User account “Demo1” can be accessed using the password “Password1”, user account “Demo2” with password “Password2”, and so forth through account “Demo6”. Updates including Visual Editor and the Education Program Extension will be installed soon but may not be up at time of viewing.
- Please view our Users' Guide for a general summary of our mission and policies.
- Official project name
- Workerpedia Start-up
- Project start date
- October 15, 2014
- Project completion date
- October 15, 2015
- Please describe the project in a few sentences
- Workerpedia will be a free to use, multi-lingual, user-edited, online encyclopedia of workers’ rights and resources intended to help workers, activists, advocates, students and academics build community, share knowledge and advance the rights of workers in the United States. As the budgets of governmental and public interest institutions have shrunk after the 2008 recession, so have the number of low wage workers grown. Traditional models of worker assistance are failing to plug a widening gap between increasing need and decreasing services. Workers need new solutions. An open information sharing network like Workerpedia will allow grass roots activists to pool resources, share collective knowledge and work together across geographical, cultural, language, and governmental divides that otherwise might leave these activists struggling in isolation against a growing tide of need. Workerpedia will make it easy for any activist with a laptop and a wireless connection to put self-help solutions in the hands of any worker who owns a smart-phone and has a connection to the internet.
- Amount and currency requested
- $176,300 in US Dollars
For organizations only
- Are you an incorporated organization able to provide local proof of nonprofit status within your country?
- Does your organization currently employ or engage any fulltime or part-time staff or contractors?
- Currently organizational staff includes 3 board members serving on a volunteer basis, but board recruitment is ongoing and that number will grow. The Workerpedia Project's fiscal sponsor, The Legal Aid Society – Employment Law Center (LAS-ELC) provides administrative support, office space and is a partner in developing policies and conducting outreach to the hundreds of workers’ rights organization the Project intends to engage as volunteer contributors. LAS-ELC has a staff of 34. Please see LAS-ELC site for more details.
Goals and measures of success
Complete site design, develop editorial policies, promote initial adoption of the service by organizations and educators.
Measures of success
- Development/Publication of Comprehensive Legal Disclaimers
- Development/Publication of Guidelines for Chartering Student Affiliate Chapters
- Development/Publication of Guide for Organizational Use
- Full Configuration of Language Extension Bundle
- Acceptance as Official Project by translatewiki.net Organization
- Full Configuration of Education Program Extension
- Engagement of at Least 50 Workers’ Rights Organizations as Official Site Contributors
- At Least one Law School or Labor Studies Program Engaged in an Educational Pilot Program
- Complete Initial Adaptation of Wikipedia Education Program Teaching Materials to Suit Workerpedia’s Education Program
- Participation in at Least 5 Conferences on Workers' Rights or Open Knowledge Topics
- Recruitment of at Least One Volunteer Editor Qualified and Willing to Act as a Site Administrator with Proficiency in Each of the Following Languages: Vietnamese, Chinese, Spanish, Tagalog, and Korean.
Project scope and activities
- List of activities
- An Interim Director hired on a contract basis to oversee program start-up will develop policies, promotional materials, disclaimers, and site design in collaboration with board members, volunteers, project partners, pro bono legal advisors, and occasional subcontractors. The Director will also personally conduct outreach to potential contributing organizations, educational institutions, and students interested in pursuing public interest careers relevant to advancing the rights of workers.
Editorial Policy Development
- Much of the site design is complete. The Board has already put in place many of the organizational directories, help resources, and disclaimer banners that will guide use of the site. Software add-ons have been or currently are being installed to tailor the wiki’s functionality. A founding board member maintains the site as a volunteer service and acts as a technological mentor for the project. Going forward he will work together with the Director to improve the site and to occasionally hire “wiki gurus” on a contract basis to assist with design issues as needs develop.
Outreach & Promotion
- Adoption of the service will be promoted through an organizational outreach campaign, the development of educational pilot programs, and the creation of a national network of student membership chapters. Organizational adoption is expected to progress quickly because of the immediate practical benefits to participating organizations. Educational engagement will be a larger task that will build momentum over several years.
- As an initial outreach effort LAS-ELC will populate the wiki with the extensive self-help materials for California workers it has already developed, and will help in outreach to engage organizations nationwide to do the same. Working closely with LAS-ELC the Director will develop outreach materials to educate direct services organizations about how participation in the project will benefit workers and relieve stress on flesh-and-blood services. LAS-ELC’s existing relationships with immigrant worker communities will be leveraged to recruit Spanish, Vietnamese, Tagaloc, Korean, and Chinese speaking volunteers to participate in the project, and these volunteers will help to promote adoption of the service by non-English speaking organizations on a national level.
- The Director will conduct outreach to educators to promote use of the service as a teaching tool and to adapt existing educational materials to suit specific project needs. LAS-ELC’s existing close relationships with California law schools and students through its popular network of student staffed Workers’ Rights Clinics will be leveraged to establish pilot educational programs which will serve as a model for engagement on a national level. Also, policies and promotional materials allowing students to form local membership chapters, to pay dues and purchase or win promotional gear will be developed and disseminated.
- Key during this phase will be active conference participation by the Director and LAS-ELC representatives. Conferences drawing students interested in workers’ rights and immigrants’ rights, as well as conferences addressing the intersection of law and technology and conferences addressing open-knowledge topics, will all be rich opportunities for learning, coalition building, and promoting the service. As part of these engagement activities, promotional materials and scholarly presentations will be generated by the Director in close collaboration with LAS-ELC.
- Project budget table
Item Cost Interim Director Contract Salary $60,000 Interim Director Taxes & Benefits $15,000 Trademark Costs $2,000 Workerpedia Domain Name Acquisition $2,000 Domain Registration Fees $50 Server Fees $600 PO Box $150 Web Design Services $10,000 Promotional Materials $20,000 Student Prizes & Awards $10,000 Conference Participation $30,000 Logo Design Services $2,000 Custom Stationery $1,500 Postage & Shipping $2,000 LAS-ELC Overhead - Office Space, Admin, Accounting, Legal Staff $23,000
- Total cost of project
- Total amount requested from the Project and Event Grants program
- Workerpedia needs the expert advice and mentorship of Wikimedia Foundation and the Wikipedia Education Program. Wikimedia Foundation and LAS-ELC are neighbors, just across Market Street from each other in San Francisco, and The Workerpedia Project would welcome a close collaboration.
Resources and Risks
- The Workerpedia Project’s greatest resource is the community supporting it, and the awareness shared by its core collaborators that success rests primarily on growing this community. The Project is lucky to have nursing it through its start-up phase a talented and committed group of collaborators experienced in empowering workers and with the ability to engage the workers’ rights community on the national level. More important to success are the resources and wisdom already generated by the Wikimedia community and the Wikimedia Foundation without which this project would not be possible. As we go forward a primary organizational goal is to form personal relationships and partnerships within this community and to become active participants in the Wikipedia Education Program. In pursuit of this goal the organization is very lucky to have recruited the support of a well respected Wikipedian to serve on its Board of Directors. The major players already formally committed to the project follow.
- Sean C. Murphy is the founder of The Workerpedia Project and president of the board of directors. He is a California attorney who received his Juris Doctorate from the University of New Mexico School of Law in 2013, where he graduated Cum Laude, received the ABA-BNA Award for Excellence in the Study of Labor and Employment Law, and was instrumental in founding the El Centro de Derechos y Igualdad Wage & Hour Project at the University of New Mexico Law Clinic. Sean began working with the Legal Aid Society – Employment Law Center when he was selected to serve as a Peggy Browning Fund Fellow during the Summer of 2012. He continues to serve as a volunteer advocate representing low income workers for the Community Legal Services program at LAS-ELC. Sean is also an active member of the San Francisco chapter of the Labor and Employment Committee of the National Lawyers Guild and has volunteered his time to present continuing legal education lectures on wage and hour law. In his previous career Sean worked as a sound engineer for musical theater productions and was a member of IATSE Local 16 in San Francisco, the stagehands’ union. He began contributing to Wikipedia by editing articles about labor and employment law in December of 2013.
- David Curado is a founding board member of the organization, webmaster for the site and currently responsible for all high-level technical issues related to the project. He has over 20 years experience as a Unix administrator and network engineer. David is currently employed by the Mozilla Foundation in Mountain View, California.
Michael "Bink" Knowles
- Michael Knowles, known as Binksternet on Wikipedia, is a Workerpedia Project Board member, a California-based live audio engineer and Wikipedia editor. He has edited Wikipedia since July 2007, starting more than 175 new articles, 3 of which have reached Featured Article status, and has an edit count of more than 120,000. He was the primary editor in the drive to fix the hoaxes created by Legolas2186, and also participated in the first Roundtable on Editor Engagement at Wikimedia Foundation.
- The Legal Aid Society has been providing legal assistance to low-income individuals in the San Francisco Bay Area since 1915. The Employment Law Center was founded in 1972 to address employment issues affecting underserved communities. Since that time the LAS-ELC has been a shining light on a national and state level in the fight against workplace discrimination and in efforts to secure fair and safe working conditions for all workers in California and the US. A history of major milestones in the organization's history can be viewed here: []
- Directly relevant to The Workerpedia Project’s mission is LAS-ELC’s extensive experience empowering workers to resolve workplace issues on their own. LAS-ELC’s Community Legal Services Program and Workers’ Rights Clinics provide direct assistance to thousands of low income Californians a year free of charge. In the clinics, students and volunteer attorneys work together to provide legal information and self-help materials to low-income workers, and workers needing greater assistance are provided with legal representation on a pro bono basis.
- LAS-ELC’s mentoring partnership with The Workerpedia Project will be invaluable to the project’s success. The organization’s experience with empowering workers to seek self-help solutions will help to guide development of the web service and its policies, and its initial contributions to content on the site will help set a high standard for other organizations to emulate. The organization’s reputation, as well as its extensive personal connections, in the national community of workers’ rights activists and organizations will be invaluable in promoting wide-scale adoption of the service. Heading up LAS-ELC’s collaboration with The Workerpedia Project are Joan Messing Graff and Mike Gaitley.
Joan Messing Graff
- Joan Graff has been President of the Legal Aid Society–Employment Law Center since 1981. She began her legal career working in the General Counsel’s office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission at its headquarters in Washington D.C. Following her move to the Bay Area Ms. Graff joined Equal Rights Advocates as it was being launched and remained there for nearly a decade. The organization was one of the first nonprofit legal organizations in the country dedicated to securing equality for women and it became one of the leading proponents for women’s rights nationally. Ms. Graff has served on a number of boards and advisory committees and in 2006 was awarded the Loren Miller Legal Services Award by the State Bar of California. Ms. Graff received her J.D. from Columbia Law School in 1967 and her B.S. from Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations in 1964. She is a member of the Bars of California and the District of Columbia.
- Mike Gaitley is a Senior Staff Attorney at the LAS–ELC. He manages the LAS–ELC’s Community Legal Services Program, where his primary responsibility is supervision of the LAS–ELC’s Workers’ Rights Clinics held in-person throughout the Bay Area, and statewide by telephone. Prior to becoming a Staff Attorney, Mr. Gaitley was a sole-practitioner focusing on employment-related litigation and related services. Mr. Gaitley also worked as a union official and attorney with Pan Am’s flight attendant union. Mr. Gaitley is a 1984 graduate of Pace University Law School and a 1979 graduate of the University of Michigan. Mr. Gaitley currently serves as an adjunct professor at University of California - Hastings College of the Law.
- The greatest risk this project faces is low adoption. Without a robust community of contributors the service will not be able to self police for adherence to editorial policies and, of course, it will not generate enough content to be useful to workers. This risk will be overcome through a comprehensive outreach and promotion campaign. As discussed above, LAS-ELC's involvement will act as an example. The organization's stature in the workers' rights community will help with efforts to engage organizational and educational use of the service. Similarly, the Wikimedia Education Program's successes and resources will be helpful in encouraging participation by the academic community.
- The practical benefits of the service will be a strong driver of organizational adoption. Large organizations as a general practice already provide web based resources in an effort to encourage workers to seek self-help resources before engaging flesh-and-blood services which typically are already over-strained. Smaller organizations often struggle to even establish and maintain up-to-date web resources for their clients, and are often overtaxed by the large numbers of workers that fill their offices on clinic nights, many of whom could have resolved their issues independently if they had access to language appropriate self-help materials. The great appeal for organizational use will be the unified, one-stop-shopping, nature of the database and the ability for organizations large and small to create web-based resources without the expense and complication of engaging web design services. Large organizations will participate because a portal space on Workerpedia will act at the very least as a "yellow pages" listing in the Workerpedia resource directory that will lead workers to the organization's existing web resources. Small organizations will be able to create a portal space that acts as a primary organizational web presence.
- The Workerpedia Project organization will create educational and instructional materials for organizational use and disseminate these materials through various means. The organization will create directory spaces and stub articles for hundreds of workers' rights organization and follow up with outreach by email and telephone to these organizations. Workerpedia staff and partners will seek press attention and to author and publish articles in publications viewed by the workers' rights community, as well as opportunities to table, present and participate at relevant conferences.
- Importantly, the non-English-speaking workers' rights community has a vigor with the potential to turn Workerpedia into a resource where articles in English are the minority, and the Workerpedia organization will set as a primary goal developing close relationships with non-English-speaking workers' organizations who can help develop outreach materials to promote participation by immigrant communities and can as a volunteer service help to monitor non-English content for editorial compliance. As discussed below, the worker center movement is a lean, motivated, and resourceful movement open to new ideas and hungry for low cost solutions to immigrant workers' workplace problems. There is much hope that there will be mass adoption of Workerpedia by this community.
- Educational outreach will be more difficult. The educational, community service and career advancement advantages of educational involvement are less immediate and compelling than the practical operational advantages that organizations will enjoy. However, in the long run educational involvement will bear great advantages to the whole community. The Workerpedia organization will engage in both a promotional campaign to educate the academic community to the benefits of participation, as well as a dialog with the Wikipedia Education Program and with educators to learn from past successes and failures and to incorporate the goals of the educational community into the program. Importantly, direct outreach to students will be employed to harness the enthusiasm of younger students who as digital natives are more familiar and comfortable with the benefits of participation in on-line communities. Conference participation will be important to these efforts as well as the creation of student competitions and rewards for student achievement. As part of an educational outreach program, the Workerpedia organization will also seek to develop relationships with innovative law and technology programs like The Stanford Center for Internet and Society, The Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard, The Institute for Information Law and Policy at New York Law School, The Governance Lab at NYU, and The Berkeley Center for Law and Technology.
Promotional Use of The Site
- There is also a risk that content on the site will adopt a dangerous bias because of contributors' commercial interests in promoting for-profit legal services. Workerpedia cannot fully adopt Wikipedia's prohibition on self referential content to prevent this abuse. This is because allowing workers' rights organizations to publish self referential material and promote their services is an inherent function of the site. Workerpedia will instead mitigate this risk by entirely disallowing references to for-profit legal services. Non-profit and governmental organizations will be allowed to post self referential material on Resource Pages only, while Knowledge pages will follow Wikipedia's prohibition on self referential content. Private attorneys will be allowed to contribute to the site but will be prohibited from soliciting business or publishing contact information on their profiles.
- As an added protection against the risk of fraud, Workerpedia will include fraud warnings at the top of directory pages that links to a “tips on avoiding fraud” article which includes information on bar association referral services, and host a page where users can share links to third party articles reporting on allegations of, or findings of, fraudulent practices by purported legal services organizations. However, it is the prohibition on posting information about for-profit services that most significantly reduces the risk to users.
Fit to strategy
New Directions & Movement Forward
- The way the world shares information is changing. Open knowledge systems are replacing the old hierarchical, closed-door models of the past. Yet, universities and public institutions are often still plagued with skepticism about these new models and reluctant to adopt them. Law schools and the legal profession are steeped in hierarchical traditions and at their worst can stifle innovation because of old-fashioned and elitist biases. However, every day the legal community is replenished with young students and legal workers who are bringing their new perspective as digital natives into government service and public interest work, and the ice is beginning to break. The federal government has introduced the Open Government Initiative and the USPTO's Peer-to-Patent program is one example of that program's success. The Digital Commons Network has finally knocked down the pay-walls that kept scholarly articles locked away from the activists and researchers who needed this data. Elon Musk just turned patent law and traditional business practices on their heads by sharing his corporation's intellectual property instead of earnestly defending his shareholders' interests in being the sole beneficiaries to the fruit of that knowledge. Change is in the air, and this project is part of that change. This project, more than anything, meets Wikimedia Foundation goals by moving the Wikimedia open knowledge movement forward into new territory.
- Workerpedia will widen the open knowledge movement by widening its purchase in the legal and academic communities, and in government and public interest organizations. The lawyers and law schools engaged with the open knowledge movement now are focused on issues of intellectual property, public accountability and transparency, and constitutional privacy rights. Similarly federal open government projects have focused on government transparency and patent and trademark law. Public interests attorneys and government social services need to catch up. This project will show that community that open systems are practical, useful and reliable, and will help workers' advocates work smarter, and faster, and serve more people.
Reach & Participation - Quality & Usefulness - Credibility
- Inherent in the program's novelty is the intertwining potential for increased user and contributor reach and participation, improved quality and usefulness of contributions made to Wikimedia projects, and of the Wikimedia open knowledge movement gaining greater public credibility.
- Reach will be increased by engaging government agencies, public interest organizations, and law schools to generate content. This increased reach will lead to a sustained increase in participation because of the immediate practical benefit participation brings to these parties' organizational missions.
- As to quality of articles, summarizing the law, especially in common law legal systems, is a difficult task. The law is nuanced, complex, often contradictory, full of grey areas and constantly in flux. Articles in Wikipedia are currently of mixed value. Attorneys, law students, legal workers and lay activists have the education and experience to clarify subtleties that may be beyond the general contributor to fully explicate. Importantly, Workerpedia contributors will have the opportunity to improve Wikipedia articles as well. Workerpedia will be encouraging editors to fork existing Wikipedia articles into Workerpedia and will suggest as a best practice that articles are improved on Wikipedia in collaboration with Wikipedians before being forked into Workperpedia.
- As to usefulness of the contributions made to Workerpedia, much of Workerpedia will operate as a directory of resources, not an encyclopedia of rights. Workerpedia will classify articles with bold top of the page icons to identify articles as Resource Pages, Knowledge Pages or Discussion Page. A Discussion Page is a place to share a non-collaborative article with a point of view, like a law review article. A Knowledge Page is like a Wikipedia article, with a collaboratively edited encyclopedic summary of a topic of interest to workers. Resource Pages direct workers to public interest advocacy organizations, self help guides, governmental agencies and other resources by providing web addresses, telephone numbers, mailing addresses and other useful information. (See example of Resource Page article here:) These articles will be immediately useful to workers in a way that general summaries of their rights are not. While workers might look to Wikipedia to see what their rights are if they are being sexually harassed in the workplace, Workerpedia Resource Pages will draw users looking for, for example, a phone number where they can call and speak with a public interest attorney in their native language and who is sensitive to the relevant cultural issues surrounding the incident of sexual harassment.
- As to credibility, adoption of this project by the legal community, government agencies and public interest institutions will greatly increase the credibility of Wikimedia Foundation projects. Part of that increased credibility will be the gravitas, stability, and academic rigor associated with those communities and institutions. Of course, some could argue that the power of the Wikimedian community is that it grows from the grassroots nurtured by the fresh air and sunlight that comes with an open system and that is not overshadowed by the chilling effect of institutionalized power and locked doors, and that institutional and governmental involvement is necessarily antithetical to the Wikimedia movement. The answer to that is that Workerpedia isn't locking the doors of the open knowledge movement. It is instead unlocking the doors of government and the law, and opening minds. Another aspect of the project which will lend greater credibility to the movement is of course the humanitarian benefit of empowering workers to assert their rights and protect themselves from workplace abuses.
- Finally, this project meets the goals of the Wikimedia Foundation because it has a plan that moves toward financial sustainability. By nursing the project through its most vulnerable and cost intensive period - that of promoting initial adoption - Wikimedia will position Workerpedia to become self sustaining. When the critical mass of editor participation is reached the network will be largely self regulating and organizational costs will drop. With a direct appeal model of fundraising similar to Wikipedia, and ever shrinking organizational costs as the community becomes more self sustaining, The Workerpedia Project will become self sustaining as well.
Increased Access to Services and Knowledge for Low Wage Workers In an Age of Increasing Need And Decreasing Resources - Increased Opportunities for Collaboration, Resource Sharing, and Community and Coalition Building in an Increasingly Fragmented Workers' Rights Community
- Workerpedia will benefit workers and their advocates. The issue facing workers directly is a widening gap between the need for and the availability of resources for low wage workers. Workerpedia can provide workers with self-help resources that can in part replace the brick-and-mortar and flesh-and-blood services that communities are having trouble keeping in place since the recession of 2008.
- Alternatively, the issue faced by the workers’ rights community is a growing fragmentation of an already fragmented community. The national community of workers’ rights activists, which under a federated system of laws and resources was already very fragmented, is becoming even more so as the number of low wage workers seeking assistance increasingly includes members of language isolated immigrant communities with particular needs distinct from those of the general public. To achieve their goals acivists must navigate a complex patchwork of laws and resources that vary from industry to industry, state to state, county to county, city to city, and as the number of immigrant workers grows even from neighborhood to neighborhood. Workerpedia addresses these issues by aggregating the organizational knowledge of the workers’ rights community in a single database that bridges both geographical and language divides to provide the growing number of low wage workers with a single unified resource for finding answers to their workplace problems. This will create an opportunity for workers’ rights and immigrants’ rights activists, students and academics, and workers and their advocates to form bonds and learn from each other as they collaborate to share resources, solve problems and effect change.
Increases in Low Wage Workers
- A 2014 National Employment Law Project report shows that between 2008-2014 the number of mid-wage and high-wage jobs has decreased by almost 2 million while the number of low wage jobs has increased by almost the same amount. Indeed, the study shows that there are nearly two million more low wage jobs now than before the recession and that high and mid wage jobs have not returned. The report also suggests that the lag in replacement of higher earning jobs is not a product of a slow recovery but a troubling and persistent trend that may indicate a lasting change in the relative incomes of Americans. The report compares job replacement after the 2001 recession with current job replacement to show that replacement of higher wage jobs is significantly stunted and overly prolonged in the current recovery. The report notes that “[a]s a result of unbalanced employment growth, the types of jobs available to unemployed workers, new labor market entrants, and individuals looking to move up the career ladder are distinctly different today than they were prior to the recession.”
- Moreover, a recent study by the Economic Policy Institute projects that the percentage of Americans working low wage jobs will not decrease significantly in the immediate future. The report projects only a 0.3% decrease in the percentage of American workers earning wages at or below the federal poverty level over the course of the current decade. This study reasons that stagnation in upward mobility will result from projections that “in 2020, jobs will actually not require a significantly greater level of education or training than workers currently have” and points to existing data showing that “real wages are no higher now for those with college degrees than they were ten years ago.” 
Decreases in Services
- Nationwide since 2008 state budget cuts have contributed to a precipitous decline in the availability of social services. A 2012 Center for Budget and Policy Priorities publication reported that “budget difficulties have led at least 46 states to reduce services for their residents, including some of their most vulnerable families and individuals” and projected that “[i]f revenues remain depressed, as is expected in many states, additional spending and service cuts are likely.” An earlier report on proposed 2012 state budgets showed that nearly all states planned to spend less money than they spent in 2008 (after inflation), even though the cost of providing services would be higher, and that the majority of states planned to make major cuts to core public services to allow for these cuts in spending. The same report noted that 577,000 public service jobs had already been eliminated between 2008 and 2012. 
- Projections of future availability of social services are equally troubling. A 2013 publication by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities reported that numerous states were considering, or had recently enacted, “sweeping tax and budget proposals [following] recommendations of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)” that would “severely limit states’ ability to provide adequate funds for education, health care, and other priorities.” The report warned that proposals by ALEC to enact state constitutional amendments limiting spending had the potential to make sweeping cuts to the funding of public services “essentially permanent.” In 2013 the National Association of State Budget officers reported a 1.7 percent reduction in total state expenditures for fiscal year 2013, the first decline in total state expenditures in the 26 years the organization has been tracking state expenditures. The report attributes this decline to drastic reductions in federal aid that had been bolstering state budget shortfalls since 2008.
Growing Number of Immigrant Workers in American Workforce
- In 1996 foreign-born workers accounted for only 11% of the workforce. Of the 21 million jobs added to the economy between 1996 and 2012 more than half have been filled by foreign-born workers. In 2013, there were 25.3 million foreign-born workers in the U.S. labor force, making up 16.3 % of all workers. Foreign-born workers were more likely than native-born workers to be employed in service occupations, earning wages on average lower than native-born workers with a median weekly pay of $643, and a median weekly pay of $428 for foreign-born workers with less than a high school education. A 2003 study found that nearly two out of three immigrant workers were not proficient in English and that though immigrant workers made up at that time approximately 11% of the U.S. population, these workers nevertheless constituted 20% of all low wage workers.
Fragmentation of Services Provided by Sprawling Network of Unaffiliated Worker Centers Serving Immigrant Communities
- The power of the worker center movement is its localized focus and the specialized and language specific services worker centers provide. “The vast majority of worker center members are recent immigrants.” These worker centers “provide a central vehicle through which low-wage immigrant workers are receiving services and education around workplace issues.” “In many centers, ethnicity and language, rather than occupation or industry, are the primary identities through which workers come to know and participate in the organizations.” “The number of worker centers in the United States has increased dramatically, paralleling the increased flow of specific immigrant groups in large numbers. In 1992, there were fewer than five centers nationwide. As of 2007, there are at least 160 worker centers in over 80 cities, towns, and rural areas.” One study notes that worker centers for day laborers are an effective response to the “growing segmentation of the labor market and an increase in the growth of informal and contingent work” and “play an important role in responding to . . . employment and workplace abuses [by offering] a way to monitor the practices of employers and to curtail abuses such as wage theft and exposure to unsafe conditions.”
- Recent efforts seek to unite this fragmented movement. The National Day Laborers Organizing Network now has 43 member centers across the United States. The Food Chain Alliance has 23 member organizations. Since 2006 the AFL-CIO has offered affiliate standing to worker centers. Ana Avendano, Director of Immigration and Community Action at the AFL-CIO recently said “There's incredible potential [in] the creativity [and] the energy of worker centers coming together with the experience and the institution of labor.”
- Workerpedia’s contribution to these efforts is to provide a unifying resource that allows this nimble network of specialized grassroots resources to, not be herded into the hierarchies of traditional top down models of organization, but instead to be allowed to grow together from the bottom up in a method coherent with the spirit and methodologies inherent to the movement.
Relation to Existing Wikimedia Programs
Wikipedia Education Program
- At Workerpedia’s core is an organizational goal to engage the academic community and to elevate student membership in the Workerpedia Editor community to a student activity and affiliation with the kind of benefits associated with student membership in the ACLU, the American Constitution Society, the Federalist Society or the National Lawyers Guild. This is coherent with the Education Program's intent to engage students to improve Wikimedia projects through coursework and as a community service. The Workerpedia Project will be engaging educators to incorporate Workerpedia assignments into classwork, and engaging students to form student chapters which can contribute to the project as an act of community service.
- Workerpedia does not fall within the scope of the GLAM Program, but it should be noted that in one important aspect Workerpedia will mirror much of the GLAM Program's methodologies and intent. Resource Pages can best be generated by engaging organizations to share the self-help materials already naturally generated in the course of organizational work, and this approach mirrors that of the GLAM Program. The GLAM-Wiki initiative helps cultural institutions share their resources with the world through collaborative projects with experienced Wikipedia editors. Similarly Workerpedia's Organizational Memberships are intended to help public interest organizations share their existing resources. GLAM engages cultural institutions by arguing we're both in the same business, preserving and disseminating information about cultural wealth, and the GLAM Program just wants to help you reach your goal, which we happen to share. Workerpedia will engage public interest organizations similarly by arguing we're both in the business of helping workers, and Workerpedia just wants to help you help workers, which is a goal that we happen to share. The Workerpedia Project believes that Resource Articles are so straight-forward and that the Visual Editor extension has so democratized access to Wikimedia resources that participating organizations will be able to contribute directly without the help of anything more than an organizational users' guide.
- Workerpedia does not fit within the GLAM Program. However, with The Workerpedia Project the opportunity arises for Wikimedia Foundation to consider founding a program that encourages other areas of social services and public interest work to adopt a Wikimedia based sharing network as a means to build community and share collective knowledge.
- If successful, will the project have the potential to be replicated successfully by other individuals, groups, or organizations? Please explain how in 1–2 sentences.
- As stated above, we believe it is time for other fields of public interest work to adopt open sharing networks as a tool, and we believe that what we learn from this project can and will help other helping professionals replicate this model. We believe that the Wikimedia software platform is so well suited to our purposes that a socialworkerpedia will follow close on our footsteps.
- There is the potential for organizations both inside and outside of the US to participate in Workerpedia as part of efforts to assist the transnational visa worker communities who have particularly difficult workplace issues. For example, Workerpedia is a resource that could be useful to Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, an organization with headquarters in both Mexico and the United States, and Workerpedia will make efforts to engage this organization as a major contributor and partner.
Potential for Expansion of Language Communities Included in Wikimedia Movement
- Wikimedia's multilingual software platform will be a great resource as Workerpedia seeks deep engagement with advocates for migrant worker communities. However, there are common workplace issues for which resolution is frustrated by language barriers that cannot be fully addressed with the current functionality of the Wikimedia software platform. A particular problem in California currently is the prevalence of Mixteco, Zapateco, Triqui and P’urhepecha speaking agricultural workers and the need for greater oversight of workplace safety issues for these workers. For example, women workers in this environment are often subject to sexual harassment and molestation because of the power that employers and their agents have over these workers who live isolated in rustic dormitories on rural farmland away from public view. Without the language skills necessary to engage governmental, public interest, and law enforcement agencies these workers have little recourse to these abuses. With just a handful of bilingual activists Workerpedia would have the potential to provide translated self-help resources that could increase access to justice for these workers and bring oversight to this dark corner of US employment landscape, if the service were able to provide information sharing resources in these languages. Unfortunately, as it is now even Wikimedia does not appear to provide resources for speakers of Mixteco, Zapateco, Triqui or P’urhepecha. One benefit of this project may be to identify isolated language communities in need of support from Wikimedia Foundation and to begin the process of including these communities in the open knowledge movement.
- The Low-Wage Recovery: Industry Employment and Wages Four Years into the Recovery. (2014, April 1). Retrieved May 23, 2014, from 
- Thiess, R. (2012, April 27). The future of work: Trends and challenges for low-wage workers. Economic Policy Institute. Retrieved May 23, 2014, from http://www.epi.org/publication/bp341-future-of-work/.
- Johnson, N., Oliff, P., & Williams, E. (2012, February 9). An Update on State Budget Cuts. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Retrieved May 23, 2014, from http://www.cbpp.org/cms/?fa=view&id=1214
- Williams, E., et al. (2011, July 28). State Budget Cuts in the New Fiscal Year Are Unnecessarily Harmful Cuts Are Hitting Hard at Education, Health Care, & State Economies. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Retrieved May 23, 2014, from http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=3550
- Williams, E., & Johnson, N. (2013, February 12). ALEC Tax and Budget Proposals Would Slash Public Services and Jeopardize Economic Growth. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Retrieved May 23, 2014, from http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=3901
- State Expenditure Report. (2013, November 21). Retrieved May 23, 2014, from http://www.nasbo.org/sites/default/files/State%20Expenditure%20Report%20%28Fiscal%202011-2013%20Data%29.pdf
- Mosisa, A. (2013, July 1). Foreign-born workers in the U.S. labor force. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved May 23, 2014, from http://www.bls.gov/spotlight/2013/foreign-born/home.htm
- Foreign-Born Workers: Labor Force Characteristics - 2013. (2014, May 22). Retrieved May 23, 2014, from http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/forbrn.pdf
- Capps, R., & al.. (2003, November 1). A Profile of the Low-Wage Immigrant Workforce. Retrieved May 23, 2014, from http://www.urban.org/UploadedPDF/310880_lowwage_immig_wkfc.pdf
- Fine, J. (2007, January 1). Worker Centers. Retrieved May 24, 2014, from http://urbanhabitat.org/files/RPE14-1_Fine-Molina-s.pdf
- Melendez, E., & al. Worker Centers and Labor Market Outcomes. Retrieved May 23, 2014, from http://www.csup.ucla.edu/publications/Worker%20Center%20and%20Labor%20Market%20Outcomes.pdf/view
- Retrieved May 24, 2014, from http://www.ndlon.org/en/our-members
- Retrieved May 24, 2014, from http://foodchainworkers.org/
- Retrieved May 24, 2014, from http://www.aflcio.org/About/Worker-Center-Partnerships
- The Future Of The Workers' Movement. (2013, May 20). Talk of the Nation, National Public Radio. Retrieved May 24, 2014, from http://www.npr.org/2013/05/20/185559550/the-future-of-the-workers-movement
- See: www.crla.org/sites/all/files/content/uploads/Resources/CRLA-FastFact-IP-v4x.pdf