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Season 5, Episode 116

Social Policy Workers United on a ULP strike at MDRC

SPWU (1)


Guest Name:

Jalen Alexander

Guest Website:

Social Policy Workers United 

Guest Social Media:





Supportive Documents:

Jalen Alexander, President of the Social Policy Workers United — affiliated with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 57 — joined the America’s Work Force Union Podcast to talk about the Unfair Labor Practice Strike currently underway by the 170 members of the SPWU. He discussed the history of the first contract efforts after negotiations began nearly two years ago and how what he called near-poverty wages for several workers are causing issues during negotiations.

The workers at SPWU are currently on the last day of their three-day ULP strike. The strike comes after two years of negotiations with MDRC, which have resulted in little progress. Management is now refusing to negotiate the 2023 end-of-the-year wage increases for union members. MDRC is a non-profit, social policy research organization that conducts rigorous studies of programs and policies that affect people with low incomes and works with policymakers and practitioners to ensure the policies are effective. Alexander said members hope to make an impact by showcasing the need for the workers and educating the public on what is happening in negotiations. Alexander hopes the strike will push negotiations forward and, eventually, a first contract for his members.

After recognizing the union in 2020, Alexander said MDRC’s leadership hired a notoriously anti-union law firm to handle negotiations. As part of negotiations, Alexander talked about the wage issues that have come to light during the bargaining process, including learning that most workers make between $35,000 and $40,000 a year. The wages aren’t enough for workers to live in the cities where MDRC operates, including New York, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. Alexander called these “near-poverty wages” based on the city's cost of living.

After graduating with a post-graduate degree from Wesleyan College, Alexander found a need to research and impact policy to help eliminate systemic inequities. To do this, he found himself at MDRC, where he works as the Process Improvement Specialist and serves as the President of MDRC’s union, SPWU. Alexander explained the organizing efforts that led to the establishment of the SPWU at MDRC. 

To hear more about the situation with SPWU members at MDRC, listen to the show above.

America’s Work Force is the only daily labor podcast in the US and has been on the air since 1993, supplying listeners with useful, relevant input into their daily lives through fact-finding features, in-depth interviews, informative news segments and practical consumer reports. America’s Work Force is committed to providing an accessible venue in which America's workers and their families can hear discussion on important, relevant topics such as employment, healthcare, legislative action, labor-management relations, corporate practices, finances, local and national politics, consumer reports and labor issues.

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