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Atlantic Fellows for Social and Economic Equity
Lauren Burke AFSEE

Lauren Burke

Organizing Institute Assistant Director, AFL-CIO

Lauren is the Organizing Institute Assistant Director for the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO). Her current work focuses on training organisers to have the skills needed to win campaigns that build worker power and improve wages and working conditions. Previously, as the Organizing Director at the Labor Network for Sustainability, her work focused on just transition and building bridges between the labour movement and the climate justice movement.

Lauren’s career as an organiser began in 2006 when she became a worker organiser with UNITE HERE, after several years participating as a student organiser at Yale University and a member of HERE Local 35. Over the next decade, she organised and led campaigns that won union recognition for over 1,400 hotel and food service workers. Most of her work with UNITE HERE was focused on getting people to face their fears, believe in themselves, and take the risks necessary to demand from their employers either union recognition or a better labour contract. Lauren has recruited and trained scores of grassroots leaders; she has taught organisers how to replicate this recruitment and training with other workers. She has designed and led campaigns so that these risks actually lead to concrete and defensible improvements in workers’ lives.

Lauren’s passion for working at the intersection of environmental and labour issues started when she led the Real Food Real Jobs campaign at five Washington, DC-area universities. This campaign linked the provision of healthy and sustainable food in university cafeterias with access to healthy and affordable food in the communities where university workers lived. The success of Real Food Real Jobs depended upon recognising cooks and food service workers as the authorities on providing healthy sustainable food to their communities. In the end, the campaign translated workers’ pride in their jobs into power that they mobilised against the deskilling of their labour.

Lauren holds a MSc in Inequalities and Social Science from the London School of Economics and Political Science.

I plan to lead campaigns to engage workers in “just transition” campaigns in the food, transport, and energy industries. If humanity is to survive the next century, these resource-intensive industries are where we must focus our efforts on reducing carbon emissions. Further, given the centrality of each of these industries to the functioning of the global economy, laying a foundation for a "just transition" here will offer a model for the creation of stable, sustainable, and far more equitable economy.

Lauren Burke


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