UW News

April 25, 2014

Worker struggles, immigrant rights topic of social work series in May

News and Information

Part of the mural "Struggle Against Racial Discrimination" (1945) by Paul O' Higgins was commissioned by the Shipscalers, Drydock and Miscellaneous Workers Union in Seattle. It now hangs in UW's Kane Hall.

Part of the mural “Struggle Against Racial Discrimination” (1945) by Paul O’ Higgins was commissioned by the Shipscalers, Drydock and Miscellaneous Workers Union in Seattle. It now hangs in UW’s Kane Hall.Oscar Rosales Castaneda

Mental health and social services dominate the field of social work today, but the profession has roots in the early 1900s in supporting workers’ and unions’ rights. To revitalize the link between labor rights and social work, the University of Washington’s School of Social Work will host a series of discussions called Working Together for Labor Justice.

The public series will be throughout Labor History Month in May. It will include events on fair wages, immigrant workers, decent working conditions, the right to organize, and global pressures on workers.

The events will be held at the School of Social Work, 4101 15th Avenue NE, Seattle, Wash., 98105. Descriptions and lists of panelists for each event is available online.

The schedule includes:
April 30: Global <—> Local:  Linking global immigration and labor issues to local experiences
May 7: Im/migrant laborers’ rights: Those who farm our food, clean our hotels, and build our homes
May 8: Underpaid direct care workers: The backbone of the long-term care system
May 14: A living wage, the $15 minimum wage, and me
May 15: The social worker as “professional” and as “worker” in labor struggles
May 21: UW Scholars: Interdisciplinary perspectives on labor
May 22: Screening of “Inequality for All”

“Part of the goal is to raise awareness for the role of underpaid work in producing poverty, and workers’ rights,” said Diane Morrison, one of the series’ organizers and a UW professor of social work.

The series also aims to bring more attention to the rights of immigrant workers – who are prominent in the Pacific Northwest farming and service workforce, she said. They face a host of problems including employers withholding payment for hours worked, lower than legal wages, lack of access to compensation for injuries or unemployment insurance, and threats of deportation.

“We should be concerned about how immigrant workers are used and abused, but in recent decades much of professional social work has been focused on mental and social services,” Morrison said. “We need to better integrate issues related to immigrant workers, and think carefully about how they participate in the work world.”