Our Intern from the Colin Powell School Internship Program- we say thank you!

Exploring Worker Justice: A Journey into the Intersection of Immigration, Labor Rights, and Cooperative Business Models

By Vanessa Crowe

As an Economics student who is deeply passionate about social service, my participation in this internship alongside Rebecca helped refine my ideas and interest in the public sector. The research aspect of this internship was especially transformative as I did a deep dive into understanding the alternative options for excluded workers in the labor market. This work is important because as an immigrant myself, seeking and exploring the challenges faced by immigrant communities and using structures that are already built in our society like the importance around collective and communal living, is essential to making sure this economy can work for us and not the other way around.

I was given the opportunity of collecting data through research and managing the project materials for our guide on co-ops targeted towards excluded workers. I read articles ranging from understanding labor laws to how common practices like sou-sou’s or community banks in the Caribbean are similar to the structure of cooperative business models. The journey was not only academic but it was also deeply important to my personal growth. Before this internship, I actively participated in day–to-day operations for worker cooperatives gaining insight into the unique dynamics of them. It was interesting to see the effect that collective decision-making had on not only the shared owners but also the clients they serve. However, this internship provided me the space to research co-ops from the outside looking deeper into the different structures and how to determine what is the best option depending on one’s needs.

I gained practical research skills in data collection and analysis but I also honed in on my management and communication skills. From manning the research spreadsheets and a contact database to sending reminders to meeting attendees, that aspect of this internship was essential in building my comfortability around Google+ and communicating with highly respected individuals. The research completed was very important but, sharing and listening to insights from experts and fellow researchers in the social science field was invaluable. Working with Rebecca was extremely flexible in the sense that I received the opportunity to meet with people in so many different fields of studies and work at my own pace to accomplish tasks. I have met and went above my initial goals for this internship purely by being given the opportunity to immerse myself into the environment with seasoned professionals and developing a deeper understanding of ways to overcome challenges by not always following the status quo but considering other options like co-ops for excluded workers.