Joint Center News: March 30, 2018

Sadly, in March we lost Togo West Jr., a former Joint Center President and former member of President Clinton’s cabinet. We also engaged in talks with several organizations around the country to discuss the future of work and congressional staff diversity. Details below.


Togo West, who served as President and CEO of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies from 2004 to 2006 and as President Clinton’s Secretary of Veterans Affairs, passed on Thursday, March 8, at the age of 75. His memorial service will be on Tuesday, April 24, 2018 at 2 pm at Washington National Cathedral.

“The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies is deeply saddened to have learned of the passing of our former President and CEO, Togo West,” said Joint Center President Spencer Overton. “He brought an extensive career of achievement and credibility to the Joint Center. Throughout his life, he was committed to serving his nation and community. The entire team at the Joint Center mourns the loss of an exceptional lawyer, public servant, husband, and father. His family remains in our thoughts and prayers.” website for more on the accomplishments and celebrations of Mr. West’s life, his NY Times and Washington Post obituaries, and statements from former President Bill Clinton and others.


Joint Center Collaborates with ABFE and CBC: On March 15 the Joint Center hosted an event in conjunction with ABFE – A Philanthropic Partnership for Black Communities and the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC). Members of Congress and philanthropic leaders discussed the future of work, economic development, voting rights, and criminal justice. Read more on our blog.

Joint Center Joins other Black Organizations to Present to Democratic Senators on Future of Work and Other Issues Critical to the Black Community: Spencer joined the Presidents of the NAACP, National Urban League, Lawyers’ Committee, National Bar Association, and National Coalition on Black Civic Participation to talk about key issues with Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (NY) and over a dozen other members of the U.S. Senate Democratic Caucus. More here.

Joint Center Meetings on Future of Work in Bay Area: From March 6 – 9, Spencer traveled to California for meetings with the Partnership on Artificial Intelligence, Uber, the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, Stanford University professors, the Hewlett Foundation, and the Chan Zuckerberg Foundation to talk about the future of work. On March 7 – 8, he participated in an Aspen Institute future of work conference at Google X—the Moonshot Factory.

Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin speaks on preparing for the future of work, and endorses public employment, subsidized apprenticeships, and subsidized lifelong learning. More in Technology Review

Tariffs May Lead to More Automation: President Trump’s new wave of tariffs could lead to increased workforce automation. Read more in Forbes here
African Nations at Risk for Automation: A report from the Overseas Development Institute warns against neglecting the effects automation could have in Africa. Read the summary from BBC
Robots Can Lay Bricks: One company is working on a solution to tackle labor shortages in the industry. More from the NY Times here.


Diversity in Advocacy Reception: On March 7,Staff Up Congressa partnership between the Joint Center and the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund, co-hosted a reception with the Government Affairs Industry Network and the Grassroots Professional Network, in cooperation with the Congressional Tri-Caucus Staff Associations. Read more on our blog.

National Urban League Podcast: This month, Don Bell, Director of the Black Talent Initiative, was a guest on the National Urban League podcast “For the Movement.” Don discussed the Joint Center’s landmark 2015 Report on Racial Diversity among top Senate staff, current efforts to increase diversity on Capitol Hill, and our efforts to complete a 2018 report on U.S. House staff diversity. Click here to listen to the podcast (March 25, 2018).

Speaking to Harlem Students about Capitol Hill: On March 15, Don Bell, Director of the Black Talent Initiative, spoke to Harlem Academy students about the importance of civic participation and diversity in government. More on our blog.

Joint Center moderates panel on DC Legal and Policy Careers for Hampton University students: Spencer moderated a panel on law school and legal careers for Hampton University students with LaQuita Honeysucker of the United Food & Commercial Workers International Union, Michele Jawando of the Center for American Progress, Rachael Johnson of the National Resources Defense Council, and Nicole Collier of Nestle.
Advice from Five Black Women on Capitol Hill: Jamira Burley, Ayshia Connors, Jennifer DeCasper, Symone Sanders, and Tara Setmayer share their motivations, advice, and inspirations with Forbes here.

Joint Center Mourns Passing of Curtis Etherly: DC native, civil rights champion, Coca Cola government relations professional, and Joint Center friend Curtis Etherly sadly passed on March 19. He is survived by his wife, Nohemee, and his two children, Ezra and Alex. If you would like to support his family during this difficult time please visit their GoFundMe page. More on Curtis and memorial services (family visitation on April 2, funeral on April 3) here. Chuy Garcia Wins Primary in a Landslide: Joint Center Roundtable Alum Chuy Garcia secured 66% of the vote in the Democratic primary for the 4th Congressional District of Illinois. Read more about his win from the Chicago Sun Times here

The Joint Center is seeking a Senior Policy Analyst for Workforce Development to drive our future of work research and policy efforts. Details here. Opportunity@Work is seeking candidates for full-time Summer Interns and a Business Project Manager.

  • The Black unemployment rate for February was 6.9 percent. More here.
  • The Economic Policy Institute released a report comparing the status of African Americans in 1968 and 2018, and found that African Americans today are better educated and have improved wages, wealth, and health, that unemployment and home-ownership rates have remained about the same, and that rates of incarceration have almost tripled. More here.
  • Engaging Podcasts: Joe Jerome reviews the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, Hank Greely talks ethics and regulations of genetic cancer testing, and Sally Culley discusses gig workers with Joe Miller on his latest episodes of the WashingTECH Tech Policy Podcast.
  • The Daily Show hilariously disrupts the legal system with robots in their latest skit.
  • New research from Stanford, Harvard, and the Census Bureau dispel myths on income inequality and race. Read a summary from The Roothere.
  • Kapor Center for Social Impact’s The Leaky Tech Pipeline Reporteveals that negative workplace cultures, harassment, inequitable pay, and bias in promotion contribute to high turnover by African Americans, Latinos, and women in tech, and provides recommendations to address the issue.
  • BP America, Inc. announces Susan Dio as new Chairman and President.
  • National Association of Broadcasters requests proposals for its Incubator program.

  • National Action Network’s 2018 Convention will be April 18 – 21 in NYC. Register here.
  • National Forum of Black Public Administrators Conference will be April 18 – 22 in Cleveland, OH. Spencer will speak on the future of work on April 20. Register here.
  • African American Mayors Association 2018 Annual Conference will be April 25 – 27 in Washington, DC. Spencer will speak on the future of work, smart cities, and autonomous vehicles. Register here.
  • The National Organization for Black County Officials’ Economic Development Conference will be May 2 – 6 in Prince George’s County, MD. Register here.
  • Black Communities: A Conference for Collaboration will be April 23 – 25 in Durham, NC. Spencer will lead a working group on the future of work in Black communities with Mark Little on April 23. Register here.
  • Dr. Margaret Simms, a prolific writer and leading expert on the economic well-being of African Americans, is retiring. Dr. Simms worked for 21 years at the Joint Center (including as Interim President) and currently works at the Urban Institute. We look forward to celebrating her many contributions to the Joint Center, to African Americans in think tanks, to our community, and to our nation.
  • The 2018 North America Think Tank Summit will be April 11 – 12 in Washington, DC. On April 12 Spencer will introduce keynote speaker Michael Chui of McKinsey Global Institute, who will speak on AI and the future of work. Pre-registerhere.
  • ABFE’s 2018 “The Fierce Urgency of Now” Conference will be April 14 – 16 in Memphis, TN. Spencer will speak on April 16 on building Black political power. Register here.
  • The memorial service for past Joint Center President Togo West will be April 24 in Washington, DC. More details here.
  • The AFL-CIO and Cornell University’sStrategic Corporation program will be from June 10 – 15 in Ithaca, NY. The once-a-year training is desigate Research Summer School ned for students and others who want to work as researchers in unions and other social change organizations. Applyhere.