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Alice B. Gates

This entry describes worker centers as new sites of community practice. Worker centers are community-based organizations focused on the needs of low-wage and immigrant workers. This new organizational form emerged most prominently in the United States since the mid-1990s, largely in response to concerns about workplace abuses in low-wage and informal sectors. Drawing on multiple traditions, including labor unions, settlement houses, and ethnic agencies, worker centers offer a hybrid approach to planned change: They support workers organizing for collective action, provide direct services, and advocate for policy change at state and local levels. In the last decade, worker centers have led the efforts to pass legislation protecting domestic workers and helped low-wage workers win millions of dollars in lost or stolen wages from employers. These and other notable examples of U.S. worker centers’ contributions to community practice and social justice will be discussed.


Louise Simmons

Social work often refers to economic justice but rarely considers what economic justice truly entails. This article specifies a number of areas that comprise economic justice issues and agendas. It also provides examples of how these issues are being advocated and many of the organizations that are involved in these campaigns. In addition, the text discusses the rationale for social work and social workers to be knowledgeable of and involved with economic justice initiatives. Six realms of economic justice are discussed, including inequality, workplace rights, living wage levels and minimum wages, immigrant rights in the workplace, community-labor partnerships, and social programs that support working families and individuals.


Paul A. Kurzman

Occupational (industrial) social work, one of the newest fields of policy and practice, has evolved since the mid-1960s to become a dynamic arena for social service and practice innovation. Focusing on work, workers, and work organizations, occupational social work provides unique opportunities for the profession to affect the decisions and provisions of management and labor. Despite the risks inherent in working in powerful and often proprietary settings, being positioned to help workers, their families, and job hunters enables professional social workers to have the leverage both to provide expert service and to become agents of progressive social change.