Beginning my Frederick Internship: Labor Advocacy in Cleveland

Hello, Pitt Honors community! My name is Michael Bracken, and I am a recipient of the David C. Frederick Public Service Internship Award for Summer 2022.

I was born and raised in Pittsburgh and have just finished my Junior year at Pitt. I am excited to continue pursuing BAs in Political Science and History this Fall, along with my minor in Philosophy. Away from the classroom, I have been heavily involved in advocacy-focused student leadership, including several semesters as president of the Student Marxists of Pittsburgh, as vice president of Pitt Students for Justice in Palestine, and as a letter writer for the student chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby. I have also worked in customer service as an associate at companies like Amazon and ALDI, experiences that have nurtured my commitment to labor advocacy. In my free time (which grows more and more precious as I approach graduation!), I strive to enrich my understanding of world politics, history, and philosophy, which are not only academic interests but the true passions of my life. I am also known to enjoy a low-stakes poker game with my roommates, during which you’ll usually find us listening to plenty of music ranging from Marvin Gaye to Hall & Oates to Metallica.

My studies at Pitt have been informed by a desire to better understand the ideas and historical conditions undergirding movements toward socioeconomic justice and equality, particularly the labor movement. Helping working-class Americans secure their fair share in dignified conditions is my primary professional goal. After graduating in May 2023, I aim to work for an agency or organization that emphasizes the defense of lawful organizing, unionization, fair labor practices, and a diverse and inclusive workplace. After accumulating enough experience and gaining my colleagues’ trust, I hope to earn a leadership position in such an institution.

This summer marks an exciting step toward attaining that goal. I will be interning with the North Shore AFL-CIO Federation of Labor in Cleveland, Ohio, which represents roughly 100,000 workers in three counties. There, I expect to engage in a variety of activities with the aims of cultivating local solidarity with working people and of advancing the AFL-CIO’s local, regional, and national objectives. These tasks will include promoting active workplace unionization campaigns across the city, helping to plan calls-to-action in support of such campaigns, corresponding directly with affiliate unions regarding the federation’s legislative priorities, and organizing canvassing and phone-banking efforts.

I chose this internship in the hope that it will provide a firsthand impression of the dynamics and the main concerns of American labor, elevating me from a mere academic observer of the movement to a conscious agent helping to facilitate change. Working for a group as wide-reaching and well-respected as the AFL-CIO will give me an effective channel to accrue meaningful experience in grassroots working-class politics and to work toward my overarching goal. This experience, then, may pave the way for similarly promising opportunities after graduation.

Interning will be a novel experience for me, and my stay in Cleveland will be my first time away from Pittsburgh without family or friends by my side. Nevertheless, I am eager to start and more determined than ever to become a dedicated advocate for workers. My thanks go to Mr. David Frederick, the Internship Committee, and the University Honors College for providing all the necessary resources, knowledge, and encouragement. Onward to Cleveland!

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