April 28, 2016

Ai-jen Poo ’92 honored with Fuess Award

Poo recognized for her work as a national labor organizer and social activist
by Phillips Academy

Phillips Academy celebrated Non Sibi Weekend 2016 by bestowing its highest honor on a member of the Class of 1992. John Palfrey presented Ai-jen Poo with the Claude M. Fuess award during Wednesday’s All-school meeting in Cochran Chapel. This was the 26th time the the award has been presented.

Poo is a national labor organizer and leader of a social movement demanding that federal and state labor laws and protections be expanded to include the domestic worker workforce — the workforce “that makes all other work possible,” says Poo.

As founding director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance and the Caring Across Generations campaign, Poo’s advocacy has spurred landmark legislation on both state and federal levels; so far, six states have passed historic domestic workers bills of rights. And just recently, Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, regulated a rule change that brought minimum wage and overtime protections to 1.8 million domestic workers, most of whom are women of color, many of them immigrants.

According to Poo, the major demographical shifts underway in the United States threaten to polarize Americans along racial and generational lines. The “elder boom,” as Poo called it, will place ever-greater demands on this unregulated workforce, compromising the health and wellbeing of both the caregiver and the care receiver.

“We’ve been taught this powerful myth for our whole lives ‘that we just got to get it together; go it alone; pull ourselves up by our bootstraps,’” Poo told the PA community. “But the truth is, once we’re born, we are part of an incredible web of human interdependence.”

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