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Laurie Ann Atienza ’11

Laurie Ann Atienza ’11

The child of Phillipine immigrants, Laurie Ann Atienza ’11 was born and raised on Guam. Growing up in a middle-class, Catholic household, she sought an education and career that aligned with her values.

Since graduating from the ILR School a decade ago, Atienza has spent most of her personal and professional life advocating for working people. She is currently a labor economist in the research and collective bargaining services department at the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), one of the largest labor unions representing public employees in the United States.

Living in Washington, D.C., one of the most expensive places to live in the U.S., Atienza is passionate about affordable housing and used her ILR skills to organize a tenants association in her rent-controlled apartment building and join DC’s first city-wide tenants union. 

1) How did ILR change you?

ILR was instrumental in my decision to pursue a career in the labor movement. At a young age, I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in social justice but was unsure how to go about achieving that and what such a career would look like. My ILR education was enlightening in many ways. ILR showed me the possibility of a career in social justice with the labor movement. ILR’s Social Justice Career Fair was a great resource and opportunity to learn of career options for those who, like me, knew that a traditional corporate job was not the right fit. I would not be where I am today without my ILR education.

On a more personal note, some of my best, lifelong friends are also ILRies. My life would be duller without them, and I have ILR to thank for introducing us.

2) How are you making an impact through your experiences at ILR?

I am a proud member of the labor movement, both as a union member and union staff. My ILR education provided me the foundational knowledge and skills to pursue a fulfilling career in the labor movement seeking social and economic justice.

At ILR, we are taught that “all labor has dignity,” and I have the privilege of working every day to ensure that this is held true. As a labor economist at AFSCME, I work to empower workers across the country to demand strong union contracts with fair wages and benefits and safe, decent workplaces. To put it simply, I work to prove that there is, in fact, power in a union.

3) How might the mission of ILR help shape the next 75 years of work, labor and employment?

ILR has been at the forefront in shaping thought and policy around work, labor and employment and will continue to lead the way. ILR’s investment in research through its various centers, projects and initiatives will help the school continue to be a thought leader in fields such as human resources, disability studies, conflict resolution and workers’ rights. And, with increasing inequality and a climate crisis in our midst, I believe The Worker Institute is uniquely positioned to shape research and policy to address these concerns from the perspective of workers, and I am eager to see more of their research in the future.