Phela Townsend was a policy entrepreneur at Next100 and now provides strategic consulting and support to grassroots, community worker organizations focused on base-building, digital organizing, and addressing disinformation while completing her PhD in Labor and Industrial Relations at Rutgers University. Phela is a scholar-activist committed to advancing racial, social, and economic justice, while working at the intersection of workers’ rights, advocacy, and policy. She focuses on issues at the intersection of labor and technology policy, and strengthening the capacity and power of worker organizations and workers, especially women, workers of color and other marginalized communities, and those who lack the necessary rights and protections. Her work aims to build awareness and to address key policy and non-policy barriers and solutions for building more sustainable and powerful worker organizations and a labor movement where all workers feel that they belong,
Phela has recently written several articles and reports on the intersections of the labor movement and emerging technology and tech policy while continuing to work toward her PhD in human Resources and industrial relations. Her recent work has explored the lessons that the Movement for Black Lives and the pandemic have offered for digital organizing, how data privacy is a labor rights issue, how the digital divide harms workers, and the risks the rise of AI pose to workers’ rights.
Phela is currently a PhD candidate at the Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations. Her research touches several areas, including critical race theory; economic inequality; how technology is changing work and impacting workers; and newer forms of worker voice and representation. She has a BS in industrial and labor relations from Cornell University and an MBA from the MIT Sloan School of Management. While she was born in Rochester, New York, Phela identifies as a native of the “DMV” (D.C.-Maryland-Virginia) area, where she spent most of her childhood and teen years before attending college.