March 20, 2024

Erica Smiley

Honoring the life of Carl Kenneth Lipscombe

Jobs With Justice lost another giant this week.

On March 15, 2024, long-time network leader Carl Lipscombe passed away in Brooklyn, New York. Carl first came to the JWJ network from Brooklyn College via the Student Labor Action Project (SLAP). He joined the national Jobs With Justice staff in 2003 to lead SLAP nationally, transitioning to New York Jobs with Justice (now the Alliance for a Greater New York- ALIGN-NY) in 2006 to be their Director of Organizing and Communications.

He left there to co-start the Right-to-the-City Alliance, a core partner of the Jobs With Justice coalitions that are heavily organizing around housing and landlessness. He used similar skills to hold the earliest stages of the Future of Work Initiative together between JWJ, the National Guestworkers Alliance, National Peoples Action (now Peoples Action), and the National Domestic Workers Alliance, an effort that is partly responsible for shifting how philanthropy understand the role of workers in questions about the shifting nature of work. He eventually went to law school and helped to build out the litigation program for the Black Alliance for Just Immigration before returning to the Bronx – where he was born – to work for the Bronx Defenders providing holistic criminal defense to low-income people in the community. He later became the executive director of the Envision Freedom Fund, combining his work in labor, immigration, and criminal justice to fight for those disproportionately impacted by incarceration, detention, and surveillance.

Despite all these accolades, the thing many of us will undoubtedly remember most is his voice. He sang karaoke at JWJ Trainings and conferences. He sang as a part of his After Work Theater group. He sang on the edge of the platform waiting for the subway train (or ‘metro’ when he lived in DC). He sang into the bullhorn at actions when everyone else was suddenly too shy to lead the chants.

He was always singing, and laughing, and writing, and playing. When we think of movement culture and culture change, we should think of Carl, who embodied it.

The national team at JWJ is working with Carl’s family, friends, and colleagues to plan a memorial for him. In the meantime, visit Carl Lipscombe ( to share your own stories and photos of our brilliant comrade.

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