Eric Lotke started with a life of crime. When he was in elementary school he entertained himself by breaking into his school over the weekends (taking nothing, messing nothing up, and closing up tight behind him). Many years later as a lawyer and policy advocate, he worked to improve the criminal legal system. His writings include The Real War on Crime and multiple studies that basically say the same thing: We lock up too many people (especially people of color) and don’t do enough to keep people safe. His legal advocacy included groundbreaking lawsuits against private prison companies (the Corrections Corporation of America in Youngstown OH) and over the exploitative cost of phone calls from prison. He also helped manage treatment programs for sex offenders and victims, and violence prevention programs in DC schools. His original research about how the Census Bureau counts people in prison – where they are locked up, not where they come from – has led to changes in over ten states so far.
After crime he became research director at the Campaign for America’s Future, a major progressive think-tank in Washington DC. His team published headline research on subjects ranging from health care to clean energy to manufacturing. More importantly, he started to think differently about organized labor – not as the forces against police reform but as the folks who brought us the weekend.
Eventually he became so committed to worker organizing, he left his window job at the think tank to become a staff researcher at Service Employees International Union (SEIU, “Justice for Janitors”) then the National Education Association (NEA). He worked with state and local government budgets, and developed special expertise on matters of privatization and contracting out.
Lotke is the author of three novels, Union Made, Making Manna and 2044: The Problem isn’t Big Brother, it’s Big Brother, Inc. Before any of that, as readers of Making Manna may guess, he earned his living as a chef.