About Us

Social movements require strong and diverse organizations, skilled leadership to envision change, dedicated and growing membership base to demand it, and cultures that move innovative strategies and structures that are rooted in racial, gender, and economic justice. The Center for Innovation in Worker Organization (CIWO) was created in 2014 to support worker and community organizations in these challenges. CIWO is a space where labor and community connect; where new research, ideas and strategies are shared and scrutinized; and where leaders and staff at all levels can refine their skills and develop new ones. To find more out more about CIWO’s approach to this work, click below.

Our Programs

Announcement! CIWO Leadership Transition

Image of Marilyn Sneiderman and Sheri DavisTen years ago, CIWO was founded at a time when many of us in the racial/gender/economic justice movements were searching for new ideas, direction, and strategy to address the devastating impact of 21st century racialized capitalism.

Under the leadership of Marilyn Sneiderman, CIWO has convened leaders and organizations to reveal points of alignment, sites of struggle, and opportunities for innovation across the movement. We are amazed at how far we have come in a decade – working with partners from across the movement to launch Build the Bench, Bargaining for the Common Good, WILL Empower, Innovation Seeding Transformation and so much more.

> Click Here to Read the Full Announcement

Announcing the new CIWO Advisory Committee!

On February 9th, 2024, CIWO convened our first Advisory Committee meeting via Zoom. The Advisory Committee will offer support with visioning the priorities, strategy, and programming for the next 10 years at CIWO. At the first meeting, the level of engagement was energizing and left us feeling inspired about all the ways that we can continue to commit to our movement. We look forward to continuing to engage the advisory council in the coming months.

Image of CIWO Advisory Committee

CIWO Advisory Committee Members:
  • Anna Branch, Senior Vice President for Equity, Rutgers University
  • Brittney Cooper, Associate Professor of Women's and Gender Studies and Africana Studies, Rutgers University
  • Cedric de Leon, Professor, University of Massachusetts Amherst
  • Jen Disla, Co-Executive Director, Leadership for Democracy and Social Justice, CUNY
  • Adrienne Eaton (Ex-Officio), Dean, Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations
  • Kathleen Gaspard, Deputy Director, Institute for Policy Studies
  • Marjona Jones, Director of Strategy & Programs, The LIFT Fund
  • Neneki Lee, Deputy to the Secretary Treasurer, Service Employees International Union
  • Darlene Lombos, President & Principal Officer, Greater Boston Labor Council
  • Andrea Mercado, Executive Director, Florida Rising
  • Liz Perlman, Executive Director, AFSCME 3299
  • Danielle Phillips-Cunningham, Associate Professor, Department of Labor Studies and Employment Relations, Rutgers University
  • Kyle Serette, National Educational Campaign Manager, National Education Association
  • Erica Smiley, Executive Director, Jobs with Justice
  • Angeles Solis, Director of Worker Organizing, Make the Road New York

Recent Happenings

CIWO hosts Global Strategy Session with allies at IFWEA Conference in Cape Town, South Africa 

CIWO, Labour Research Service (LRS) and allies convened a global strategy session in Cape Town, South Africa, including 31 labor educators, facilitators, activists and leaders working in highly feminized & low-wage precarious sectors, as well as from the building trades sector. Collectively, this group represented 22 organizations and 15 countries in Asia, Africa, Europe, North America, and South America. This strategy session was organized in concert with the 24th General Conference of International Federation of Workers' Education Association (IFWEA) from December 6-8, 2023.

> Read more

BCG holds WINS Series Webinar with Minnesota Labor Leaders

Last month over 400 organizers from around the country registered for “Minnesota Community and Labor Escalation,” a Webinar co-hosted by WINS and Bargaining for the Common Good (BCG). Leaders from SEIU Local 26, Inquilinxs Unidxs por Justicia, CTUL, Minneapolis Federation of Teachers, ISAIAH and SEIU Healthcare MN & IA described how they have worked together for the last decade to build alignment across their organizations. 

> Read more

Our Workers Innovating New Strategies (WINS) Series is Going Strong!

So far in 2024, the Workers Innovating New Strategies (WINS) Series has featured leaders from across the labor movement who are bringing innovation to organizational development, organizing strategy, and leadership development. Want to check out past webinars on these topics? Click here to watch WINS events on YouTube!

Next up? Transformative Practices to Engage Global Women Leaders on Feb 29th from 8-9:30am ET and Amazon Warehouses: Contemporary Forms of Worker Control on March 7th from 12-1:30pm ET. 

Click here to learn more and register for upcoming webinars. Most webinars will have live interpretation in English/Spanish!


Photo of Saumya Saumya

Saumya Saumya, a Fulbright Visiting Scholar from the National University Delhi, joined CIWO to research women’s and gender studies, focusing on women workers, their positionality, and voice expression.

> Learn more about Saumya

Photo of Kathleen GaspardKathleen Gaspard, Deputy Director of the Institute for Policy Studies has renewed her fellowship with CIWO Build the Bench. We are excited to have Kathleen’s continued guidance in supporting #2 leaders at worker centers and nonprofit organizations across the country!

Photo of Clara Mejia OrtaClara Mejía Orta, is working with Build the Bench on a visual identity project to better communicate the values of the program to our diverse network. Examples of her previous work include Labor of Love, the President’s Organizing Initiative at MLK Labor, AFL-CIO and WSLC Racial Equity and Policy Toolkit

Clara is a fourth-year student in the History PhD program at Yale University. Originally from Mexico and currently living in East Los Angeles, her research examines the lives and lived experiences of Latinx, immigrant, and refugee meatpacking workers in the United States and their efforts to gain collective bargaining rights through labor unions. During the pandemic Clara began conducting oral histories from meatpacking workers and labor leaders to center and highlight their perspectives. Prior to her graduate studies, she was a labor organizer for the United Food and Commercial Workers in Los Angeles—organizing meatpacking plants, grocery stores, and cannabis businesses, to win or ratify their contracts.

CIWO Heads to South Africa for IFWEA's 24th General Conference

CIWO, in partnership with Labour Research Service (LRS) in South Africa, will host a Leadership Journey Mapping (LJM) workshop and an accompanying strategy session during the 24th General Conference of International Federation of Workers' Education Association (IFWEA) in Cape Town, December 4-8, 2023. The workshop will highlight the Transformative Global Leadership Program (TGLP), a joint initiative of CIWO and LRS exploring transformative practices and experimental approaches to leadership development. Workshop participants will experience a visual mapping exercise followed by an interactive discussion on lessons learned on the use of narrative, metaphor, and technology for gendered approaches to leadership development.

Workshop participants will also join a discussion on lessons learned about the use of technology, graphic notation, and metaphor to bridge cultural, language, digital and geographic divides. The Leadership Journey Map (LJM)  has been offered both virtually and in-person, completed by more than 150+ women in countries including Nigeria, Sri Lanka, Belgium, Pakistan, South Africa, Philippines, United States, the Dominican Republic, Indonesia, Zimbabwe, and others.

CIWO and LRS, along with partners from Gender at Work, International Domestic Workers Federation (IDWF) and STOKE Collective, will also host a multi-day strategy session in conjunction with the IFWEA Conference. We will convene allies from Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East. The focus is advancing leadership development within worker justice organizations and institutions, giving special attention to feminized sectors and sectors where women are excluded from opportunities. The long-term goal is increased participation of gender minorities including women, nonbinary people etc., in decision-making roles within labor rights and worker justice movement building.

Spirit & Solidarity 

In mid-July, over 30 faith and labor leaders from 15 states and D.C. came together for a 2-day planning retreat at the Jewish Theological Seminary and Union Theological Seminary to relaunch a national organizing training program for seminary students and faith leaders.  The group plans to relaunch the training under the new name “Spirit and Solidarity” next summer in Tennessee.  The event was convened by  the Interreligious Network for Worker Solidarity, Bargaining for the Common Good (including advisory committee member Francisco Garcia), the Center for Innovation in Worker Organization at Rutgers University, and the Wendland-Cook Program in Religion and Justice at Vanderbilt University. 

Photo of BCG spirit group

Over the course of the retreat, participants discussed the current state of the timely, unique, and vital role of faith and labor partnerships to build power for workers.  The group heard from faith and labor leaders from around the country about how they are breaking down silos and building transformative long-term partnerships between faith and labor groups.  Participants heard from Abdirahman Muse from The AWOOD Center in Minneapolis, Pastor Rodney Wade from the Recovery For All Coalition and Vonda McDaniel from the Central Labor Council of Nashville and Middle Tennessee, who all shared stories of successful campaigns for the common good.

The palpable energy and enthusiasm of the cohort—many of whom had not previously met—demonstrated a clear need and desire for a new Spirit and Solidarity event.  People were excited to connect with each other as they shared stories and expertise, and developed deep relationships in just two days.  The group plans to expand their group to include an even more diverse set of leaders and organizations, and to continue meeting over the next year leading up to the summer 2024 training.   Spirit and Solidarity Summer will not only educate participants about the worker justice landscape (unions, worker centers, and cooperatives, how they work, why they matter), train people on basic relational organizing skills like one-on-one conversations, coalition building, and congregational/community engagement, but also provide a deeper theological, political, and economic analysis that can sustain the work for the long-haul.

BTB Leadership Network

Build the Bench Advisory Committee:

Build the Bench Fellows: Kathleen Gaspard, Felicia Griffin and Maria Elva Maldonado – learn more about our incredible fellows here.

Staff: Kasi Perreira, Director of Leadership and Organizational Change Programs at CIWO. Contact Kasi to learn more about Build the Bench and upcoming events for our network: kasi.perreira@rutgers.edu

Founding Bench-Builder: Marilyn Sneiderman, Executive Director, Center for Innovation in Worker Organization (CIWO) and Distinguished Professor of Professional Practice, Labor Studies and Employment Relations (LSER)

Image of WILL Empower Executive Leaders2023 – 2024 Executive Leaders Profiles

Our new executive cohort for the 2023-2024 year is HERE!!!

Check out our website to learn more about these leaders that will be coming together to drive labor leadership forward in innovative and unique ways.

> View the Executive Leaders Profiles

Doing Racial Justice in Labor Cohort

The Doing Racial Justice in Labor cohort is a space held by CIWO and supported by the Open Society Foundation. This cohort of leaders are moving and leading transformative racial justice work within their unions and community organizations. This cohort is designed for leaders to build cross-organizational relationships, support each other in the challenges that come with moving racial justice work in their organizations and communities, and innovate around responding to emerging needs in their work. 

The cohort emerged because while there have been historic RJ wins in recent years, there are ongoing efforts to create new barriers while undoing historic protections are happening all around us. At CIWO, we envision a future where All Black Lives Matter and where good stewardship of land and labor enables all working people to thrive. We believe that through community-building we can break out of silos and liberate ourselves from “divide and conquer” strategies. Transformative (rather than transactional) relationships allow activists/organizers to care for and ready ourselves for ever shifting crises and hard conversations; knowing we are not alone. 

> To learn about the cohort participants, click here.

Inaugural BCG Strategy Retreat!

Image of BCG retreat groupLast month, we hosted the very first BCG retreat for staff and organizers leading BCG campaigns and coalitions across the country. BCG organizers came together to plan, learn and strategize about how to seize the moment we are in to develop meaningful community labor-partnership, make bolder demands, and put it all into action. BCG staff members and organizers provide unions and community groups with training, research, and strategic engagement to develop and run BCG campaigns. If you are interested in getting involved, reach out to us!

It was great to sit with other state coordinators and learn from their unique experience and see the wide breadth of organizing work that is happening all over the country using this framework. - Dianne Enriquez, California Common Good

"The retreat really made clear to me the necessity of BCG in this moment of polarization in the U.S. I left feeling re-committed to using this framework to continue building the robust community-labor coalitions we need to win and using my role to build the capacity of local strategic researchers." - Gabby Noa Betancourt, ACRE

Image of Marilyn at BCG retreat    Image of BCG group

46th Women's Summer School Plenary on Gender-Based Violence in the Workplace (ILO C190) & CIWO's Transformative Global Leadership Program

Image of CIWO group at WSSJuly 13, 2023: The Transformative Global Leadership Program (TGLP), a joint initiative of the Center for Innovation in Worker Organization (CIWO) and Labor Research Service (LRS) in South Africa hosted a plenary session at the 46th United Association For Labor Education (UALE) Northeast Regional Women’s Summer School at Rutgers University. The session focused on what constitutes a “gendered” approach to organizing, using ILO Convention 190 as a case study. ILO Convention 190 (C190) is the first international treaty to address violence and harassment in the world of work, adopted in 2019.

Image of WSS panelThe event titled “A Gendered Approach to Organizing: Introduction to ILO Convention 190” was attended by over 140+ participants from the Women’s Summer School. The plenary session introduced key definitions and features of C190 and discussed potential ways to implement (even before ratification by countries) through Collective Bargaining Agreements, and measures on Occupational Health and Safety. This was followed by the Global Team sharing insights and lessons learned with examples of organizing using C190 in sectors such as street vendors, mine workers, domestic workers, and other groups from various regions of the world, including from South Africa and Latin America. Following the plenary, the facilitation team met with the Summer School participants in groups to answer questions and strategize ways that C190 can be integrated and implemented in their local workplace settings.

Speakers and facilitators included:Image of WSS panel

  • Nosipho Twala & Nina Benjamin (Labour Research Service-LRS), South Africa
  • madeleine kennedy-macfoy (Gender at Work)
  • Adriana Paz (International Domestic Workers Federation-IDWF)
  • Teyo Saree Abraham (STOKE Collective), visual scribe who captured discussion in live illustration
  • Sheri Davis, Ardra Manasi, Patricia Munoz, and MaryGrace DiMaria (CIWO)

Image of WSS panel