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

CIWO joins the Global 16 Days Campaign to Address Gender-Based Violence (GBV) in the World of Work

Image of Global 16 Days CampaignWomen workers in both formal and informal sectors face varied forms of gender-based violence (GBV) and harassment. According to the findings of a 2022 survey led by the International Trade Union Federation (ITUC) in 79 countries, 73% of unions surveyed pointed out that violence and harassment in the world of work has increased in the last five years. Women are disproportionately impacted by GBV in the world of work due to harmful gender stereotypes, multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination, and unequal power relations. For example, existing data shows how women with disabilities, indigenous women, women of African descent, and non-binary groups face increased risks of GBV due to the intersection of gender, race, ethnicity, disability and other determinants.

This calls for strong workplace policies that address GBV as well as national laws and regulations to address the same. A milestone moment was achieved for both labor and women’s rights movements when ILO Convention 190 (C190) was adopted in 2019. C190 is the international treaty to address violence and harassment in the world of work. To date, 36 countries have ratified C190. C190 frameworks can also be implemented even before its formal ratification by countries through Occupational safety policies or collective bargaining agreements. The Dindigul Agreement which incorporated provisions of C190 to provide protection for 5,000 garment workers against GBV in Tamil Nadu in India offers a strong example of implementation and enforcement.

If GBV in the world of work is unaddressed, it can spiral into femicides or the gender-related killings of women and girls. Certain sectors are at heightened risk of femicides due to intersecting forms of discrimination faced by women workers. For example, female sex workers are 18 times more likely to be killed than women in other sectors. Women who work in the formal sector such as women judges, parliamentarians, trade union leaders, journalists, and activists who publicly advocate against GBV can also be at increased risk of femicides.

CIWO’s Transformative Global Leadership Program (TGLP) has investigated the reasons why women and gender oppressed groups are being left out of decision-making spaces including from trade unions, worker centers and economic justice organizations. This joint initiative of CIWO and Labour Research Service (LRS) in South Africa examines the leadership journeys of women and nonbinary groups through a Leadership Journey Mapping (LJM) workshop. This visual mapping tool uses metaphors and narrative storytelling to document the unique experience of women worker leaders. More than 150+ women from 26 countries have participated in these workshops. A recurring theme emerging from these workshops is how issues pertaining to risk and safety negatively impact women and deter them from pursuing leadership.

The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence (also, the Global 16 Days Campaign) is an international campaign that runs annually from November 25 (International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women) to December 10 (Human Rights Day). It was first launched in 1991 by activists at the Center for Women’s Global Leadership (CWGL), Rutgers University. From 2019 to 2021, the Global 16 Days Campaign at CWGL focused on the multi-year theme of ending gender-based violence (GBV) in the world of work, by calling on countries to ratify C190.

During this Global 16 Days Campaign, CIWO calls on all governments to ratify and implement C190 and all stakeholders to address GBV and femicides in the world of work. In July 2023, CIWO joined hands with its global partners Gender at Work, Labour Research Service (LRS), & the International Domestic Workers Federation (IDWF) to host a plenary session on C190 which was attended by 140+ participants at the 46th United Association For Labor Education (UALE) Northeast Regional Women’s Summer School at Rutgers University. “CIWO continues to remain committed to addressing GBV in the world of work and we believe in a gendered approach to organizing around this. This can be fundamental to shifting the culture of trade unions and worker centers to make decision-making spaces more accessible for women,” said Sheri Davis, Associate Director at CIWO.


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.

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