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

Making Hope and History Rhyme: A New Worker Movement from the Shell of the Old

image of two marches

In this December 2022 New Labor Forum article, authors Marilyn Sneiderman and Stephen Lerner reflect on the lessons of the past half-century & assess the strategic challenges and opportunities confronting a new generation of workers, activists, and organizers.


> Read the full article

> Listen to a discussion of the article on the Reinventing Solidarity Podcast

Labor Rising: Is the Working Class Experiencing a New CIO Moment?

Image of CIWO BTB Advisory Committee MeetingIn this piece in The Progressive Magazine (October 10, 2022), author Sarah Jaffe describes how the CIO benefited from the momentum generated by overlapping protest movements: tenant, immigrant, and anti-racist organizing, all in response to the massive crisis of the Great Depression. Against this background of desperation, the organizers of the 1930s were willing to put resources behind a new path for organizing. Marilyn Sneiderman says that is what unions and organizers should emulate. “This is a time for some massive experimentation, some radical risk-taking, pushing every boundary.”

> Read the full article

Build the Bench Advisory Committee Gathers in
Washington, DC

Image of CIWO BTB Advisory Committee MeetingMembers of the Build the Bench Advisory Committee and CIWO gathered on Friday, September 9, 2022 in Washington, DC to strategize the future of Build the Bench. It was the first in person meeting for the Build the Bench program since the Annual Convening in July 2019. 

> Read more about the Meeting

Announcing the "Building a Movement for the Common Good" Article Series 

image of diverse group of women

Bargaining for the Common Good (BCG) has partnered with the Nonprofit Quarterly (NPQ) on a new series of articles about BCG strategy and experiences from those who are doing the work. NPQ is publishing a new article weekly through the end of October. 

> Read the first piece at NPQ, an Introduction to Bargaining for the Common Good.

> Click Here to access the ongoing series as new articles are published each week.

Always Essential Fellowship Launches September 2022

Image of CIWO Always Essential FellowshipCIWO is partnering with United for Respect & the Always Essential Coalition for the 2022 Always Essential Fellowship.

The goal of Always Essential Fellowship is to expose and challenge essential worker leaders to learn new skills, tools, and power analyses that allow them to deepen their understanding of their roles in the larger labor movement and connect with one another to win campaigns that make concrete improvements in the lives of all essential workers. The fellowship will run from September 2022 – February 2023.

Bargaining for the Common Good: Ford Foundation is supporting SMLR’s Center for Innovation in Worker Organization in the fight for racial and social justice.

image of diverse group of women Marilyn Sneiderman says Ford Foundation's support through the #OurSocialBond initiative enabled our Center for Innovation in Worker Organization, Georgetown's Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor, and Action Center on Race and the Economy to turbocharge Bargaining for the Common Good.

> Click here to read more.

CIWO Partners with CAWP for Womxn Political Directors Convening May 2022

Image of CIWO Partners with CAWP From May 22nd – May 24th, 2022, past and current Political Directors and labor activists gathered at Rutgers University. CIWO partnered with the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP) at the Rutgers University Eagleton Institute. Leaders from the following worker justice organizations were in attendance: SEIU 503, United Working Families, Chicago Teachers Union, Washington State Labor Council, The Workers Institute at Cornell University, SEIU 2015, SEIU International, Detroit Action, the Institute for Policy Studies, the NYC Central Labor Council, and AFSCME.

> Click Here to Read More

Build the Bench hosts 8th Annual Convening in May 2022

"As always BTB renews, refreshes, and affirms me and I love it!”

Image of Participants
On May 19-20, 2022, participants from over 20 organizations came together virtually for our eighth annual Build the Bench Convening. This was our third time convening virtually, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 


> Click Here to Read More


A Message from CIWO

Our hearts are heavy for the people who were murdered, those who were harmed, and the families and communities who are directly and indirectly impacted by recent mass shootings in Buffalo, NY and Laguna Woods, CA that occurred over the weekend. We also stand with the more than 1 million people who marched for the right to privacy and for protections for all pregnant people to make choices for their future.

The right to an abortion AND the right to live free from patriarchal violence and white supremacy are all labor issues. We at CIWO believe that racial justice cannot solely be about responding to national crises. Race and gender justice is the practice of making connections that expose and eradicate racism and sexism in our communities, our workplaces, and our movements. Racial justice and gender justice should be centered in all the work, all the time, within all forms of worker justice organizations that make up our movements.

In this time of grieving and prolonged mourning, we encourage folks to pause and reflect; to feel the weight of what is happening in this moment. We cannot continue to push forward as if these attacks on our freedoms are isolated one-off incidents. We cannot be(come) desensitized to violence, which is the bedrock of white supremacy and patriarchy. We cannot normalize political violence, which too often is perpetrated by men, and serves to destabilize the march towards justice and freedom! It is imperative that we investigate the ways that the members of our organizations and the diverse communities that we serve are traumatized and hurting. In labor, we must work to remedy these injuries through storytelling, power-building and by leveraging the strength of our institutions for lasting transformation towards a multiracial economic feminist democracy.

If you or someone that you are in network with workers at a TOPS grocery stores in NY State, UFCW Local 1 is offering free counseling. Please see their post linked here to access services.

Black History - Black Futures

A Conversation with Stacy Davis Gates, Chicago Teachers Union

Image of Black History, Black Futures conversation with Stacy Davis Gates

CIWO is proud to share a recent collaboration with the Labor Education Action Research Network (LEARN) that aims to honor Black history by imagining and cultivating Black futures.

This powerful conversation with our special guest, the dynamic Stacy Davis Gates (Vice President, Chicago Teachers Union - AFT Local 1), is a part of Rutgers SMLR's ongoing celebration of Black History Month and Black leadership in labor movements throughout history.

> Click here to watch the video

Strategies & Reflections from the Womxn's Leadership Symposium

Image of 2021 Womxn's Labor Leadership Symposium & Awards

WILL Empower hosted the first Womxn’s Labor Leadership Symposium & Awards on September 30 and October 1, 2021. The Symposium featured the testimony and narrative of leaders across the country, including Lauren Jacobs of Power Switch Action; Veronica Mendez-Moore of Centro Trabajadores Unidos en la Lucha; Sara Steffens of Communications Workers; Sarita Gupta of the Ford Foundation, Stacy Davis-Gates of the Chicago Teachers Union; and Tanya Wallace-Gobern of the National Black Worker Center.  

> Click here to learn more about the Symposium

CIWO Wins New Jersey Future of Work Accelerator Innovation Challenge

We are so proud and grateful to announce that CIWO is among the 19 winners selected for the inaugural cohort in the New Jersey Future of Work Accelerator Program, which will support us in growing our work and social impact in New Jersey.  Read more at Insider NJ and ROI-NJ

CIWO Featured in Rutgers-New Brunswick Impact Report

Image of New Brunswick Impact Report coverCIWO's work helping organizations incubate and launch innovative research agendas, strategies, and community/labor organizational programs resulting in stronger workers’ organizations and greater economic and social equality was featured in the Rutgers University Foundation Summer 2021 Impact Report.

"Thanks to the Center for Innovation in Worker Organization, my peers and I began an energizing and much-needed dialogue on how we can begin to share what we know and are learning.... This is how we will win, together."

— Lauren Jacobs, executive director, Partnership for Working Families

< Read the complete report