Center for Innovation in Worker Organization (CIWO)


The Center for Innovation in Worker Organization (CIWO) at Rutgers University was founded in late 2014 to engage leaders, activists, and staff from labor unions, worker centers and community-based organizations to generate new ideas, strategies, tactics and programs to deal with the changing workplace, workforce and the results of rising economic inequality and insecurity. Through innovative research, capturing and disseminating lessons from ongoing experimentation, and organizing gatherings where key leaders are brought together across organizations and networks, CIWO seeks to serve as a launching pad for new strategies in community and labor organizing and to provide support to broader movements for racial and economic justice. Our leadership convenings, trainings, and research involve leaders regionally, nationally and globally.

What We Do:

Our specific programs include strengthening the capacity of unions and other economic justice organizations to grow their membership and become more financially sustainable, building the bench of future leaders by supporting leadership development of staff and leaders; developing new forms of collective bargaining that address the broad concerns of community and labor; and developing innovative enforcement mechanisms for labor standards by promoting strong partnerships between investigators, worker, community and non-profit legal organizations. Our ambition is to become a centralized resource for organizations to turn to for real-time information and strategies, and to build greater momentum for our collective mission: to shift the balance of power toward restoring equity in our economy and society.


CIWO’s main initiatives include the following:

  • Building Women’s Leadership in Unions and Worker Centers - CIWO is teaming up with Georgetown University on a multi-year project to increase women’s leadership in the labor movement through the new, WILL (Women Innovating Labor Leadership) Empower project. Read more about this via The American Prospect
  • Membership-Building and Income Generation – a research and collaborative learning project that aims to strengthen the capacity of civic institutions like labor unions, worker centers and community organizations to recruit and grow their membership bases.
  • Building the Bench – an innovative leadership and organizational development program that seeks to strengthen cross-organizational networks and collaboration among key stakeholders. 
  • Bargaining for the Common Good – a collaborative, cross-organizational effort that aims to reinvent collective bargaining for the 21st century by building dynamic partnerships between labor and community organizations.
  • Co-Enforcement of Labor Standards – a major research, community-building and technical assistance project that studies and facilitates solutions to the problem of non-compliance with basic wage and hour laws including strategic enforcement, more effective complaint and investigatory practices, and co-enforcement with worker organizations. 

News & Events

Partners and Supporters:

CIWO collaborates with many local, regional, and national partner organizations, networks, and foundations including:


To learn more about the Center for Innovation in Worker Organization, please contact our staff here.