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.


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. Our initiatives include:

Bargaining for Common Good -reinventing collective bargaining for the 21st century


Co-Enforcement of Labor Standards - studying and facilitating solutions to non-compliance problems with basic wages

Membership Building & Sustainability - strengthening the capacity of civic institutions

Building the Bench - strengthening cross organizational networks

Will Empower - increasing women's leadership in the labor movement


Recent Research

Women’s Work? Voices of Vermont Educators 
Rebecca Kolins Givan and Pamela Whitefield
In the past few years, public schools in Vermont have been at the center of far-reaching policy debates and numerous administrative changes. Key initiatives have included a massive reorganization of schools and school districts, the restructuring of employees’ benefits, and proposals to reduce educators’ rights on the job. All of this upheaval is taking place in the context of a growing statewide opioid epidemic, rising student loan debt and increasing economic insecurity and child poverty. 
Often absent from these policy debates are the voices of educators themselves, the majority of whom are professional women. These educators have firsthand knowledge of the challenges facing Vermont schools. They experience the impact of these policy initiatives daily, both in the classroom and in their lives. To that end, it is imperative to hear their voices. As one teacher put it, “there are more men in the political sphere. Our profession is mostly made up of women, but all of these men are making decisions about our lives, and they really do not understand our reality.” This report details the reality. 

News & Events

To learn more about the Center for Innovation in Worker Organization, view our news and events. 

Partners and Supporters

CIWO collaborates with many local, regional, and national partner organizations, networks, and foundations. View the list of our partners and supporters.


To contact us, view the list of CIWO staff members.