CIWO in action

Center for Innovation in Worker Organization (CIWO)

What Is CIWO?

The Center for Innovation in Worker Organization (CIWO) is a “think and do tank” whose mission is the promotion of strong workers’ organizations. We seek to shift the balance of power towards greater economic and social equality. CIWO leverages the resources of a highly respected research university to create a centralized go-to institute for strategic and organizational development. Our primary objectives are to facilitate the generation and dissemination of ideas, strategies, and programs for newly emergent as well as established worker centers, community organizations, labor unions and their local, state and national networks. View our mission and goals

Meet the CIWO Fellows

Programs include:

Bargaining for the
Common Good

Build the Bench

BCG group

Reinventing collective bargaining for the 21st century.

Build the Bench

Deepening ties between networks to build organizational strength and leadership

Build the Base 

Strengthening Labor Standards Enforcement

Build the Base

Growing the membership base and organizing capacity of worker and community organizations.


Strengthening Labor Standards Enforcement

Working with state and local government agencies, worker and community organizations to  improve enforcement of wage and hour, paid sick/safe time and other labor laws.

WILL Empower

WILL Empower

(Women Innovating Labor Leadership) 
A bold initiative to identify, train and convene a new generation of women labor leaders.


Latest News

Legna CabreraWe are pleased to welcome Legna J. Cabrera as managing director of CIWO. Legna joins us from The Worker Institute at Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations. Her research has focused on projects related to low-wage and marginalized workers. Legna supported the mission of worker centers in New York City by developing and facilitating leadership development programs for workers in the construction, house cleaning, and restaurant industries. She also served as an adjunct at City University of New York's School of Labor and Urban Studies, where she taught research methods.

For more than 15 years, Legna has facilitated leadership, research, and economics courses as part of the UALE Northeast Summer School for Women in Unions and Worker Organizations, and the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA) – New York Chapter. Before joining Cornell, she worked with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) in Puerto Rico, and locals 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East and 32BJ SEIU, both in New York City. Legna holds a master’s degree in labor and employment relations from Rutgers and a bachelor's degree from the University of Puerto Rico. Welcome, Legna!

Recent Updates

  • WILL Empower Closed Out the Decade with Growing Movement of Women Leaders - WILL Empower (WE) closed out the decade with a remarkable year that grew and deepened our network of women labor leaders including: apprentices, emerging and executive leaders, mentors, advisory council members, sponsors, and more. WE hosted the second class of apprentices, with double the number of applications, participants and host sites from year one and most of the sites were in the South. WE launched the first emerging leaders cohort AND the first executive leadership cohort which represents diverse and dynamic women leading in labor across the country. Read more
  • Bargaining for the Common Good in Higher Education - CIWO, along with ACRE and the Georgetown Kalmanovitz Institute, hosted and facilitated a gathering of higher education union leaders representing faculty, staff, and graduate students from around the country on November 8-9, 2019 in Washington, DC. “CIWO is excited to partner with unions, community and racial justice groups to build a movement to transform bargaining into cutting edge Bargaining for the Common Good!” -- Marilyn Sneiderman, CIWO Executive Director
  • Educators, Organizers, and Activists Join Together for Housing Justice Gathering - Over 200 organizers and activists from labor unions, housing justice organizations, worker centers and community organizing groups from across the country gathered in Chicago on July 28-30, 2019 to learn from the latest research and discuss important solutions to the nationwide housing crisis. The Bargaining for the Common Good (BCG) Housing Justice convening was a joint effort of CIWO, the Action Center on Race and the Economy (ACRE) and the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor (KI) at Georgetown University.  BCG activities were held at the Chicago Teachers Union and SEIU Healthcare Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Kansas. Read more
  • Congress has 'The Squad,' WILL Empower has 'The Crew': Building Networks of Powerful Executive Women Innovating Labor Leadership - WILL Empower is at the cutting edge of national efforts to identify, nurture, train, and foster lasting relationships among a new generation of women labor leaders. At CIWO we often say that women with a crew are more likely to be bold and courageous. June 25th marked the first convening of the inaugural WILL Empower Executive Leadership Cohort. Fifteen women leaders gathered at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ for the first of three retreats. They represent large public and private sector unions, immigrant and Black worker centers, and community-based organizations where worker well-being is central to the mission. Read more
  • Inspiring Network Leaders Gather for 5th Annual CIWO Build the Bench Convening - CIWO was proud to host the 5th annual Build the Bench Convening on July 10, 2019, in Silver Spring, MD where 27 leaders from across the country came together to support their growth as organizational and movement leaders through connection with CIWO and others in similar roles. Read more
  • Bargaining for the Common Good Advisory Committee - CIWO is a core partner of the growing Bargaining for the Common Good (BCG) network, along with the Action Center on Race and the Economy and the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor at Georgetown University. The Bargaining for the Common Good Advisory Committee, a new national advisory group composed of key union, community and racial justice leaders to help guide and support the BCG network, was recently announced. Read more
  • Emerging Women Labor Leaders Huddle for Inaugural Cohort Retreat - Seventeen dynamic women gathered in the Washington, D.C. area for the kickoff retreat of the WILL Empower Emerging Leaders Cohort of Learning & Mentoring on April 11, 2019. The purpose of this cohort is to provide a women-centered space focused on leadership development for emerging leaders to network and learn across worker justice organizations including: public and private sector unions; worker centers; community-based organizations; and research and legal centers focused on worker well-being. Read more




  • Bargaining for the Common Good: UTLA Webinar - Almost 200 union and community activists  from across the country joined a webinar on February 22, 2019, to learn from the successes of the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) and their community partners with their multi-year campaign and 6-stay strike. Read more
  • Convening on Unions and Worker Ownership - More than 70 union leaders, academics and other thought leaders participated in an innovative conference on "Unions and Worker Ownership" to discuss emerging models where unions have embraced worker ownership as part of their labor strategy. Read more


  • WILL Empower will be accepting applications for the Apprenticeship program until April 15, 2020. Apprenticeship Host Site applications will be accepted until March 31, 2020.
    Click here to apply for the Apprenticeship program.
    Click here to apply for Host site applications.
  • Women’s Work? Voices of Vermont Educators by 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. 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. This report details the reality. 
    Download the report: Women's Work? Voices of Vermont EducatorsView the early press coverage.

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, email You can also view the list of CIWO staff members.