CIWO in action

Center for Innovation in Worker Organization (CIWO)

All Black Lives Matter.  Click here to read CIWO's statement.

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 || Join our mailing list. 

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

CIWO has been awarded a new grant from W.K. Kellogg Foundation.  The award will support CIWO programs, growing our work which aims to elevate women of color in the worker justice movement nationwide, amplify underrepresented voices, and diversify leadership in labor and economic justice movements.  Read the full Press Release here.


WILL Empower:

  • The Executive Leadership Cohort has been extended through December 2020 to adapt to our new COVID reality.  Monthly virtual learning sessions kicked off in April, with a session focused on continuing to lead and build leadership skills in these tumultuous and complex times. The second virtual learning session on May 28, 2020 focused on financial planning, and featured a panel of current and former WILL Empower Advisory Council members: Aleyamma Mathew, Executive Director Collective Future Fund, Princess Moss, NEA Secretary-Treasurer, Laine Romero-Alston, Senior Program Officer Open Society Fund, Sara Steffens, CWA Secretary-Treasurer.

Bargaining for the Common Good:


Recent Updates

  • Bargaining for the Common Good: Climate Justice Convening.  The Action Center on Race and the Economy (ACRE), the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor at Georgetown University (KI), and the Center for Innovation in Worker Organization at Rutgers (CIWO) hosted the virtual the Bargaining for the Common Good: Climate Justice Convening on March 31-April 1, 2020.  Hundreds of environmental, climate, and labor leaders and activists from around the country gathered to discuss how unions & community can come together to bargain for climate & environmental justice. Activists from across the U.S. and abroad shared the challenges and successes of Bargaining for the Common Good campaigns as well as information about the current climate & environmental crises communities are grappling with, and the global public health crisis we are all experiencing due to COVID-19 (See what participants had to say on Twitter & Facebook: #BargainClimateJustice #StopCoronavirusCapitalism).  Click here to watch the opening session, featuring Naomi Klein, Judith LeBlanc and Saqib Bhatti.
  • Build the Bench 2020 Webinar Series:
    • Managing Up/Leading Up in Tumultuous Times (February 27, 2020): 20 Build the Bench leaders from across the country came together to engage with each other around managing up.  We are excited to see the BTB community grow and deepen! 
    • Peer Coaching (April 23, 2020).  Build the Bench participants & CIWO Fellows Denise Collazo (Faith in Action) and Felicia Griffin (Partnership for Working Families) led a refresher on peer coaching, followed by peer coaching triads where BTB participants listened and coached each other through a challenge they are experiencing in their role. The CIWO team is glad to be able to provide a space for BTB leaders to come together and support each other. These are unusual, complex times and Build the Bench participants continue to innovate and lead.
  • ​​​​​Bargaining for the Common Good hosted a webinar, Chicago Teachers’ Strike for the City Our Students Deserve moderated by Marilyn Sneiderman, CIWO Executive Director, on Thursday, March 5, 2020.  Chicago Teachers' Union Vice President Stacy Davis-Gates and Grassroots Collaborative Executive Director, Amisha Patel (both members of the BCG Advisory Committee) lead a discussion with union members, students and teachers around the strike and the organizing that led to a victory for Chicago’s most vulnerable students and families. Click here to watch the webinar.
  • CIWO welcomed founding scholar of Critical Race Theory, Prof. Mari Matsuda, on February 27, 2020 at the Labor Education Center. She was joined by SMLR’s Assistant Professor Tami Lee, discussing the benefits of a Critical Race Theory approach in Industrial Relations theory. This seminar was co-sponsored by CIWO, SMLR Dean’s Office, SMLR’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee, and SMLR's Labor Studies and Employee Relations Department.  Read more here.   
  • Strategic Enforcement of Labor Standards: Regional Training #3 was held in Portland, OR on January 15-16, 2020.  Over 40 participants came together to learn from facilitators (CIWO's Janice Fine and Jenn Round, Harvard's Mark Erlich and NELP's Patricia Smith) and each other how to better scale up their local strategic enforcement efforts using the CIWO/CLASP Labor Standards Enforcement Toolbox as a guiding framework.
  • 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


Welcome Legna J. Cabrera, 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 Legna Cabrerayears, 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!




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.