CONTACT: Monique Mehta,
February 22, 2016

Labor Innovations for the 21st Century (LIFT) Fund Announces 2015 Grantees

$585,000 given to 17 worker center-union partnerships nationwide, highlighting innovations and success in new forms of organizing

Today, the LIFT Fund announced its 2015 grantees, awarding $585,000 to 17 worker centers partnering with labor unions nationwide – from Mississippi and New Mexico to Tennessee and New York – that support building worker power using new, innovative forms of organizing.

Grantees span regions, sectors and size—from seafood workers at Centro Comunitario de Trabajadores in Massachusetts, to hospitality workers at Nashville’s Workers Dignity Dignidad Obrera, to construction workers at the Los Angeles Black Workers Center.

At a time of unprecedented income inequality, precarious work and depressed wages, workers are more atomized than ever. Yet those at the edges of the economy are finding strength in numbers and discovering promising new ways to advance worker justice. They are building at the grassroots, organizing through campaigns that combat wage theft and discriminatory hiring practices, and creating strong enforcement mechanisms. These efforts are raising the living wage, improving labor standards across supply chains, and providing models for how to do it sustainably and at an increasingly larger scale.

Through a partnership between foundations, including the Ford Foundation, General Service Foundation, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Solidago Foundation, and the AFL-CIO, the LIFT Fund is identifying and supporting these new worker-organizing models in order to facilitate broad impact and shared knowledge. The goal is to build infrastructure for the long haul: resources, spaces for relationship building, academic research and collaborations that produce strategies to drive industry-wide changes and support worker justice. These efforts aim to increase worker power, build nonunion-worker organization, and improve the living conditions of communities that are majority people of color and immigrants.

“Black workers are leading the struggle for economic justice in Los Angeles, and this partnership is a powerful example of how to fuel the fight for a fair economy that puts our families first,” said Lola Smallwood Cuevas, Co-founder and Coordinating Committee Chair of the Los Angeles Black Worker Center. “The LIFT Fund’s grant is a recognition of what works and a model of how to create fertile ground for organizing for years to come.”

Centro Comunitaro de Trabajadores is working with the National Guestworkers Alliance and United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) to better the working conditions throughout the seafood supply chain in the second-most profitable seafood processing port in the country; the Los Angeles Black Workers Center is working with the LA County Labor Federation to fight for a world-class Office of Labor Standards and Enforcement to address exclusionary practices in the construction and garment industries, push for fair wages, and combat a host of other worker issues through a racial justice lens. Workers Dignity Dignidad Obrera is working with the Iron Workers International to fight some of the nation’s worst labor conditions at publicly subsidized construction sites and hotels by building workplace organizing committees and launching public-pressure campaigns around municipal funding cycles.

“In Nashville, we are pioneering new forms of organizing to combat truly abhorrent labor conditions, so the LIFT Fund’s support is vital,” said Garrett Stark of Ironworkers International Union. “Our close working relationship with Workers Dignity Dignidad Obrera will have implications for workers across the country. We are proud to be part of it.”

Established in 2011, the LIFT Fund is a first-of-its kind partnership between worker centers, labor unions, academics in the field, and philanthropic institutions to support investment in projects that build worker power through collaboration between worker centers and labor unions. To date, it has awarded more than $1.5 million in grants to 38 worker centers in 15 states. The Fund documents ongoing innovations and successes and sponsors cross-sector, field-level gatherings to share what has been learned.

“The LIFT Fund creates an exceptional space for grantees and partners to bring together emerging and sometimes experimental innovations with concrete, tried-and-true power building strategies,” said Aditi Vaidya of the Solidago Foundation. “It is at these intersections that we can lift up and amplify the most promising, ambitious models for the future of worker organizing.”



Adhikaar (Labor partner: New York Central Labor Council)

This partnership will work to raise standards in the $2.7 billion nail salon industry in New York, which employs some of the lowest-paid workers. Through research, organizing and cultivating worker-leaders it will explore different membership and collective bargaining models, and a “code of conduct” to engage high road employers.

Centro Comunitario de Trabajadores (Labor partner: UFCW)

This partnership will build accountability structures to confront rampant subcontracting abuses around wages and working conditions throughout the seafood industry supply chain. It is part of a broad collaboration with the National Guestworker Alliance and UFCW in New Bedford, MA.

Communities United/Albany Park (Labor partner: AFSCME Council 31)

This partnership will launch a “mobile worker center” to organize taxi drivers in their homes and neighborhoods in Chicago’s Northwest side. The mobile worker center will be a resource for traditionally hard-to-organize workers.

Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha (Labor partner: Minnesota Regional Labor Federation)

This partnership will launch a worker-led campaign to establish a labor standards enforcement office in Minneapolis. This will include gathering data from workers on enforcement failures, seizing upon the energy of municipal labor policy fights, and continuing outreach and training for low-wage workers.

Food Chain Workers Alliance and Cincinnati Interfaith Workers Center (Labor partner: UFCW)

This partnership will work to win the adoption of the Good Food Purchasing Policy (GFPP) in Cincinnati. GFPP, a food procurement policy that supports transparent “farm-to-fork” standards using a social, racial and economic justice lens, has successfully supported union organizing, created good jobs and united a multi-sector coalition of labor, environmental, animal welfare, health, and food justice organizations.

Fuerza Laboral (Labor partner: IUPAT District Council 11, District Council 35)

This partnership will organize and develop worker leaders and committees and use direct action to target labor-rights violators, particularly subcontractors in the Rhode Island commercial and residential construction industry. The goal is to make long-term changes in the industry, which relies on low, race-to-the bottom wages for workers. This is in collaboration with Metrowest Worker Center.

LA Black Worker Center (Labor partner: Los Angeles County Federation of Labor)

This partnership will work for the creation of a world-class office of labor standards enforcement for the City of Los Angeles to effectively uphold anti-discrimination laws, push for fair wages and provide the resources to promote access to quality jobs for Black workers.

LA Coalition Against Wage Theft (Labor partner: Los Angeles County Federation of Labor)

This multi-sector, multi-industry and multi-ethnic collaboration between several Los Angeles based worker centers and the LA County Federation, will work to ensure an effective and timely implementation of the new anti-wage theft ordinance, with robust enforcement mechanisms in the city, including advocacy, worker outreach, trainings and more.

New Labor (Labor partner: United Steel Workers District 4)

This partnership will produce a joint USW local in the Newark area to represent workers in low wage jobs and together establish a wage floor and strong worker protections, including collective-bargaining agreements and citywide Responsible Employer Pacts (REPs) for a largely Filipino and Latino immigrant community.

New York Communities for Change (Labor partner: Taxi Workers Alliance)

This partnership will engage in a public policy campaign in New York to create strong local accountability regulations for Uber and Airbnb and other gig economy businesses, to establish effective worker protections.

OLÉ Educational Fund (Labor partner: CWA & AFT)

This partnership will aggressively campaign for a Sick Days trust as a complement to its policy work around the Fair Work Week ordinance in Albuquerque, N.M., that will provide both earned sick days and protection against scheduling-related abuses.

ONE DC (Labor partner: LIUNA Local 55)

This partnership will support a joint campaign to ensure that a recently-approved development project – Brookland Manor, which is in a predominantly Black and Latino community in Washington, D.C., – will have a strong community benefits agreement, including affordable housing and access to union jobs for workers in that neighborhood.

One Voice (Labor partner: UAW)

This partnership will continue its efforts to create a new organizing model that effectively supports both union and nonunion worker organizing in Mississippi. This will be done through building labor organizing infrastructure, new membership and revenue-generation models, training and research.

Somos un Pueblo Unido (Labor partner: AFL-CIO)

The focus of this partnership will be to develop and test a self-organizing model of unionization across New Mexico in this self-contained low-wage market. This would replicate a model of worker-led initiatives to expand and strengthen effective worksite committees.

Voces de la Frontera (Labor partner: AFT Local 212)

This partnership will focus on building and sharing capacity to establish a strong neighborhood network of working-family committees in Milwaukee to demand the protection of public education and a strong pro-immigrant rights agenda in the schools.

Workers Defense Project (Labor partner: Texas Building Trades Council)

This partnership will raise labor standards for non-union workers at construction sites while simultaneously protecting union jobs and building unity between workers. The Better Builder project pushes for higher labor standards through agreements with developers, companies and construction projects, and later, in collaboration with workers and monitors to ensure standards are met.

Workers Dignity Dignidad Obrera (Labor partner: Ironworkers International Union)

This partnership will organize worker committees through its Construction-to-Cleaning strategy to connect workers throughout several stages of the development process in the urban core of Nashville’s booming hospitality sector.