Black Worker Initiative

Black workers have been particularly hard hit by the rising tide of inequality in today’s economy.  The Black Worker Initiative is deeply committed to helping achieve both the historic and contemporary aims of the labor and civil rights movements by expanding opportunities for black worker organizing, and thereby greatly contributing to the revitalization of the U.S. labor movement as a whole.

The Initiative operates under the belief that black workers hold a key role in union revitalization. Without a platform for their voices and perspectives, a vital piece of the progressive movement is absent from the greater public discourse on race and economic and social justice. The Initiative seeks to be a forum for these important conversations, allowing relationships, ideas, and projects to develop.

“The two most dynamic and cohesive liberal forces in the country are the labor movement and the Negro freedom movement. Together we can be architects of democracy.”
– Martin Luther King, Jr., at the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations National Convention, Miami Beach, Florida, December 11, 1961

And Still I Rise

And Still I Rise: Black Women Labor Leaders’ Voices, Power and Promise is the flagship report of the Black Worker Initiative. The report profiles 27 amazing black women activists from across the country who are in different stages of their careers and work in a range of different sectors. The report also features the results of a national survey of over 450 black women in the labor movement about their experiences. The main purpose of the report is two-fold:

  • to stimulate investment in organizing black women because they are the most receptive group of workers to forming unions and have the highest union election win rate of any other group (nearly 90 percent when organized by other women of color);
  • to bring the expertise of black women more fully to bear in strategies to advance economic justice within organized labor and the broader progressive movement.


The Initiative is also very proud to be a part of the #BlackWorkersMatter report of the Discount Foundation and Neighborhood Funders Group. Marc Bayard’s article, Partnership between the Labor Movement and Black Workers: The Opportunities, Challenges, and Next Steps, argues that a partnership between black workers and the labor movement holds potential as a vehicle for civil rights activism that could tear down barriers to structural inequality that keep many African Americans in low-wage jobs with little to no opportunity for advancement. Such a partnership would not only promote economic opportunity for blacks and for all Americans, but also revitalize the labor movement at a time when they are widely perceived to be losing their influence and relevance.

Latest Work

REPORT: Homecoming: The Greater Birmingham Community Speaks on Regional Cooperation and a More Inclusive Economy

Greater Birmingham, AL, has experienced a resurgence in economic growth and civic engagement. Yet the benefits of this prosperity are not widely shared.
lower half of a Black woman's face in purple silhouette with black background

The Other Side of the Storm

What Do Black Immigrant Domestic Workers in the Time of Covid-19 Teach Us About Building a Resilient Care Infrastructure?
Black Lives Matter Demonstration

JPMorgan Might Kneel for ‘Justice’ But It Isn’t Standing For True Racial Equity

As is clear from the immense harm corporations continue to cause to communities of color, a racial equity audit is just the first step of many to hold these companies accountable.
Congressional Delegation Meets With Alabama Amazon Workers In Unionization Push

Nearly Two-Thirds of Jefferson County, Alabama Residents Support a Union at Amazon

A new survey commissioned by the Institute for Policy Studies shows the extent of local support for unionization efforts at Amazon’s Bessemer warehouse.
Union Push At Amazon Warehouse In Alabama Reaches Final Day Of Vote

In Bessemer and the South, Black Workers Hold the Key

Does the ongoing campaign to unionize the Amazon warehouse, where 85 percent of the workers are Black, portend a return to large-scale campaigns in the region?
amazon workers protesting in bessemer alabama

The Labor Day Dreams of Black Workers

Leading Black labor organizers and policy advocates share their visions for advancing racial equity in the COVID recovery — and beyond.

Black Labor Leaders and Advocates Reflect on the Pandemic and What Comes Next

We asked nine leading Black labor organizers and policy advocates how to advance racial equity in the COVID recovery — and beyond. Here are their responses.
industrial welder u.s. trade policy

U.S. Trade Policy Has Failed Black and Latinx Workers

Mainstream narratives on trade suggest white workers from the Midwest suffer most from U.S. trade policies. Evidence shows that's not true.
labor - woman organizing a rally

Black Labor Leaders Are Needed Now More Than Ever

We’re working to build the leadership and strategists that a diverse labor and worker movement demands today.
cover art for Black Domestic Worker Survey

Black Immigrant Domestic Workers Share Notes on the Storm

Between COVID-19, the resulting economic depression, and structural racism, Black Immigrant Domestic Workers are att he epicenter of three converging crises.
black domestic worker working as house cleaner

Black Immigrant Domestic Workers Amid the Coronavirus Pandemic

Black immigrant domestic workers are at the epicenter of three converging storms—the pandemic, the resulting economic depression, and structural racism.

Black Immigrant Domestic Workers in the Time of COVID-19

Black immigrant domestic workers are at the epicenter of three converging storms—the pandemic, the resulting economic depression, and structural racism.

Report: Agricultural Cooperatives

Opportunities and Challenges for African American Women in the South

Black Domestic Workers Call for Pay, Professionalism, and Respect

A new report shines a light on the Durham and Atlanta healthcare workers raising the standards of care in America.

Report: Pay, Professionalism, and Respect

Black Domestic Workers Continue the Call for Standards in the Care Industry

Detroit's Revival Can't Happen Without Women of Color

The story of the city's revival will be a mythical fable if it is not grounded in uplifting long-term Detroiters and their neighborhoods, in addition to the newcomers the city is attracting.

The Women of Color ‘Solutionaries’ Who Are Taking On Detroit’s Deep Divisions

A new report uses photography and interviews to raise the profile of 20 Black, Latina, Arab, and Asian women who should have a greater say in the city's revitalization.

Report: I Dream Detroit

The Voice and Vision of Women of Color on Detroit's Future.

Nissan Intimidated Its Workers into Voting “No” on Unionizing

After a failed union vote in Canton, Mississippi, Bayard talks about what went wrong and what can be done to move the labor movement forward.

A Fight for Civil and Labor Rights: Union Vote Looms at Nissan

Workers in a Nissan Auto plant are close to winning one of the largest successes for labor in decades.

View more >



Marc Bayard

Project Director and Associate Fellow

Black Worker Initiative, Global Economy

In the News

The Cost of Essential Work for Black Women

Essence | September 6, 2021