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

How Trump’s Travel Ban Policies Harm Black Immigrants

The administration’s policies toward refugees are bad enough, but people from the diaspora take an equally hard hit.

The Racial Wealth Gap Persists Through Retirement

100 CEOs have as much saved for retirement as 11 million black families, reflecting a broader problem of institutionalized racism in the U.S.

Help Spread the Word: #IDreamDetroit

Thank you for helping us spread the word about the new IPS report “I Dream Detroit: The Voice and Vision of Women of Color on Detroit’s Future.”

Working While Black: Demographics and Destiny

As the nation becomes more Black and Brown an economic crisis in wage earnings could be on the horizon.

Game Changers: How We Can Unrig the Rules and Reverse Runaway Inequality

Eight bold solutions, rooted in social movements, that can break through our broken political system.

When Tipping Doesn’t Make the Difference

Women of color in the restaurant industry find themselves dependent on tips to make up for low wages, which is often not enough to survive on

Black Workers Matter: Organize the South

A Conference Highlights Report

Tryin’ to Make a Dollar Out of 64 Cents

On Black Women’s Pay Equity Day, experts weigh in on stemming the tide of income inequality for African-American women.

Looking Beyond the Headlines on Black Jobs and Workers in America

The potential for black workers to rejuvenate the U.S. labor movement and transform it into the ultimate working class and civil rights vehicle is enormous.

How Black Women Can Rescue the Labor Movement

A new report detailing a survey of black women provides important insights that could help improve conditions for all workers. But will the labor movement listen?