Innovation Fund Winners Receive $150,000 to Build Worker Power

by The Workers Lab, on November 20, 2019 at 6:00 AM
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Paying farmers to improve worker health and safety, supporting new co-op businesses and partnering with developers to create worker-enforced labor standards - these are just a few of the ways our fall 2019 Innovation Fund winners are creating positive change. Each winning organization put forward powerful ideas with clear potential to build lasting worker power and transform the lives of working people.

The Workers Lab received 217 applications from 14 countries and 39 U.S. states for our fall Innovation Fund cycle. This fall 2019 Innovation Fund was co-sponsored with the Omidyar Network. Please join us in congratulating our fall 2019 Innovation Fund winners:

Innovation Fund Winners - Fall 2019

“For the fall 2019 Innovation Fund contest, we asked innovators for ideas that build power for workers by altering the relationship between working people and the systems and institutions that affect their lives,” said The Workers Lab Managing Director, Betsy Edasery. 

Each Innovation Fund winner has a different area of focus and bold solution. Learn more about their important work:

Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en la Lucha (CTUL): Over the past two years, CTUL's Construction Campaign committee of 20 non-union construction workers developed the Building Dignity and Respect Standards Council (BDC). The organization collaborates with major developers to define worker-enforced labor standards designed to "raise the floor" of the industry. 

Wage theft, dangerous conditions, and labor trafficking have become all too common in the Twin Cities, MN construction industry, but with support from The Workers Lab, construction workers are ready to fight back in a powerful new way. Innovation Fund funding will facilitate the launch of a new worker-led standard-setting organization, that will partner with CTUL to transform the industry. Organizers and worker-leaders on the project are thrilled to be selected for The Workers Lab funding and ready to ramp up this innovative new implementation of the worker-driven social responsibility model.  Merle Payne, Co-Director, CTUL

Co-op Dayton: When manufacturers moved abroad, tens of thousands of high-wage jobs disappeared from Dayton, Ohio. Before long, grocery stores and hospitals closed, leaving many Dayton workers struggling with low-wage jobs and few essential services. Co-op Dayton, a nonprofit organization, supports workers frustrated with the old ways and open to creating community and worker-owned businesses.

We are so thrilled and honored that The Workers Lab has chosen to invest in innovation and experimentation in our rust belt city — a place that is truly ready for a new worker-centered economic model. This support from the Innovation Fund comes at a perfect time and will allow Co-op Dayton the capacity to leverage the deep community engagement we spent the last four years building around our flagship project and work towards more worker cooperatives that drive equitable reinvestment in our city. Lela Klein, Executive Director, Co-op Dayton

Migrant Justice/Justicia Migrante: Migrant Justice’s Milk with Dignity program is transforming the dairy industry through enforceable standards to improve dairy workers’ lives. Participating farms must comply with a Code of Conduct that includes worker-defined wages, schedules, housing, health and safety standards, and protection against harassment, discrimination and retaliation. Migrant Justice/Justicia Migrante enlists dairy companies to sign legally-binding agreements committing to source from farms enrolled in Milk with Dignity and pay a premium farmers use to improve conditions.

We are honored to receive the Innovation Fund award and to have been considered among so many wonderful applicants. This is an important step in our work to ensure human rights for farmworkers by expanding the model of worker-driven social responsibility to the dairy industry. — Enrique Balcazar, Director of Leadership Development, Migrant Justice/Justicia Migrante

New Deal Home Improvement Company: Any Green New Deal will provide economic opportunities for construction and remodeling businesses, but not necessarily workers. New Deal Home Improvement Cooperative is a supportive network of worker-owned construction and remodeling companies. By sharing back-office systems, tools and work referrals, small and new construction companies can compete against established businesses. 

We are so grateful for the opportunity The Workers Lab gave us to hone our idea and pitch it with clarity. The experience was truly transformative. Now we look forward to pivoting from a small home improvement workers coop to a network to help home improvement workers bring repairs, remodeling, and resilience to scale, centered with worker power and dignity. — Jose Paulino, Business Manager, New Deal Home Improvement Cooperative

Working Washington #PayUp: #PayUp is a national campaign, led by Working Washington, working to improve pay and protections for gig workers. More than 10,000 app-based delivery workers have joined the #PayUp community, providing data to track shifting pay algorithms and collectively shaping #PayUp’s policy agenda.

Working Washington is honored and thrilled to be named a winner of the Workers Lab Innovation Fund competition. This award creates a tremendous opportunity to reboot the gig economy, and will help ensure workers’ needs and interests are at the center of the conversation about the future of work from now on. — Rachel Lauter, Executive Director, Working Washington

About the Omidyar Network

Omidyar Network is a philanthropic investment firm dedicated to harnessing the power of markets to create opportunity for people to improve their lives. Established in 2004 by philanthropists Pam and Pierre Omidyar, the founder of eBay, the organization has committed more than $1 billion to innovative for-profit companies and non-profit organizations to catalyze economic and social change. To learn more, visit, and follow on Twitter @omidyarnetwork.

About The Workers Lab Innovation Fund 

Since its inception, The Workers Lab has invested more than $2,235,000 in 38 bold, new ideas through our signature program, The Innovation Fund. Each cycle, we invite entrepreneurs, nonprofits, and public and private sector leaders to submit innovative ideas to improve worker power. Winners receive $150,000 to test their solution and 12 months to evaluate its long term sustainability and potential for scale.

We launch The Innovation Fund every Spring and Fall. We are currently accepting applications for Spring 2020. Go here to apply. 


Topics: The Innovation Fund