Meeting the Moment: Announcing Leadership Transitions at Coworker.org
MARCH 14, 2023 | TEAM COWORKER
Coworker started on a radically simple idea: workers who are not in unions need support. And in the decade since we started, we’ve made some incredible strides. But now, in 2023, workers need a different set of support than they did 10 years ago — that’s why we’re making some changes to meet this exciting moment.
At the end of March, our beloved Co-Founders and Executive Directors Jess Kutch and Michelle Miller will be transitioning out of their roles. We’ll also be making some major changes to how we do our work in order to support workers in the ways they need us now. Read on to learn more.
Since founding Coworker.org in 2013, Jess and Michelle have nurtured the evolution of the organization from an online petition platform into the unique and necessary hub for workplace organizing that it is today. With their leadership, Coworker has helped hundreds of thousands of workers turn “small” workplace organizing campaigns into new possibilities for themselves and the labor movement.
With Coworker’s help, Starbucks baristas transformed a petition for visible tattoos into a massive wave of unionization across the company. Those baristas inspired REI employees, who launched REI Green Vests for Change — a group dedicated to better working conditions in their stores. Google employees sought racial and gender equity at work and protested the company’s role in building weapons of war and surveillance. Gig workers fought back against algorithm-driven apps that make doing their jobs — and getting their paychecks — harder. And when COVID-19 hit, frontline workers scrambled to protect themselves, organizing countless campaigns for hazard pay, PPE, sick days and more.
And journalists, who themselves experienced a wave of organizing through the digital media sector, were eager to tell worker stories. These stories played an integral role in elevating the voices of worker leaders and helping them find and learn from each other and become organizing peers through social media. Now we’re seeing workers get more sophisticated in their organizing: forming independent unions, collectives, and committees — even organizing with traditional trade unions.
Over the last decade, it’s been an astonishing ascent to get to this moment and there is still so much work to do. That’s why we’ve spent the past year reimagining and restructuring how Coworker can meet this moment.
Shifting our focus
Looking back on ten years of great strides, we’re confident about what works well to sustain movements and what doesn’t. We’ve analyzed our internal structure to build something more suited to what workers need now — not just a petition platform or a little bit of coaching, but a whole suite of options that support workers along their organizing journey.
We have learned from our sister organization, The Coworker Solidarity Fund, that mutual aid among workers is a powerful tool for change. Workers need direct cash resources in order to stay in their organizing fights for longer. We’ve also learned that care, rest and joy are central to the longevity of any organizing effort. Workers we’ve been supporting over the past few years have demonstrated that their ability to sustain under a multitude of pressures inside and outside of their workplaces was predicated on the ways in which they were able to care for each other.
In addition to how we do our work, we’re getting clearer on who we’re prioritizing. We are making a commitment to center Black and Brown people in our work. In order to chart a course that empowers us to challenge racial capitalism and envision an alternative economic system that allows all people to thrive we must center Black and Brown workers.
We are building an organization that centers working class Black women and people of marginalized genders because we know that to build truly intersectional and visionary movements it is absolutely necessary. We believe that the expertise and wisdom needed to imagine a future for everyone is embedded in the structures working class Black women and non-binary people have been building to survive for years.
We are reimagining our mission, theory of change, and restructuring our programs to help us support this vision.
The future of our organization
We will miss Jess and Michelle as our phenomenal leaders, but we are inspired by their initial vision of what the organization could be and are proud of the ways they have nurtured its growth. They have put great trust in the hands of the staff to shape and shepherd the organization's future.
As Jess and Michelle depart the organization, we are eager to apply all that we have learned to our future work building this next phase of the labor movement alongside our partners and allies. We, the staff of this organization, have spent these years in direct relationships with the hundreds of workers we supported, learning as they extended that support to the thousands of workers in their networks.
We are ready to take the reins alongside our new interim director and begin putting into practice everything we know from this work — and we’ll be updating our community every step of the way.
We can’t wait for you to join us.