Non-profit

National Black Workers Center Project

Website:

nationalblackworkercenters.org

Project of:

NEO Philanthropy

Formation:

2013

Executive Director:

Tanya Wallace-Gobern

The National Black Worker Center Project (“NBWCP”) is a left-of-center minimum wage advocacy group and a project of fiscal sponsor NEO Philanthropy. It sponsors workers’ centers in cities across the country that offer job training and partner with local businesses, labor unions, and government agencies to advocate for hiring unemployed Black workers. NBWCP has close ties to the labor union movement.

Activities

NBWCP is a project of NEO Philanthropy (formerly Public Interest Projects), a New York-based nonprofit that serves as a fiscal clearinghouse for left-of-center causes. [1]

NBWCP currently sponsors workers’ centers in eight cities and regions that have large Black populations and high Black unemployment rates, including Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, and Greenville, Mississippi. [2] The centers offer job training, legal advice, and other services to unemployed Black workers, and also trains them to work as left-progressive activists. Centers also campaign for local businesses, agencies, and labor unions to open employment opportunities to low-wage and unemployed Black workers. For example, the NBWCP affiliate in Oakland, California, “convinced the county’s board of supervisors to vote in favor of hiring 1,400 formerly incarcerated residents for various positions with the county,” while the affiliated center in Washington, D.C., “partnered with the construction worker union LiUNA … to provide members with training on construction and asbestos removal.” [3]

Political and advocacy connections to the labor union movement is central to NBWCP’s identity, as it claims that “economic justice in the workplace and hence benefits to Black workers cannot take place without strong unions.” [4] At the opening of NBWCP’s Baltimore affiliate, speakers included representatives of labor unions and organizations such as the AFL-CIO, Unite Here, the American Postal Workers Union, and the AFL-CIO’s Coalition of Black Trade Unionists. [5]

NBWCP also advocates for raising the minimum wage, on addressing racial discrimination in workplaces, and on breaking down what it calls a “racialized political economy” that depresses wages and employment opportunities for Black workers. [6] In 2017, NBWCP launched “Working While Black,” a media and advocacy campaign specifically designed to counter then-President Donald Trump’s “New Deal for Black America.” The Working While Black program advocated for increased government spending on infrastructure, increases in the minimum wage, expansion of anti-discrimination legislation, and increased state and federal funding for job training and community activist organizations focused on Black workers. [7]

The Ford Foundation has given nearly $3.2 million to support the NBWCP since 2013. [8]

People

The executive director of NBWCP as of June 2021 is Tanya Wallace-Gobern. She is a former organizer with the predecessor of Unite Here, a labor union that principally organizes employees in the hotel, restaurant, and gaming industries and the former head of the AFL-CIO’s program to recruit field organizers from historically Black college and universities. [9]

Among those who sit on the NBWCP’s board is Neneki Lee, formerly the public services national field director for SEIU, the labor union that organizes many public employees, as well as Renaye Manley, who is an international representative for SEIU. [10]

References

  1. Robert Bray. “Black History Month Spotlight: Tanya Wallace-Gobern.” NEO Philanthropy. February 15, 2018. Accessed June 4, 2021. https://neophilanthropy.org/black-history-month-spotlight-tanya-wallace-gobern/. ^
  2. “Affiliates.” National Black Worker Center Project. Accessed June 4, 2021. https://nationalblackworkercenters.org/affiliates/. ^
  3. Melissa Hellman. “8 Cities Have New Co-op-Style Black Worker Centers—And They’re Tackling Unemployment.” Yes! Magazine. October 4, 2016. Accessed June 5, 2021. https://www.yesmagazine.org/economy/2016/10/04/where-black-unemployment-is-highest-workers-strive-to-close-the-gap. ^
  4. “Our Strategy.” National Black Worker Center Project. Accessed June 4, 2021. https://nationalblackworkercenters.org/black-worker-crisis-our-strategy/. ^
  5. Will Kirsch. “ISO more jobs, better jobs, Black Worker Center launches.” Baltimore Brew. 2016. Accessed June 4, 2021. https://nationalblackworkercenters.org/news_and_media/iso-more-jobs-better-jobs-black-worker-center-launches/. ^
  6. “Our Strategy.” National Black Worker Center Project. Accessed June 4, 2021. https://nationalblackworkercenters.org/black-worker-crisis-our-strategy/. ^
  7. “Black Worker Advocates Launch the #WorkingWhileBlack Campaign to Address the ‘New Deal for Black America,’ Discriminatory Job Policies, and Corporate-Sponsored Exploitation.” Houston Style. February 27, 2017. Accessed June 4, 2021. http://stylemagazine.com/news/2017/feb/27/black-worker-advocates-launch-workingwhileblack-ca/. ^
  8. “Grants Database.” Ford Foundation. Accessed June 4, 2021. https://www.fordfoundation.org/work/our-grants/grants-database/grants-all?search=%26SearchText%3Dnational%20black%20worker%20center%20project&page=0&minyear=2006&maxyear=2021. ^
  9. “Our Staff.” National Black Worker Center Project. Accessed June 4, 2021. https://nationalblackworkercenters.org/staff/. ^
  10. “Our Board.” National Black Worker Center Project. Accessed June 4, 2021. https://nationalblackworkercenters.org/board/. ^
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