Non-profit

Workers Defense League

Website:

workersdefenseleague.org/

Location:

NEW YORK, NY

Tax ID:

13-2658431

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(3)

Budget (2016):

Revenue: $231,077
Expenses: $185,684
Assets: $472,356

Formation:

1936

Founders:

Norman Thomas

David Clendenin

Aron Gilmartin

Sidney Hertzberg

Not to be confused with Workers Defense Project, a Texas-based labor activist group.

The Workers Defense League is a New York-based group which represents workers with unemployment insurance claims.[1] The League was once a prominent institution in the American socialist movement, with the organization claiming six-time Socialist Party of America presidential nominee Norman Thomas as one of its co-founders.[2]

In recent years, the Workers Defense League has declined in prominence. The organization continues to represent unemployment insurance claimants and holds an annual awards dinner at which it honors national and New York City labor union bosses.[3]

The Workers Defense League is closely aligned with the United Steelworkers labor union; the Steelworkers’ international president, Leo Gerard, serves as president of the League.[4] Leon Lynch, a former Steelworkers vice president, preceded Gerard.[5]

History

In 1936, Socialist Party of America leader Norman Thomas—then running for U.S. president—and three other Socialist Party activists, David Clendenin, Aron Gilmartin,[6] and Sidney Hertzberg,[7] organized the Workers Defense League to advocate on behalf of labor unionism.[8] Throughout the organization’s existence, it has remained close to the socialist movement; Michael Harrington, an alumnus of the League, later served as editor of the Socialist Party official newspaper, as authorized biographer of Thomas, and as co-chair of the Democratic Socialists of America.[9]

The Workers Defense League maintained a staff pipeline into major institutions on the American Left. Bertrand Seidman, formerly the League’s assistant executive secretary, later served in numerous roles for the AFL-CIO union federation;[10] Rowland Watts, a former League president, also served as legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).[11] Hertzberg, a League co-founder, would serve as editorial director of Consumer Reports.[12]

During its early history, much of the Workers Defense League’s activities involved supporting the developing Civil Rights Movement by organizing African-American sharecroppers and domestic workers and litigating on their behalf.[13]

Recent Activities

Despite the Workers Defense League’s former prominence, the organization has receded in recent years. The group’s principal activism now involves engaging in litigation on behalf of workers denied unemployment insurance;[14] in describing the League’s activities, executive director Jon Bloom said the League would “represent everyone from proletarians to professionals.”[15]

The most prominent activity of the Workers Defense League is its annual anniversary dinner which makes awards to labor union leaders. The dinner raises funds for the League; in the organization’s 2015 fiscal year, the dinner raised $179,850 of the League’s total contribution receipts of $230,108.[16] Dinner honorees have included Maida Rosenstein of UAW Local 2110, Robert Martinez Jr. of the International Association of Machinists, James Slevin of Utility Workers Union Local 1-2,[17] Tefere Gebre of the AFL-CIO, Ernest Logan of the Council of School Supervisors and Administrations, and Christopher Shelton of Communications Workers of America District 1.[18]

Financials

Workers Defense League reported $185,684 in expenditures in its 2015 fiscal year.[19] The organization reports four employees, with executive director Jonathan Bloom being paid $77,096.[20]

The organization has received funding from labor unions, including UAW Local 2110, 1199SEIU, the Utility Workers Union, the Ironworkers Union, Unite Here, the American Federation of Government Employees, the Communications Workers of America, the International Association of Machinists, and the United Steelworkers.[21] The League has also received funding from the Atran Foundation.[22]

People

Jon Bloom is the executive director of the Workers Defense League. He has taught labor studies at a handful of universities.[23]

The organization’s other officers include United Steelworkers international president Leo Gerard, AFL-CIO Lawyers Coordinating Committee-affiliated labor lawyer Larry Cary,[24] and National Organization for Women-New York City activist Noreen Connell.[25] The group’s advisory council includes a number of prominent far-left scholars including Joshua Freeman, Herbert Gans, Alice Kessler-Harris, William Leuchtenburg, Deborah Meier, and Cornel West; celebrity activist Ed Asner; Democratic politician Eleanor Holmes Norton; far-left journalist Barbara Ehrenreich; former Carter administration official Ernest Green; and AFL-CIO officials Elizabeth Shuler and Richard Trumka.

References

  1. “Workers Defense League.” Workers Defense League. Accessed August 24, 2018. http://www.workersdefenseleague.org/.
  2. “National Board & Advisory Council.” Workers Defense League. Accessed August 24, 2018. http://workersdefenseleague.org/board.html.
  3. “Pres. Cox Receives Workers Defense League Award.” AFGE. May 23, 2016. Accessed August 24, 2018. https://www.afge.org/article/president-cox-receives-workers-defense-league-award/.
  4. “National Board & Advisory Council.” Workers Defense League. Accessed August 24, 2018. http://workersdefenseleague.org/board.html.
  5. “USW Announces Death of Retired International Vice President Leon Lynch.” PR Newswire, May 7, 2012.
  6. “Our Roots in Social Justice.” First Unitarian Church of Des Moines. Accessed August 27, 2018. https://www.ucdsm.org/social-justice-overview/roots-social-justice/.
  7. “SIDNEY HERTZBERG, 74 DIES; WRITER AND POLITICAL ACTIVIST.” The New York Times. December 18, 1984. Accessed August 27, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/1984/12/18/obituaries/sidney-hertzberg-74-dies-writer-and-political-activist.html.
  8. “Our History: Highlights of 80 Years.” Workers Defense League. Accessed August 27, 2018. http://workersdefenseleague.org/history.html.
  9. Phillips, Maxine. “This Week in History: American Socialist Michael Harrington Born.” People’s World. February 22, 2018. Accessed August 28, 2018. https://www.peoplesworld.org/article/this-week-in-history-american-socialist-michael-harrington-born/.
  10. Greenhouse, Steven. “Bernard Russell Seidman, 84, Advocate for Social Security.” The New York Times. June 26, 2004. Accessed August 28, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2004/06/26/us/bernard-russell-seidman-84-advocate-for-social-security.html.
  11. Saxon, Wolfgang. “Rowland Watts, 82, a Lawyer Who Pressed Unpopular Causes.” The New York Times. February 08, 1995. Accessed August 28, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/1995/02/08/obituaries/rowland-watts-82-a-lawyer-who-pressed-unpopular-causes.html.
  12. “SIDNEY HERTZBERG, 74 DIES; WRITER AND POLITICAL ACTIVIST.” The New York Times. December 18, 1984. Accessed August 27, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/1984/12/18/obituaries/sidney-hertzberg-74-dies-writer-and-political-activist.html.
  13. Workers Defense League. “NEWS ADVISORY.” PR Newswire, December 3, 1986.
  14. Wishnia, Steven. “Workers Defense League Honors Gebre, Logan, Shelton – LaborPress.” LaborPress. May 15, 2014. Accessed August 28, 2018. http://laborpress.org/workers-defense-league-honors-gebre-logan-shelton/.
  15. Greenhouse, Steven. “HOME FRONT; For the Jobless, Some Free Legal Help.” The New York Times. August 28, 2003. Accessed August 28, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2003/03/23/jobs/home-front-for-the-jobless-some-free-legal-help.html.
  16. Workers Defense League, Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990), 2015, Part I Line 8 and Schedule G Part II
  17. United Auto Workers. “MAIDA ROSENSTEIN: PRESIDENT, UNITED AUTO WORKERS LOCAL 2110 TECHNICAL, OFFICE AND PROFESSIONAL WORKERS HONORED.” States News Service, May 23, 2017.
  18. Wishnia, Steven. “Workers Defense League Honors Gebre, Logan, Shelton – LaborPress.” LaborPress. May 15, 2014. Accessed August 29, 2018. http://laborpress.org/workers-defense-league-honors-gebre-logan-shelton/.
  19. Workers Defense League, Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990), 2015, Part I Line 18
  20. Workers Defense League, Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990), 2015, Part I Line 5 and Part VII Section A
  21. Data compiled from the United States Department of Labor Office of Labor Management Standards payer/payee search tool using data from forms filed with OLMS. Queries conducted August 30, 2018.
  22. Atran Foundation, Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990-PF), 2015, Statement 7
  23. “Breaking New Ground: The Development of Adult and Workers’ Education in North America.” Syracuse University Kellogg Project. March 1989. Accessed September 04, 2018. http://roghiemstra.com/breaking.html.
  24. “Larry Cary.” Cary Kane Law. Accessed September 04, 2018. https://www.carykanelegal.com/attorney/larry-cary/.
  25. Connell, Noreen. “Democratic Party Must Commit to a Fair Workplace.” National Organization for Women-NYC. July 23, 2008. Archived from the original December 23, 2008. Accessed September 4, 2018. https://web.archive.org/web/20081223010317/http://nownyc.org/women/uploads/Press Releases/08-07-30 Noreeen C DNC.pdf.

Directors, Employees & Supporters

  1. Norman Hill
    Advisory Council Member
  2. Clayola Brown
    Board Member
  3. Lenore Miller
    Board Member
  4. Stuart Appelbaum
    Board Member
  5. Leo W Gerard
    President
  6. Liz Shuler
    Advisory Council
  7. Joseph B. Uehlein
    Board Member
  8. Richard Trumka
    Advisory Council
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: June - May
  • Tax Exemption Received: March 1, 1971

  • Available Filings

    Period Form Type Total revenue Total functional expenses Total assets (EOY) Total liabilities (EOY) Unrelated business income? Total contributions Program service revenue Investment income Comp. of current officers, directors, etc. Form 990
    2016 Jun Form 990 $231,077 $185,684 $472,356 $11,474 N $230,108 $0 $969 $77,096 PDF
    2015 Jun Form 990EZ $147,264 $149,650 $425,918 $10,429 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2014 Jun Form 990EZ $159,243 $151,351 $425,998 $8,123 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2013 Jun Form 990EZ $129,769 $152,945 $418,105 $8,122 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2012 Jun Form 990 $264,675 $149,892 $441,667 $5,508 N $171,703 $0 $1,023 $75,641 PDF
    2011 Jun Form 990EZ $153,725 $143,682 $352,516 $31,140 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    Workers Defense League

    PO BOX 618
    NEW YORK, NY 10159-0618