The Working Families Organization, founded in 2006, is the 501(c)(4) affiliate of the Working Families Party, a union-funded and union-aligned far-left political party with power centers in traditionally hard-left localities and states, such as New York City and Oregon. Whereas the Working Families Party—originally founded in 1998 by members of the now-defunct and scandal-plagued Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) community organizing network—endorses and works to elect progressive political candidates in local, state, and national elections, the Working Families Organization claims to focus “primarily on nonpartisan advocacy on important issues facing working families.” This includes advocacy for labor union issues like an employer mandate for paid sick leave and a $15 minimum wage and more elite left-of-center concerns like climate change and creating a “green economy.”
The Working Families Party and Working Families Organization share similar goals, though the organizations are legally distinct. Together, they advocate for progressive economic and electoral policies, most prominently on the issues of economic inequality, public education, money in politics, and environmental activism. Working Families current campaigns include pushing for minimum wage increases and paid sick day laws in cities and states, stopping public school reform, and raising taxes.
Though Working Families got its start in New York City and retains outsized influence in New York’s local politics, the organization also has chapters in Connecticut, Maryland, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C.
Working Families has taken up extreme opposition to President Donald Trump in part of the loosely organized “resistance.” According to Working Families, its goal is to support “a grassroots movement across the country to pressure our Democratic leaders to resist Trump.” This movement includes coordinated gatherings at the local offices of Congressmen to demand they denounce Trump’s personnel and policy decisions.
Working Families Organization has also taken an active role in the May 2017 “People’s Climate March” demonstrations that occurred in Washington, D.C., and other left-wing cities across America. The group joined public demonstrations that took place in the wake of the inauguration of President Trump.
The Working Families Organization has conducted advocacy for a slew of left-wing policies, including mandatory paid sick leave legislation in Maryland, a national $15 minimum wage, Black Lives Matter-endorsed policing policy, Maryland equal pay legislation, and paid maternity leave mandates in Connecticut.
There is no centralized list of donors to the Working Families Organization, and the organization does not provide a public account of its funding sources.
However, the Working Families Organization has received generous donations from progressive organizations, including the Bay Area-based liberal donor-advised fund the Tides Foundation. (Liberal groups often characterize these donor-advised entities as “dark money” when the organizations are conservative-leaning.) Tax filings reveal a few of the more prominent and most substantial donors:
The Proteus Action League donated $79,000 in 2012.
The Working Families Organization has deep ties with national progressive groups and labor unions. Members of the organizations national and state advisory boards hail from major labor unions like the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Communications Workers of America (CWA), United Auto Workers (UAW), the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), and the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW). Other Advisory board members come from prominent progressive organizations, including online liberal advocacy group MoveOn.org, labor-union-associated advocacy organization Center for Popular Democracy, and Latino activist group Casa de Maryland.
Ilya Sheyman, the executive director of MoveOn Political Action, also serves on the national advisory board. After acting as a field director for Howard Dean’s Democracy for America, Sheyman ran in the Democratic primary for Illinois’ 10th District in 2010, losing the race to the relatively more moderate Brad Schneider. Working Families works closely with MoveOn both nationally and in local elections, though the two organizations are not formally affiliated.
The Working Families Organization is run by Executive Director Dan Cantor, who is also the national director of the Working Families Party. Cantor, a graduate of the left-wing liberal arts school Wesleyan University, immediately began working for ACORN upon graduating in 1977. Subsequent to his time at ACORN, he worked for the National Labor Committee on Central America, mobilizing labor opposition to the historically liberal but anti-Communist AFL-CIO for failing to support the Cuban-backed Communist Sandinistas in Nicaragua. Up to 2014, he contributed opinion pieces at Huffington Post, writing about subjects ranging from the death of Trayvon Martin to local New York City politics.
In 1998, Cantor joined with Bob Master, the Political Director for District One of Communication Workers of America, to create the Working Families Party. Master now serves on the board of the Working Families Organization.