The Worker Institute


The Worker Institute at Cornell starts from the idea that strong workers' rights and collective representation are essential elements of a vibrant, prosperous, democratic society.

Through research, education and public discourse, the institute applies innovative thinking and problem-solving approaches to the workplace, economy and society, in the interests of working people and their families.


Equity at Work

initiative / equity

Employees celebrating equality in the workplace

The Equity at Work initiative examines how the workplace is impacted by the evolving and changing norms of the social construction of gender roles, identity, and expression. This includes discussion of current and evolving workers' rights, the workplace contexts in which they currently exist, and individual, organizational and cultural interventions that promote and expand employment issues of respect, fairness, equity and justice.

Strategic Leadership

initiative / leadership

People gathered for a strategic planning session

The Strategic Leadership Initiative focuses on labor movement leadership development, strategy design and organizational change in unions, professional associations and other worker organizations.

The initiative seeks to engage with leaders at the highest levels of labor and worker formations that are committed to organizational transformation and interested in innovative strategies. This encompasses four broad areas of work:

Precarious Workforce

initiative / Workforce

A woman speaks at the center of a meeting of women day laborers in Williamsburg

The Precarious Workforce Initiative focuses on the labor rights and socioeconomic conditions of low-wage and contingent workers, who receive little or no benefits and have largely no institutional or legal protection.

These workers constitute the most vulnerable segment of the workforce. Their ranks include, but are not limited to, day laborers, immigrants, domestic workers, young workers, the unemployed and the formerly incarcerated.

Labor, Environment and Sustainable Development

initiative / sustainable

Laborers installing solar panels on a roof

The Labor, Environment, and Sustainable Development Initiative advances knowledge, policies, and practices to enhance the role of labor and working people in addressing the environmental and climate crises. The initiative's efforts focus on building a truly sustainable society and economy.

The initiative also helps workers’ rights advocates to better understand the employment and labor implications of environmental, climate and sustainability issues through a variety of activities: