The Working America Education Fund reaches working class moderates with a progressive message on economic issues. Together with Working America, our partner 501(c)(5) organization, we bring good information to their doorsteps, initiate a dialogue, and offer ways to take action for good jobs and a just economy. And we do it on a very large scale: our membership has topped 3 million, and we had 1 million face-to-face conversations in 2010. Building relationships and trust with ongoing communication, we create an opening to reframe issues, redefine values and reorder priorities to build voice and power for a progressive working class.
Founding Year: 2003
Permanent Funtion: Labor, Organizing
Operating Budget: $4.5 million
Strategy: Our work is anchored in one-on-one personal contact in the field, coupled with a sophisticated, multi-layered, ongoing communications program. We believe in great training, disciplined practice, and plenty of listening and learning. We test our approaches and messages in the field every day, learn from what we hear back, evaluate, recalibrate, and go out again. We focus our time and resources where we can have a real impact. As we like to say, “Mass, class, and in it to win.”
Social Media Strategy: Our membership isn’t as likely as Move On to gravitate to social media. However, our online program includes nearly 600,000 members, who receive ongoing communications on issues. Working America and the Fund’s award-winning websites further mobilize members to take action. The Main Street blog posts have been linked or featured at Daily Kos, Campaign for America’s Future, Congress Matters, and other influential sites. Furthermore, we integrated Facebook and Twitter into our traditional email campaigns, harnessing social networks to encourage members to spread the word about actions they’ve taken. And we have a growing texting cohort as well
Accomplishments: In 2010, we organized in nine states: Arkansas, Colorado, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon and Pennsylvania.
- We had 1 million face-to-face conversations about issues affecting working families and their communities, offering a perspective to counter the rightwing message machine.
- Our in-house phone center made 3,000 follow-up phone calls every month to assess the impact of our door-to-door organizing visits and to probe attitudes about timely issues
- Nearly 600,000 members were part of our online program. Our “Not Your ATM” financial reform campaign site was featured in media reports and won six awards.
- We organized among our 500,000 unemployed members, including a tele-town hall meeting that drew 23,000 participants to discuss the jobs crisis.
- Job Tracker, our online database, searchable by zip, puts the lowdown on corporate abuse and outsourcing at workers’ fingertips.
- We educated our members and mobilized them to take action on jobs and the economy, health care reform, financial reform and unemployment insurance.
- Through “briefings from the field,” we shared what we learned from our constituents – providing allies with important insights about effective messaging.
Activist Advice: Look for a cause you love, an organization you respect, and a mentor to navigate the terrain. Keep your eyes, ears and mind open, and learn when to keep your mouth shut. Work hard and with passion, but maintain your health and your balance. Pessimism of the mind, optimism of the will. Don’t forget your sense of humor and the power of wonderful colleagues in the struggle.
Conservative Counterpart: There is no equivalent organization for working people on the right, but our members are most likely to be cross pressured by the Tea Party and NRA.
How would you like to see that country change? How wildly do you want to dream? Low unemployment and an economy based on good jobs for many, not vast wealth for a few; a vibrant and growing union movement and a sane and humane economic and industrial policy; affordable health care for all; an end to attacks on Social Security; young people graduating from college without a crushing burden of student debt; environmental sustainability. Sadly, those ideas feel like extravagant fantasies in today’s political environment. But they should be basic rights. Not to mention world peace and the triumph of global human rights rather than just global corporate pillage.
Where do you see The Working America Education Fund in a couple years? More mass, more class, more wins. We expect to be at least twice as big as we are now, with infrastructure in many more states, and growing numbers of younger workers and Hispanic/Latino workers. Having honed our ability to reach working-class moderates and engage them to take action on progressive economic causes, we are investing in, and experimenting with, ways to deepen our relationship with members. Member organizers in cities across the country now work to connect members to each other, to help jobless members reach out to other jobless people, to create strength in numbers on local issues and to develop and foreground the voices of activists. We expect our work to generate some innovative ways to represent workers and increase their voice and power in the changing economy.
Donor Advice: Evaluate the consequences of your giving as rigorously as you want the groups you fund to evaluate themselves. Provide funding that leverages other institutional resources and builds progressive infrastructure and sustainable organizations. Enable effective ongoing work and innovative new ideas that bend the arc of history toward justice. Make the quest for an equitable and sustainable society a lifelong passion.
Karen Nussbaum, Executive Director, firstname.lastname@example.org has been fighting for the rights of working men and women for nearly four decades. She was a founder and director of 9to5, National Association of Working Women; president of District 925, SEIU; and the director of the U.S. Department of Labor Women’s Bureau during the first Clinton Administration, the highest seat in the federal government devoted to women’s issues. She is the author, with John Sweeney, of the book Solutions for the New Workforce, and with Ellen Cassedy, of the book 9to5. She has been at the AFL-CIO for 15 years and is now the executive director of Working America and the Working America Education Fund.
Board of Directors:
Rev. James Sessions, East Tennessee Workers Rights Board and Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice
Ellen Bravo, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee; Family Values @ Work Consortium
Robert “Biko” Baker, The League of Young Voters
Patricia Bauman, The Bauman Foundation
Heather Booth, Consultant
Robert Borosage, Institute for America’s Future and Co-Director, Campaign for America’s Future
Cathy Duvall, Sierra Club
Tom Matzzie, Accountable America
Katie Quan, Center for Labor Research and Education, UC Berkeley
Rinku Sen, Applied Research Center
Harley Shaiken, Center for Latin American Studies, UC Berkeley
Barbara Ellen Smith,Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
John Sweeney, AFL-CIO
Drew Westen, Emory University; Westen Strategies
Type of Organization: 501(c)(3), 501(c)(5)
Contact The Working America Education Fund:
Karen Nussbaum, Executive Director
815 Sixteenth Street NW
Washington, DC 20006
Phone: (202) 637-5137
Fax: (202) 508-6900