After nearly 20 years in operation, the Berger-Marks Foundation closed its doors in the summer of 2017. Since 2003, the Berger-Marks Foundation has made grants totaling more than $2.3 million to provide hundreds of women workers with critical financial support to get trained, attend conferences, and gain organizing and leadership experience. The Foundation also has funded organizing projects, research, and mentoring programs.

The Berger-Marks Foundation invested its remaining assets, of more than $1.5 million, in a new project, WILL Empower, to build women’s leadership in labor organizations. This ambitious initiative will identify, nurture, train, and convene a new generation of women labor leaders. Building a pipeline of future women labor leaders comes at a time when the labor movement faces severe economic and political challenges.

The Kalmanovitz Initiative (KI) for Labor and the Working Poor at Georgetown University in Washington, DC and the Center for Innovation in Worker Organization (CIWO) at Rutgers University School of Management and Labor Relations in New Jersey are co-leading the project. WILL Empower (Women Innovating Labor Leadership) programming will begin in the fall of 2017.

CIWO and KI will also continue the Berger-Marks Foundation’s annual Edna Award for Social Justice and Kate Mullany Courageous Young Worker Award. WILL Empower will be led by Sheri Davis-Faulkner at CIWO and Lane Windham at KI. Windham and Davis-Faulkner are organizers, educators, scholars, and activists who have collectively spent over 40 years working in the labor movement and developing women leaders. Windham holds a doctorate in U.S. History and Davis-Faulkner holds a doctorate in American Studies.

WILL Empower will use a broad approach to reach women throughout the labor movement, from the rank-and- file to national staff and officers. Initial programming covers four program areas:

  1. Cohorts of collective learning and mentoring will include next-generation women leaders in the labor movement, and mid-career women ready to advance. This project will offer multiple training, mentoring, and peer-group opportunities.
  2. Women union activists who want a break from daily responsibilities to develop bold ideas for advancing social and economic justice for women workers will be offered innovative academic fellowships.
  3. Recent college graduates and rank-and- file workers will have access to staff apprenticeships with unions and other economic justice organizations.
  4. A multi-media, interactive communications platform, titled the Future of Labor Interactive Project (FLIP), will offer aspiring women leaders resources to help them fight for economic justice. It will include online forums, research hubs, community-based projects, and reports and data.

Read the full press release here.