Omidyar Network has announced a commitment of $35 million over three years in support of its Reimagining Capitalism initiative, with a focus on building the power, voice, and agency of working people — including low-wage workers of color and women — in "a post-pandemic" era.
Under way since 2019, the initiative is investing in new models, tools, and policies designed to strengthen worker power, defined as the ability of working people acting together to influence the terms of their work — including pay and benefits, as well as broader working conditions and terms of employment — through direct bargaining with employers and effective policy advocacy at the city, state, and federal levels. Omidyar Network CEO Mike Kubzansky said during a press call that ON will allocate 40 percent of the $35 million in support of the initiative's worker power component.
In conjunction with the announcement, ON published Our Vision for the Future of Workers and Work (19 pages, PDF), a white paper outlining the fragile state of worker rights, opportunities, and protections in the United States — all of which have been starkly highlighted during the coronavirus public health crisis — and the need to build a new economic system in which workers exercise greater power. To that end, the initiative will invest through the end of 2021 in five areas: supporting innovative ways of organizing working people that build on new models; shoring up revenue models to support organizing; enacting policies that enable and build worker power, agency, and voice; exploring business and corporate governance models that incorporate worker voice; and introducing and normalizing data that better describes the experience of working people. The organization also will support efforts to address racial and gender inequalities in the workplace; challenge the negative narrative around working people's rights, protections, and benefits; and track how the pandemic is affecting working people and the U.S. economy.
A survey released by ON reveals broad support for worker power across the partisan divide, with more than three in five Americans saying unions were a positive force for working people and about half saying they would vote for a union in their workplace. According to What Americans Think About Worker Power and Organization: Lessons From a New Survey (8 pages, PDF), which was conducted in partnership with Data for Progress, 69 percent of respondents said they believed working people do not have the power and voice they need in the workplace and 59 percent agreed that "workers need more say in how businesses are run." In addition, more than 80 percent said it should be illegal for employers to fire workers for protesting lax health and safety standards, as some employers, including Amazon, have done in recent weeks.
Current grantees of the initiative include the LIFT Fund, the WorkersLab Innovation Fund, Harvard Worklife (Clean Slate for Worker Power), the Center for American Progress, United for Respect, the National Domestic Workers Alliance, and Coworker.org.
"Much of the economic pain American working families are experiencing today was the inevitable output of economic and political systems that have been explicitly designed to aggressively weaken worker power," Kubzansky said in a statement. "For many of those who could not already see the fragility of so many millions of jobs, the uneven burden placed on our essential workers, and the immense challenges working people already endured every day, COVID-19 has ripped the blindfolds off. Now, as we face the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, it is vital that we not go back to the economy we had before. We must rebuild our economy with equity, dignity, and power for all workers."
(Photo credit: Omidyar Network)