What are Worker Centers?

Worker centers are labor union front groups that protest and organize for higher wages, labor mandates, and larger benefits packages. They attempt to recruit workers outside the structures and regulations of collective bargaining under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). Although many are tied to labor unions, and act in ways similar to traditional labor organizations, they are relying on a loop hole in labor law to operate largely unregulated.

Worker centers attempt to organize workers in industries and situations where labor unions have found NLRA organization difficult. These include employees who do not have long term job interests or may not find unionization practical, necessary, or useful.

The following industries have been targeted by worker centers:

  • Retail
  • Hospitality
  • Warehouses
  • Restaurants
  • Farming

Additionally, unions and union supporters use worker centers to conduct campaigns without the activity and membership regulations imposed by the NLRA and financial reporting and governance regulations of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA). The results are long pickets, minority “wildcat” strikes, and undemocratic structures of the centers, among many other actions and practices that would be illegal for a labor union.

Workers centers are the hubs of unionists’ hopes that so-called “alt-labor” groups will replace or reinforce traditional unions in worker organizing. The AFL-CIO has endorsed alt-labor as a model to bring workers who might mistrust or oppose unionizing into the union fold.