Centro de Trabajadores en Lucha (CTUL) began in 2005 as a project of Workers’ Interfaith Network (WIN) with the goal of supporting low-wage workers who are facing workplace issues such as unjust firings or wage theft. Initially known as the Interfaith Center for Worker Justice (ICWJ), the project served mainly as a service for low-wage workers, focusing on resolving immediate workplace issues mainly through legal means.
In August of 2007, the Workers’ Center shifted from being a service to a base-building organization. CTUL began focusing on empowering low-wage workers to lead a movement aimed at achieving fair and equitable wages, working conditions and treatment for all.
February 2008, CTUL’s first Workers’ Party, celebrating six months of victories with over 100 workers and their families.
Over the past four years workers have succeeded in recovering nearly half a million dollars in back wages, and reinstating hundreds of unjustly fired workers, while winning victories against some of the biggest and most well-established employers in the area and becoming firmly established as a major force for worker justice in the process. We have pressured 15 companies into changing corporate policies impacting workers, gaining improvements for over 1,000 low-wage workers. In only four years, CTUL has grown from a small organization with a few members into a powerful force for those whose voices have gone unheard. But all of this is only the beginning…
September 2009 Fiesta del Trabajador celebrating two years of victories with over 250 workers and their families.
In late 2008, active workers formed the Mesa Organizadora (MO; Organizing Table), made up of low-wage workers who lead the organizing efforts of CTUL. The Mesa Organizadora has since made three significant decisions that shape the future of the organization:
- Membership. The MO decided to further build the constituency base of the organization by forming a membership program. The goal of membership is to ensure that low-workers take deeper ownership over the process of building a movement aimed at gaining living wages, fair working conditions and respect in the workplace .
- Constituency control over the own organization. While the MO has been empowered to make and implement programmatic decisions since its inception, it was still officially the Board of a program of WIN, and thus beholden to WIN’s Board. In September of 2009 the MO, membership, and WIN’s Board voted unanimously to solidify constituency control by separating CTUL from WIN .
- Root causes of poverty. The Mesa Organizadora decided to coordinate a proactive campaign in one industry that would get to the root of worker exploitation in that industry, placing power in the hands of low-wage workers to establish better wages and working conditions. After six months of talking to workers and exploring options, CTUL decided to focus the campaign in retail cleaning.