Impact Tech | February 11, 2021

Workers Lab nurtures innovations for vulnerable workers

Amy Cortese
ImpactAlpha Editor

Amy Cortese

ImpactAlpha, Feb. 11 – It’s a tale of two pandemics.

Employees able to work from home have been shielded from both the virus and layoffs, while millions of low-wage service workers, particularly women and people of color, face lost jobs and increased exposure.

The nonprofit Workers Lab in Oakland, Calif., is backing three ideas for supporting workers, families and a just recovery. The moment is ripe to “re-envision the gig economy so that it actually serves workers better today,” said Hays Witt of Driver’s Seat Cooperative, which will use the grant of $150,000 to build an app that helps ride-hail and delivery drivers pinpoint earnings to optimize their time across multiple on-demand platforms.

Carina is creating a scalable, bilingual app to match families with realtime openings at unionized child care providers. The Warehouse Worker Resource Center is training displaced workers for jobs in green supply chains and logistics as warehousing has risen in importance for e-commerce giants like Amazon.

Worker empowerment

The Workers Lab’s Innovation Fund has awarded over $4 million to 60 ideas since 2016. The Lab was founded by Dr. Carmen Rojas, who was profiled in ImpactAlpha’s New Revivalist series. Now president of the Marguerite Casey Foundation, Rojas was featured this month in The Reconstruction podcast series.

The Workers Lab reviewed 558 submissions from across 46 states before settling on three winners, who will be awarded grants of up to $150,000 and a year’s worth of mentorship. “Who better to look to for creative answers and new ideas then the workers bearing the brunt of this crisis?” says The Workers Labs’ Adrian Haro.