Astoria Workers Initiative Launching


Astoria, Queens will be home to CWE's new initiative to support workers in the changing economy.


In recent years, the nature of work and jobs have become increasingly fluid as more and more workers transition from traditional employment to “the gig economy.” For some, this shift has brought more freedom and flexibility. But for many workers, gigs are anything but voluntary and have made their lives and jobs more precarious.
The Consortium for Worker Education has spent the past three decades serving New York City’s workers with the occupational skill building and certification programs they need to advance in their careers. As the economy transforms, we are transforming to meet the needs of workers, today and in the future.
CWE is launching a new initiative with our community partners in the Queens neighborhood of Astoria (Council District 22) to provide a wide range of services to help local residents succeed in the new economy. CWE is investing new resources in our existing partners with an Astoria presence and also bringing new providers to the neighborhood.
The backbone of the Astoria Workers Initiative will be the job training and job placement services that CWE is known for, which help unemployed, underemployed, or other precarious workers build skills and become employed. Long-time partners from CWE’s Jobs to Build On program, Urban Upbound and HANAC, will lead the way with training programs focusing on information technology and industry-recognized certifications. Urban Upbound will also direct engagement with Astoria’s four NYCHA developments to ensure they are involved in the initiative. Alongside these efforts, Queens Economic Development Corporation will work with CWE to provide aid to the neighborhood’s small businesses. CWE plans to continue working with our partners to pilot new job training programs around in-demand jobs in the growing tech sector.
For those who are part of the gig economy, or want to be, CWE partners are developing or ramping up training programs to help them succeed in the field and build toward having a stable income or starting a business by themselves or with other gig workers. CWE is working with a new non-profit partner, Samaschool, that provides in-person and online classes for workers who aspire to work for app-based gig companies. The classes break down how app employment works, how to get hired, and strategies to deal with the downsides of gig work.
A number of unions, including RWDSU and SEIU 1199 are training workers in their sectors and Restaurant Opportunities Center is training restaurant workers.
CWE has brought a suite of worker protection services to the neighborhood to support vulnerable workers, particularly immigrant workers. This includes Know Your Rights trainings and citizenship services that will be provided in Astoria by CWE partners like Make the Road NY, HANAC, and ANSOB Center for Refugees.
CWE is also supporting those who have been negatively affected by gig work. Astoria Workers Initiative will partner with the Legal Aid Society to support workers who have been involuntarily misclassified as independent contractors, a practice by some companies to unlawfully push workers into the gig economy and deny them job security, legal benefits, and stability.
Astoria -- as much a small city as a neighborhood -- has a stable population, diverse local businesses, and existing CWE partners, making it the right place to put this comprehensive initiative into action.

"The goal is for Astoria, and Council District 22, to be a worker-centered city, where workers have the respect, the skills, the support, and most importantly the confidence, to work together and control their economic futures," said Joe McDermott, Executive Director of the Consortium for Worker Education.
As workers come to the Astoria Workers Initiative to upgrade their skills, get support, and defend their rights, CWE hopes they will also see it as a place to build connections with each other. Long-term, these connections could lead to new worker organizing of sector associations and incubation of worker-owned co-ops to make the gig economy work for all workers.