Organizers’ Forum (OF)

Organizers’ Forum (OF)


* Seeks to help leftwing organizers network and learn from one another
* Formerly a project of the Tides Center
* Key board members include Deepak Bhargava, Drummond Pike, Wade Rathke, and Andrew Sterm

The Organizers’ Forum (OF) describes itself as “a group of organizers from the nation’s premier community organizing networks and labor unions, along with other friends and allies.” The Forum’s objective is to help organizers “learn from each other” and “explore different methodologies.” It also tries to serve as a “matchmaker between organizers and organizations,” pairing people with certain skill sets to groups in need of those skills.

OF’s earliest roots can be traced back to 1999, when its founders first began circulating a “concept paper” for the new entity they planned to establish. The group’s first coordinator was Barbara Bowen, whose activist career has included work with the ACORN, the AFL-CIO, the American Federation of Teachers, the Left Forum, National Welfare Rights Organization, the New Labor Forum, Project VOTE, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and VISTA. Bowen retired from her post with OF at the end of 2008.

For a period of time, OF was was classified as a “project” of the Tides Center, meaning that Tides helped the organization handle its administrative affairs and its “house of operation.” In 2009, OF became a project of the Labor Neighbor Research & Training Center, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in New Orleans.

As of February 2011, the following individuals were listed as OF board members:

  • Kirk Adams: longtime official with the SEIU
  • Deepak Bhargava: executive director of the Center for Community Change
  • John Calkins: worked with the National Welfare Rights Organization from 1969-1974; has been director of the Miami-based Direct Action and Training Center since 1984
  • Miguel Contreras: president of the AFL-CIO, Los Angeles County
  • Tho Thi Do: secretary-treasurer, Local #2, Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union, San Francisco
  • Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins: executive officer of the South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council
  • Mary Gonzales: associate director of the Gamaliel Foundation
  • Sarita Gupta: former president of the U.S. Student Association; was appointed executive director of Jobs with Justice in 2007
  • Josh Hoyt: executive director of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant & Refugee Rights
  • Ken Johnson: southern regional director of the AFL-CIO
  • Michael Kieschnick: president of Working Assets and member of the Democracy Alliance
  • Drummond Pike: president of the Tides Foundation and member of the Democracy Alliance
  • Wade Rathke: Rathke is OF’s board chairman. He is also the founder and former chief organizer of ACORN, and has been associated with both the AFL-CIO and the SEIU.
  • Scott Reed: executive director of the PICO Network
  • Mary Rowles: director of research, campaigns, and communication for the British Columbia Government Employees’ Union
  • Rev. Jim Sessions: president of the Working America Education Fund; former executive director of the AFL-CIO’s Union Community Fund
  • Mark Splain: special assistant in the AFL-CIO’s Department of Organizing
  • Andrew Stern: former president of the SEIU
  • Pat Sweeney: executive director of the Western Organization of Resource Councils
  • Gustavo Torres: executive director of CASA de Maryland

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