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Why We Organized.

As mission-driven staff at MDRC, we share a purpose of building knowledge to drive evidence-based policy and improve the lives of people, workers, students, and families. Across departments and independent of tenure, staff have been asking for changes in our workplace policy and culture. Overwhelmingly, staff continue to experience burnout, express frustration about stagnancy in their roles, and note a perceptible lack of inclusion in decision-making processes. Taken together, these experiences deepen the sense of misalignment between workplace practices and the mission of MDRC. 

We, as your colleagues and organizers of the effort to form an employee union for MDRC, see collective bargaining as an opportunity to sit at the table as equals and workers dedicated to improving people’s lives, including our colleagues.

We are excited to announce that we have received majority support for a union at MDRC, and as of today have notified management of our intent to legally form our union, Social Policy Workers United-AFSCME DC 57, AFL-CIO. 

As workers at MDRC, an organization that prides itself on listening to the evidence, we would like to see MDRC leadership listen to the overwhelmingly salutary evidence of unions’ effectiveness, and recognize our own union, so we can collectively bargain and take true ownership of our work. A union will bring democracy to our workplace, giving us each a voice and a vote in decisions about MDRC. Precisely because of this collaborative structure, we do not know yet exactly what we will prioritize changing. It is on each of us – across age, gender, race, job title, and work experience  – to actively decide what we want this union to do. This will not be easy, but it will lead to a huge reward: the creation of systems at MDRC that allow us all to thrive, enhance our working conditions, and improve our output.

We have been waiting until now to begin planning for the contract negotiation process, but we do have a general sense of what this effort should achieve. Based on the priorities staff have shared and the legal scope of a union, we have identified the following priorities to build our first contract around (in no particular order): 

  • Transparent policies and practices

  • Accountability to staff concerns

  • Fairness in our workplace

  • Diversity, equity, and inclusion in our research and workplace


We are so proud of how far we have already come in this work. It can be scary and strange to come together with colleagues to seek meaningful change in the way that we are doing. All of us, at one point or another, have had to grapple with that fear in this process. However, we truly believe that the opportunity and reward that can grow out of this effort will deliver a better workplace for all of us. Through our union, we have a tremendous opportunity to build and shape our work in so many ways.

By signing a card and becoming a member, you have become part of this effort to reshape and reform MDRC. We are so glad that you have joined us to make sure the union is legally recognized and has a permanent place within our organization.

Today, we sent our letter to MDRC’s senior management asking for them to voluntarily recognize our union effort. The way that they choose to respond to our announcement will dictate what happens next. They can either acknowledge the value that a union would bring to our work and recognize us, or they can put our union to a secret ballot vote. 

We hope that our leadership will choose the former so we can begin negotiating a contract and implementing the changes we collectively decide to prioritize. In the meantime, we commit to keeping you informed of any updates in their decision-making process as we hear of them.

If you’re interested in reading more about what we see as our priorities, the union website is live today and has a more detailed explanation of these priorities. The link is here: There is also a members-only page on the website where we will begin posting additional information about the status of our campaign. As a union member, you can sign up to gain access here on the member access page. We will be sharing more materials and literature over the following days and weeks. And as always, please reach out to any of us with any questions.

In solidarity,

Social Policy Workers United Organizing Committee

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