A 'volatile disaster' | U.S. care non-profit backed by Bradley Cooper & run by top labor activist accused of understaffing & union retaliation

U.S. care non-profit backed by Bradley Cooper & run by top labor activist accused of understaffing & union retaliation

Former employees of Caring Across Generations (CAG), a care non-profit backed by celebrities such as Megan Thee Stallion and Bradley Cooper have described the organization as a “volatile disaster” amid claims of union retaliation, understaffing, and mismanagement.

The non-profit is co-founded and run by Executive Director Ai-Jen Poo, a high-profile labor activist who is the President of the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA). CAG is an offshoot of the NDWA.

Poo has previously been listed in Fortune’s 50 World’s Greatest Leaders and Time’s 100 Most Influential People in the World, is a past winner of the MacArthur “Genius” Award, and has been a pivotal figure in movements such as #MeToo and #TimesUp, for the launch of which she attended the Golden Globes alongside Meryl Streep.

Alongside Poo’s elevated status, several celebrities back CAG or are involved with its work, including Seth Rogen, Megan Thee Stallion, Bradley Cooper, and Yvette Nicole Brown.

One CAG worker says Poo has a “great vision for where the care movement and domestic worker movement should go,” speaking to the Guardian. However, the worker adds that she “doesn’t know how to run an organization and she puts her trust in people who don’t know how to run an organization.”

Employees at CAG have leveled several accusations of poor management practices at the care company.

One ex-employee who led a union drive suggested they were forced out of the company amid restructuring at the end of 2023. “I think folks probably felt that I was too vocal in advocating for better working conditions or better treatment,” another worker states.

The worker also accuses CAG of several other examples of anti-labor practices in retaliation to their union involvement including delayed reimbursements and pushback on disability accommodations. “It’s ironic that there’s so many issues with accommodations there,” the worker adds.

In a 2023 financial report, Poo highlighted the work CAG does in “building power amongst caregivers and those they are caring for, including aging and disabled people.”

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There are also reported issues with understaffing and retention. “The workload is so huge and they don’t hire enough folks,” the worker says. “There’s so much turnover too.”

Other workers have made similar claims and describe being pushed to sign non-disparagement agreements to receive a severance package.

The employee who described Poo as well-intentioned but not equipped to run an organization pointed out that the labor activist was rarely present and left the work to chief managers who lacked direction and strategy.

“This is a very badly managed organization in every sense,” the worker says. “People are not managed well, the budget is not managed well, and the strategy is not managed well.”

The worker describes Poo as a “fully absent leader” and felt the organization was not a priority for her. In the face of poor organization, the appointed chief managers would reportedly “look for scapegoats to blame rather than looking for real strategies to move organizational priorities forward.”

Another worker suggests managers would address people management issues such as employees struggling with 50 to 60-hour work weeks and requests for reduced workloads by “consistently firing staff.” They suggest managers took this option instead of “leaning into the actual mandate of the organization and caring enough about their employees to set up professional development, training, and project management that would allow us to succeed and not just struggle every day until an inevitable breaking point.”

“In the non-profit world, you are sometimes expected to lean in more than you should. Most of us are used to that, even though it’s not right But, Ai-jen and her team pushed us day in and day out without any downtime, real support, steady HR infrastructure, or a staff retention policy,” they continue.

The worker also cites an event run by CAG in November 2023 called CareFest. “We were so severely understaffed and under so much pressure that multiple staff started breaking down in tears and panic in the hallways,” the worker explains. Poo did not send the workers a thank you for their work until two weeks later. The worker echoed the sentiment from their former colleagues that this was due to her lack of attention on CAG. “It wasn’t much of a surprise because she was a completely absent executive director,” they added.

CAG did respond to the Guardian’s request for comment, citing that it has been “navigating uncertain, difficult economic conditions that have impacted funding and reinforced the need to strategically align resources.”

A spokesperson states that the non-profit has undertaken “thoughtful and strategic restructuring to ensure the long-term health and sustainability of the organization,” including increasing its headcount by more than 50% from 2022 to 2023. CAG denies retaliation or any other anti-union activity but does not address the specific complaints raised about CareFest.

Image Credit: Ai-Jen Poo – Flickr User – UN Women

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