Funders for a Just Economy - Alabama Learning Tour

Monday, November 6th — Wednesday, November 8th, 2017   

Access recorded sessions from the Alabama Learning Tour on NFG's Facebook page!

Alabama can be described for many reasons as ground zero for historic and influential grassroots organizing, movement building, and successes in civil rights and economic policy. Decades of disinvestment and economic discrimination, changes in growth industries from agriculture to iron, steel and coal, to the auto, retail and service sectors, and deep structural racism and gender-based bias in the labor market has resulted in major challenges to the economic stability of low-income families and communities of color. Additionally, adoption of right-to-work laws (in Alabama by statute in 1953, and by constitutional provision in 2016), has contributed to lower wages and less worker benefits compared to other states . This history of economic discrimination, structural racism, xenophobia and gender bias has left many Alabama residents locked out of economic stability through job opportunities, a strong social safety net, access to health, and economic security.

While structural racism and discriminatory economic policies have shaped much of Alabama’s history, history also shows us that there is much to be learned from Alabama’s social change movements. From the Montgomery bus boycotts in 1955, to the march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965 for voting rights, to more recently the city of Birmingham being among the first cities to adopt a path towards a $15 minimum wage beginning in 2015 , leaders in the movement for justice in Alabama come from a fierce and mighty lineage. Examples of resistance strategies come from advocacy and organizing, policy campaigns, and entrepreneurial efforts that seed small businesses, cooperatives, and other ventures, revitalizing and developing neighborhoods and communities across the state.

On November 6-8, Neighborhood Funders Group's Funders for a Just Economy brought funders from across the US to Alabama to meet with local and regional funders, community organizations, unions and worker centers to experience, appreciate, and learn about the movement building strategies workers and communities are implementing to advocate for economic justice. Funders learned about the immense history, culture, and narrative story of the people of Alabama and how this rich history connects to current campaigns and resistance efforts with low-wage workers, women, immigrants and communities of color leading the charge. FJE also explored how people have built power and economic stability through economic models that shift assets to community members, and traditionally unorganized and migrant workers.

By connecting with local foundations and organizations, participants of Alabama Learning Tour were able to:

  • Engage with local funders to understand the regional politics and grassroots efforts that relate to larger national narratives and campaigns advancing workers’ rights.
  • Increase their knowledge about local union campaigns in Alabama, and how organized labor thrives when in partnership with community groups to build collective power.
  • Learn how grassroots power is being built in the region to advance economic policies with low wage workers & workers of color leading the charge.
  • Understand the links between urban, suburban, and rural areas in Alabama by tying them together culturally and economically.
  • Learn about economic models that shift assets to community and build wealth and economic stability.

This event was cosponsored by the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy and Grantmakers for Southern Progress.

For more information, contact Manisha Vaze, Senior Program Manager of Funders for a Just Economy, at

Tour Itinerary  

Day 1 — Monday 11/6

  • Civil Rights Memorial Tour of Montgomery
  • Understanding Systemic Racism and Labor’s History in Alabama
  • Dinner Conversation: Impactful Philanthropy in Alabama

Day 2 — Tuesday 11/7

  • Workforce and Economic Development in the Black Belt
  • Tour of Selma
  • Farm Workers, Household Workers, Health and Safety, and Immigration Policy
  • Dinner Conversation: Cooperative Development and Economic Self-Determination

Day 3 — Wednesday 11/8

  • Economic Policies in the New South: Power Building through Litigation, Leadership Development, and Social Justice Infrastructure
  • Closing Discussion & Lessons Learned    

Click here to download the tour itinerary.