March 30, 2020

A Call for Social Solidarity: COVID-19 Response from NFG's Programs

In the midst of the growing COVID-19 pandemic, NFG stands with our communities and workers who are in crisis. As we help organize with frontline leaders and philanthropy to meet the immediate needs of our communities at this time, NFG also remains committed to long-term transformation towards a just and equitable society.

Funders must listen and move resources to organizations that are accountable to the communities that disproportionately bear the brunt of this public health and economic disaster, now and into the future. These communities include Asian Americans and Asian immigrants who are experiencing violent attacks and scapegoating based on race in addition to all the other impacts of the pandemic. 

While the pandemic has created a broader sense of national crisis and urgency, such crises are the everyday reality of many people in our communities. As movement leaders Cara Kindred and Eesha Pandit have written, “many of our communities live in crisis and economic disparities constantly. These crises, such as lack of access to dignified and quality health care and housing, a living wage, electricity, running water and freedom from state, communal, and interpersonal violence, are created and sustained by institutions and social structures that are working as intended…

This moment asks us to consider how we will pivot and adapt in a way that centers collective care, safety, and protection for each other.”  Read the full essay here. 

NFG is doing just that in our programming and grantmaking. Keep reading to hear from each of our programs how philanthropy should be pivoting and adapting:

Amplify Fund 

At Amplify we are stretching from our core! We maintain our central belief that community power drives just and equitable development and in the face of COVID-19, a just and equitable recovery. We share 3 ways to take action with us below: 

  • Give more than you ever thought possible. As a time-limited pooled fund, we are reallocating budget items so we can distribute as much in direct support as possible. We hope you give at the maximum level possible even if that’s above the 5% minimum endowment payout or your current averages. 

  • Root in racial justice now more than ever. We are continuing to resource local organizations led by directly impacted people in our 8 places across the country, and encourage you to support communities as decision-makers, follow local expertise and prioritize local leaders and leaders of color. 

  • Do what works for grantees. We are steadfast in our commitment to listen to grantees first and then act quickly, and, collaboratively, with philanthropic partners. When distributing resources, consider using JustFund, an online “one-stop shop” application portal to reduce redundancy and burden for grantees.

Democratizing Development Program 

Across the country, we are seeing health and housing justice leaders push for COVID-19 Housing and Homeless community demands that temporarily or permanently put moratoriums on evictions, rents and utility shutoffs for residential and commercial tenants. We are seeing homeless communities, having no other choice but to seize state and private properties for shelter.

Rent is due on April 1. Millions won’t be able to pay their rent due to layoffs or illness. Others don't have a home at all, or haven’t had an affordable and safe place to call home for a long time. Congress will try to respond. Today’s public health emergency exacerbates our existing housing and public health needs that already disproportionately impact low-income and communities of color. 

All philanthropic institutions should continue to partner to break out of our silos to further support housing needs and groups working at the local, state and national level. Community and family foundations should look at how they can support local groups to engage in People’s Action and others working on the national Homes Guarantee campaign. Right to the City (RTTC) is also launching a National Campaign for Rent, Utility, and Mortgage Suspension. From their experiences of enduring the long-term impacts of the 2007-2008 foreclosure crisis, RTTC is also launching a $5 million dollar emergency fund for its local, state and national grassroots members. We are grateful that philanthropy is “rapidly” responding to the health and housing crisis, but what is needed is a deeper, sustained, and longer-term commitment for program and investment dollars to support the housing needs of all.

To continue our collective response on health and housing, we are organizing a Democratizing Development funders strategy discussion to lift up examples on where funders can respond and to further support nonprofit leaders and grantmakers on short-term and longer-term strategies to build community power during this growing health crisis.

Funders for a Just Economy

On March 23 and 24, FJE hosted emergency calls with funders and its annual two-day Policy Briefing. We surveyed funders and community organizations to learn more about the immediate needs and actions groups are taking to protect workers and their families amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis.

Through these events and data, FJE created the following calls to action for funders:  

  • Coordinate, Coordinate, Coordinate. Coordinate with Grantees - Listen! Minimize the work and burden on them and support the resilience of grantees with increased funds. And support grantees to build a ground game for broader change that combats austerity policies and builds power for the long term. Coordinate with Labor and Worker Centers - Support the current worker organizing happening in high-demand and vulnerable industries, such as healthcare and other care work, grocery, farmwork, warehousing, shipping, construction, cleaning services, rideshare, public transit, and delivery. Coordinate with your Funder Colleagues - Let’s fight hard for more money! Don’t let fears of dwindling endowments and trusts determine your grant making budgets. The time is now to liberate your accumulated wealth. Advocate with your peers to allow grants to become flexible, general operating support grants.

  • Fund the immediate needs, emergency supports for all workers, their families, and their communities, and new ways of organizing. Ask: How do we find connection during isolation? How do we bring in more people into our movements in this moment? How can we build new technology infrastructure to support new organizing tactics? Support demands on corporations benefiting from relief that will increase worker power. Support policies that provided resources to people who are undocumented, incarcerated, unhoused. Support movements to decarcerate and release people in jails and detention centers now and in the longer term abolish these facilities.

  • Use resources now to support and promote longer term structural change. While immediate and emergency relief is important in the short term, we need to promote the need for structural and permanent reforms. Fund now and fund later. And with this funding, support the communications and research capacity of organizing and power building groups. They have the best strategies and knowledge of how to utilize this moment to support longer term systemic change.

Funders for Justice 

Folks of color, particularly those folks with service or contract jobs with little or no access to health care, savings, and/or housing, will see an increase in policing and criminalization. We urge you to move money directly to the field (see list of resources), in far greater amounts than you ever have before, faster and with as little burden as possible to organizations. We especially ecourage you to fund organizing and relief work led by and for communities of color and low-income communities working at the intersections of racial justice, gender justice, criminalization, and models for community safety and justice. Consider the following when making grants: 

  • Mass decarceration is a demand that is gaining traction and victories across the country. Movement bail funds are also bailing people out and migrant rights groups are getting folks out of detention. How does this change your previous belief that jail, prison, and detention are necessary? 

  • Rates of domestic violence are increasing during the shelter in place and quarantine requirements, and police are being called on to intervene in this violence. Yet, more police has never beeen an effective pathway to ending domestic and gender-based violence. Police unions are using this as a moment to advocate for larger deparment budgets, at the same time that folks need. goverrnment-funded free and easy access to health care, food, and housing - all of which support survivors in getting free from abusers. What are ways to support the safety of survivors?  Who are gender justice funders and organizations that you can partner with to support survivors?

  • The police are being called on to enforce shelter-in-place orders and quarentines. This brings an increased police presence into communities hardest hit by the pandemic - low-income communities of color. What are the dangers in this? What’s possible and necessary for reduced or no policing? 

  • How are Asian communities in the US being targeted for racist, xenophobic attacks? What does a community safety response to hate violence look like, rooted in racial justice and without involving police?   

Integrated Rural Strategies Group

We know that the demographics of rural America are changing, that folks may need to drive 3-4 hours to access a hospital, and other services — including access to remote schooling and telehealth services — might be limited or might not exist. We are organizing with funders that support work in rural regions and having important discourse around critical infrastructure. 

We’re considering how food shortages will impact rural areas, how broadband internet could become a national utility, and how philanthropy can strengthen the national social safety net for all. 

While uncertainty surrounds us all in this unprecedented moment, let’s practice social solidarity together. NFG offers you a political home: a place to connect, strategize, and take action. 

September 13, 2021

Welcoming IRSG's Movement Advisors

NFG's Integrated Rural Strategies Group (IRSG) launched its inaugural committee of Movement Advisors in August 2021. These Advisors will deepen IRSG's work to increase philanthropy's accountability to rural movement leaders. These seven rural leaders reflect the powerful and broad diversity of rural communities, representing a range of geographies, issues, races, cultures, and more. What these leaders and their organizations all have in common is that they are organizing and building power in rural areas. Their work is core to building and preserving a true multiracial democracy and protecting the health, safety, economic opportunity, and ability for rural communities to thrive.

While IRSG and our partners hold existing relationships with each of these seven leaders, we are honored to formalize this year-long engagement by supporting these leaders with honoraria and providing a platform to lift up their work before philanthropy. IRSG will follow the Advisors' lead and center their priorities and strategies as we design our program offerings and resources. We look forward to opportunities to build relationships among the IRSG Movement Advisors and between the Advisors and funders in our network over the twelve month duration of this engagement, and in our shared work for years to come.


  

Angel Garcia (he/him/his)

California for Pesticide Reform & CAPS (Coalition Advocating for Pesticide Safety)
Agro-Citrus Lands of  Tulare County, CA

Email: Angel@pesticidereform.org 
Website: https://www.pesticidereform.org/

Angel is the Organizing Director with Californians for Pesticide Reform and founder of the Coalition Advocating for Pesticide Safety. Born and raised in California’s San Joaquin Valley, Angel also has deep ties to the Mixtec village of San Jeronimo nestled in the foothills of the Sierra Madre in southern Mexico. His previous experience includes working with transnational indigenous communities, farmworker families and rural families in the San Joaquin Valley. Angel holds a B.A. in Latin American & Latino Studies and Politics from University of California, Santa Cruz. He is based in Tulare County and is the proud parent of two kids – Anuri and Urian.


  

Eowyn Corral (they/she)

Dakota Rural Action
Dakota/Plains Region

Email: eowync@dakotarural.org
Website: www.dakotarural.org 

Eowyn Corral, director of development and programs at Dakota Rural Action and the current chair of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, has focused on local and regional food & ag policy for the last 10 years. Based in the Dakotas, the occupied lands of the Oceti Sakowin Oyate (the Great Sioux Nations), and utilizing grassroots community organizing as the foundation, Dakota Rural Action works on agricultural policy at the local, regional, national, and tribal arenas. Eowyn comes to this work via a love for fiber animals, seasonal foods, and textile arts. Originally from southern California and of Michoacán descent, Eowyn plans to find their way back to the west coast to raise animals on pasture on a multigenerational farm for the golden years of life.


  

Jaime Arredondo (he/him/él)

CAPACES Leadership Institute
Oregon

Email: jaime@capacesleadership.org 
Website: https://capacesleadership.org

Jaime is a proud immigrant from Las Ranas, Michoacan, Mexico. He has over 16 years of experience working in movement building community-based organizations. Some of his favorite roles have included: tour guide, smiles provider, peace maker, convener, agitator (with a smile), storyteller, and wannabe graphic designer and handy person.


  

Janssen Hang (he/him/his)

Hmong American Farmers Association
Midwest/Minnesota

Email: janssen@hmongfarmers.com
Website: https://www.hmongfarmers.com

Janssen Hang is the Executive Director and Co-Founder of the Hmong American Farmers Association. Janssen grew up growing, harvesting and selling vegetables for the local food economy and currently runs his family-owned value-added business making spring rolls and egg rolls at the downtown Saint Paul Farmers Market. A 2001 Saint Olaf graduate in Biology and Asian Studies, Janssen has over 20 years of experience in agriculture, 12 years in small business management, and 7 years as a licensed-real estate agent. Janssen is also one among just a few certified Hmong Mekongs (cultural broker). Janssen likes to spend his free time with his family in the outdoors.


  

Brandi Mack (she/her/we)

The Butterfly Movement
Sonora/Tuolumne County and Oakland, CA

Email: bhealthybholistic@gmail.com
Website: www.thebutterflymovement.com / www.brandimack.com

Brandi is a mother of three beautiful daughters, a Holistic Health Educator, Therapeutic Massage Therapist, Trauma-Informed Youth developer, Powerful Presenter, and Permaculture Designer. She holds a bachelor's degree in Human Service Management, and a certification from Star Hawk's Earth Activist Training. Brandi has worked and trained in holistic health and ecological sustainability with youth and adults for over 15 years. Brandi is currently the National Director of The Butterfly Movement which is committed to healing the wounds of our Soul (through Rebuilding and Re-Framing our emotional selves), planting a Seed of faith as we Regenerate and Reconnect our hearts and our hands to the earth, leading ultimately to manifestation in the Soil of our Reactivated lives!  

Currently, Brandi serves on the following boards: The North America Permaculture Magazine, Northern California Resilience Network and the Northern California Women in Permaculture.


  

Fabiola Ortiz Valdez (she/her/ella)

Food Chain Workers Alliance (FCWA)
Syracuse, NY

Email: fabiola@foodchainworkers.org 
Website: https://foodchainworkers.org

Fabiola is originally from Chihuahua, Mexico. She worked as an organizer in her home country supporting the work of Zapatista communities in Chiapas. Fabiola has worked with migrant farmworkers in the U.S. since 2009, first as a health case manager and researcher in the egg, dairy, Apple, and blueberry industries in Maine. Later she worked as a researcher and labor organizer with dairy workers in New York at the Workers Center of CNY. She has also participated and led research projects with different immigrant communities across the country. Fabiola is currently the Lead Organizer for the Food Chain Workers Alliance (FCWA), a coalition of worker-based organizations whose members plant, harvest, process, pack, transport, prepare, serve, and sell food, organizing to improve wages and working conditions for all workers along the food chain. Before joining FCWA Fabiola was an organizer for the New York immigration coalition (NYIC), an organization that advocates for immigrants rights in your state.  Fabiola currently lives in Syracuse, NY, she has a MA in Cultural Anthropology and is a Ph.D. candidate in Anthropology from Syracuse University. 


  

Julianne Jackson (she/her/they/them)

Partnership for Safety and Justice
Oregon

Email: julianne@safetyandjustice.org
Website: https://safetyandjustice.org

Julianne is a mom, survivor, and racial justice advocate who uses her voice to speak up for change. She is the founder of Black Joy Oregon, a grassroots advocacy group that promotes Black joy, female leadership development, and culture throughout Oregon. Prior to joining Partnership for Safety & Justice, Julianne worked in social services, mental health, and community education. She also has experience as an organizer in the labor movement, and she has served as committee chair for the Salem-Keizer NAACP. In her role at PSJ, she will continue to work tirelessly to advance racial and economic justice locally and across the state. In her off-time, you can find her performing as a singer songwriter and traveling Oregon.
 

Find More By:

News type: 
September 5, 2021

Reflections on Labor Day with Larry Williams, Jr. of UnionBase

This Labor Day, NFG’s Director of the Funders for a Just Economy program, Manisha Vaze, met with Larry Williams, Jr., Cofounder of UnionBase, and formerly a Labor and Just Transition Coordinator at the Sierra Club and President of the Progressive Workers Union. In this interview, Manisha and Larry talked about Larry’s work and his vision for the labor movement and for building worker power.  


 
Can you start off by sharing the story of why you started UnionBase? What is the central issue you are hoping to address with Unionbase?

UnionBase is a company and tech platform focused on improving the labor movement and accelerating it’s growth. We’ve been around since 2015 and started as a search engine for unions. Based on user feedback we pivoted to becoming a communication and education platform, building the tools workers need to build power in their workplace. As we started supporting workers we realized there is a serious need for educational content on how to organize and build power in the workplace. As a result we started a magazine that now serves union locals around the United States and Canada, as well as relationships with some of America’s largest unions. 

We see our mission as not only helping people join unions but also helping unions to become better partners to the communities where they work and their members live. We’re also trying to educate people about the history of work, the future of work, and our shared responsibility in directing that future. I want to share how we can make our community and our lives better by organizing our workplaces. 

It feels like there’s a resurgence of energy around worker organizing, collective bargaining, and the labor movement. What are some issues that come up as we garner more support for the labor movement?

I want to share how we can make our community and our lives better by organizing our workplaces. 

The organized labor movement can be hard to understand but is key to empowering communities, workers, and fighting climate change. For labor to continue to grow and evolve into a more diverse and powerful movement it needs to start looking outward and engaging young people. It is more likely now than anytime before that young people do not know about the history of the labor movement and its achievements. 

Though they may come from a working class family, young people may not relate to the traditional message of pride in being a worker or even identify as a “worker”.  As some employers are having trouble finding people to do in-person jobs because of COVID-19, young people are saying, “Why would I want to be a waitress or work in an office and risk my life to make a very low wage when I can work for myself?” 

Simultaneously, some young people are excited like never before to build power for themselves and their community starting in the workplace and we see that in the increasing number of organizing campaigns happening across the United States.

Can you talk more about the experience of organizing your own workplace? What did you learn and what were some challenges?

I had the blessing of experiencing first hand what can happen when workers build for a better future but forming a union. I was the first President of Progressive Workers Union (PWU), a decentralized, independent union that was started by workers employed at the Sierra Club. PWU’s organizing efforts captured the imagination of many nonprofits workers around the country when we won what has become the model for how to represent staff who work at nonprofits. 

There are many notable victories in the contract that make Sierra Club a better organization and allowed for a much better relationship between all staff and the organization’s leadership. The first contract includes many important improvements but a few worth naming are Compensatory Time, Family Sustaining Wages and improved Paid Family Leave.

Also, the entire organization now does a yearly pay review which allows the union to ensure that there is parity amongst staff across the organization and its affiliates. Every year, the union compares salary with the MIT wage scale. Through this analysis, pay inequality impacting women and people of color can be addressed. This was a unique solution we were able to negotiate through the union contract and was a victory for both the employer and employees.

What are the benefits for major organizations when they have a unionized workforce?

In all of the places where the organization was falling down the union was stepping up to support these workers.

There are several ways that unionized workers create more value for the organizations where they work. Most people think unions only care about wages. While fair pay is important, what people don’t realize is the respect that union workers have for the work that they do. Workers in a union are more secure in their jobs and produce better work. One thing that is core to why PWU works is that most workers come to nonprofit organizations as young people hoping to change the world. Nonprofits have an unintended habit of exploiting young workers until they burn out, then replacing them with another young person. In PWU all of the unit representatives, bargaining teams, and union leadership saw a vision for changing this paradigm, and believed that forming a union was the place to achieve a vision of changing this reality and we did it. For example, recently the Intercept wrote about how the Sierra Club’s Executive Director, Micheal Brune, was stepping down. All throughout that media’s reporting, and in the internal report, you can see how many ways the union took on sexual assault cases. In all of the places where the organization was falling down the union was stepping up to support these workers. 

Over the past several years and throughout this pandemic, workers have been in motion – striking and demanding better wages, health protections, working conditions and benefits in solidarity with the larger community. These campaigns have also been connecting worker justice to other social movements, like the movements to divest from policing and ICE, climate justice, and disaster recovery and relief. What do you think about these new unionization and collective bargaining efforts and what are the opportunities you see for the labor movement overall?

This is a make it or break it moment. While there is infinite opportunity for labor, success in the future is by no means guaranteed.

This moment has the potential to be a new golden age for labor and we’ve been preparing for it for the last ten years. Even prior to the pandemic, the working conditions of millions of Americans were revealed to be unbearable, and their income, which has stagnated in the face of skyrocketing living costs, is unsustainable. The pandemic has shined an even brighter light on this issue as many frontline workers lauded as heroes have been, in reality, treated as disposable. Without the protections and voice that comes with being in a union, frontline workers have been incapable of getting the hazard pay, protections, and living wages they have more than earned. Also, the labor movement has struggled to address issues of police brutality within its own membership. This is a make it or break it moment. While there is infinite opportunity for labor, success in the future is by no means guaranteed. The only answer is that people from underrepresented and impacted communities must be supported as legitimate leadership of unions. That means not just being in the room but making sure they are leading the decision making process. 

You mentioned that we’re in a make it or break it moment. What do you see as the best path forward? How might funders be supportive?

Funders should look for the people who are building relationships and doing organizing work, who have success doing it, and then figure out what is the quickest path to get the money to them with reasonable accountability but maintaining the least amount of control possible. Then they will see what their investment can do a lot better than if they request endless reports that may not reflect the value of the work being done. The people who are doing the work often have a difficult time connecting with funding opportunities despite their record of success.

I recognize the challenge for funders: they have a lot of rules and organizational things [to consider]. But, I think that there needs to be a more light weight process for making the connection between the people who need the money and the people who have the money.

Cover of Workplace Leader, a magazine for workers by UnionBase.

Also, funders should be setting an expectation that employers follow labor law and normalize unionization. Funders can take an active role in supporting workers by setting standards for their major funding recipients. For example, funders can use the MIT family sustaining wage calculator and other normative standards that help employers and workers find agreement. That way we're all on the same side and able to seek labor peace. It's about smarter decision making, engaging employers, the employees, and funders in productive conversations.

What’s next or upcoming for you and UnionBase?

UnionBase is scaling up to continue helping workers transform themselves for a new era of work. Meanwhile, we will continue to push the organized labor movement to expand outside of its comfort zone. Many workers are asking themselves, “How do you start and run a union with values centered around justice and equity?” UnionBase will be engaging in conversations with interested unions and funders to directly support the education of workers who want to organize traditional, independent and decentralized unions. 

Thank you so much, Larry! I'm really excited to see how UnionBase will continue to bloom.

 
More resources to learn about UnionBase: