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. 

July 24, 2020

Strike Watch: Voices from the Strike for Black Lives

Photo: Gus Moody and his co-workers in Lakeland, FL.

PIctured left: Gus and his co-workers in Lakeland, FL during the J20 Strike for Black Lives. Photo Credit: Fight for 15 Florida. 

Hundreds of workers walked out of work from coast to coast Monday, July 20th as part of coordinated Strike 4 Black Lives. Centering the Movement 4 Black Lives and 60-plus labor and community organizations, including the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the strike (dubbed J20) included both full walkouts and 8 minute 46 second work stoppages commemorating the killing of George Floyd by police. Workers came from a range of “essential” industries, including mobile “gig”, healthcare, fast food, education, childcare and janitorial. While there were unified national demands that included the right to unionize and real corporate action to protect Black workers and repair intergenerational harms, many groups also tied in the need for tailored local responses challenging racial and economic inequality, including in response to specific and systematic discrimination incidents.

In Florida, McDonald’s workers filed a federal civil rights lawsuit in the days prior charging that the company subjected them to a "racially hostile work environment” and retaliation for speaking up. One of the workers named in the suit, Monice, is employed in a Lakeland McDonald’s, east of Tampa. She described in a video: “Back in March, I was racially discriminated against: she... told me that all Black people want is a handout. All we do is smoke weed all day and be violent, angry and upset if we don’t get what we want.” Monica clearly and calmly explained her situation, only to be then told “...but you know I’m right.” The company had been also sued in Florida in April for systemic sexual harassment, with plaintiffs from more than 100 of the locations in the state.

FJE had the opportunity to interview Augusta (who goes by Gus), another Lakeland McDonald's worker and a leader of the SEIU-backed Fight for 15 Florida who took the streets on the 20th. Alongside challenging discrimination via the lawsuit, Gus and workers are looking to pass Florida's Amendment 2, the $15 Minimum Wage Initiative, which is on the ballot as an initiated constitutional amendment this November.  Amendment 2 would increase the state's minimum wage from $8.56 in 2020 to $15.00 by 2026. Gus shared a bit about his experiences in the central Florida McDonald's where he works and what it means to be a Black worker in the US today.

What brought you to take part in the Strike for Black Lives this week?

Honestly, I want to end racism and workplace hostility and discrimination. I see the connections to racism in everyday action. In today’s society, racism looks like how you go about doing your everyday routine and treat people along the way.

For example, in my job, racial discrimination looks like when you are scheduled outside of your availability, and you go talk to your General Manager. She acts like she doesn’t have your availability at hand, and tells you to re-do your availability sheet. You do that, and she snatches the paper out of your hand, and treats you with disrespect.

Florida’s minimum wage is $8.46. I get paid $9.25. After this pandemic and really not being able to get the hours I could usually make or need — that makes life hard. You have to choose: what bill am I going to pay? I have two children I’m responsible for, and I want to give them my all. It hurts to not be able to do that. I feel like if I could make more, I could make things better for them. Maybe not great, but at least better.

What was the J20 strike like for you?

The day of the strike, we rode around the building and made our presence known: by stepping out there, out of work, we were saying, enough is enough. Do us right.

A good amount of people that showed up to support the strike and showed love. Just to be able to see those people meant a lot. I met was a lot of people willing to help — stopping to say, ‘Hey man, you need something to eat? Don’t hesitate to call me.’ I’m not saying I would take them up on it — but just them offering, and they don’t even know me? That’s what America should be about; that’s what we can be about as a country. They could have been somewhere else — but then they came to support strangers as part of a movement. They see the racism and discrimination every day on social media, on the news, they could just ignore us — so it was truly amazing to have so many people out.

Say it’s one year from now. What does success look like? How have things changed at work?

The workplace would be friendly: it would be an open from the top to the bottom. If I’m the CEO I wouldn’t feel like my position is too big to come talk to the crew trainer or the crew members. I would want there to be an equal playing ground in the workplace. General managers wouldn’t be abusing their positions because they would know someone above them would actually be holding them accountable.

What was the response from your employers at McDonald's?

For some of my coworkers that went back the next day they have been really experiencing a hard time. In America, we get punished these days for giving our opinion, for using our freedom of speech.  You can’t let it bring you down though. You have to keep saying: this isn’t right. This was my first big action, but I’lll be doing much more. Having so many organizations having your back and saying, ‘You know what, we’re not going to stand for this. This story needs to be told' — that’s an amazing feeling to have. Just being a part of [a movement] makes it all worth it.

Where do you see the connections between what you experience in your workplace and the situation with policing of Black lives?

Just like you can’t be a general manager and abuse your crew members, you can’t have someone that is there to protect and serve you end up hurting you, or end up putting you in jail for trumped up charges. The police just feel like they can just put you in jail because they have that authority, that privilege. Just like a general manager, law enforcement needs to be held to a better standard. They are the people we have to walk our communities. They are supposed to be here to help us and not just come to the situation ready to hurt us. They should not be able to hurt, harm and kill. What it comes down to though is all these people in power — they are abusing that power. That abuse goes on at a larger scale in society, but it starts in everyday life.

How do you think foundations and individuals can support?

Action is a big thing for me: you can’t just say you care. You have to show it. You have to really prove when the situation arises that you are here to really get us to better days. To get there is going to take a lot of work. We’re all going to keep having to put it in. It should have all changed day George Floyd died — yet America is still running on retaliation, discrimination and hatred.

Enough is enough. We already have a global pandemic. To continue to live as a Black person in America you not only a face a pandemic, you have society attacking you as well. We are going to have to stand together because at the end of the day, we all are going to need each other.  We need to do better in life and focus on what is right. 

And when the change comes, our workplace will be a much better organization to the public and to each other. Keeping [the strikes and actions] going is raising some eyebrows and gets people to understand, things need to change, today.

You can follow Gus and his fellow workers' continued campaign for the Fight for 15 nationally and locally  And read more about how to support the broader Movement for Black Lives here.

FJE’s Strike Watch is a regular blog and media series dedicated to providing insight on the ways in which grassroots movements build worker power through direct action. Our ultimate goal: inform philanthropic action to support worker-led power building and organizing and help bridge conversations among funders, community and research partners. We are grateful and acknowledge the many journalists and organizations that produce the content we link to regularly, and to all our participants in first-hand interviews. Questions on the content or ideas for future installments? Reach out to robert@nfg.org.

 

July 23, 2020

Highlights from Amplify this July

“We’ve been busy in these internet streets,” as Melody Baker, Amplify’s Senior Program Officer said on a recent staff call. 

  • We were thrilled to end June and begin July with so many of you at the start of NFG’s 2020 virtual convening series: 40 Years Strong. On the fourth day of programming, on Thursday, July 2, Melody joined Jazmin Segura, Program Officer for the Fund for an Inclusive California (F4ICA) and Syma Mirza, Staff Consultant at HouseUS, to talk about Building Philanthropic Infrastructure to Build Power during the Democratizing Development session.
  • Just a few days later on July 8, Amplify Director Amy Morris, joined Jazmin Segura again, along with Beatrice Camacho, Tenant Organizer at the North Bay Organizing Project, for a 60-minute webinar hosted by the Funders Network (TFN) called Keeping it Local: Strategies to Support Power-Building and Economic Self-Determination. They all shared clear analysis along with vivid and accessible stories of their work.  A full recording of the webinar is available here and many of the images that Amy shared about Amplify’s structure are available for download on our webpage here.
  • In addition to Zooming at funder conferences, we hosted our second Amplification session facilitated by Social Movement Technologies (SMT), a non-profit training hub providing organizing support to build power and win campaigns in the digital age. SMT highlighted how groups are combining online with offline action in this moment to build power and win change, and shared technical information about digital campaign tools and tactics that organizations can use to engage members, expand their reach, and be heard by decision-makers. Over 50 Amplify grantees registered, including a number of organizations supported through our sister fund, the Fund for an Inclusive California (F4ICA). All materials were offered in English and Spanish, and simultaneous interpretation was provided by Lingovox.
  • We encourage you to check out the full list of Amplify grantees here, and follow us and them on social media.

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