April 10, 2020

COVID-19 Strike Wave

By Rob Chlala, Program Manager of Funders for a Just Economy

The last few weeks have seen an unprecedented wave of labor organizing, coast to coast. Payday Report has offered a map of these strikes; Labor Notes is offering both updates and guides for workers; and the American Prospect has nearly daily news via its new “Unsanitized” column. Across these, strike demands include personal protective equipment (PPE), hazard pay, closure with pay of work sites where COVID-19 presents a high risk, as well as demands for broader policy and corporate responses to protect communities – such as GE workers call to shift to ventilator production. Black, undocumented, women and other highly vulnerable workers are risking job loss in one of the most uncertain economic times in a century — and making gains for their fellow workers and neighbors.

Sectors where corporations have fought hard to quell unionization are seeing significant actions. Workers in Amazon warehouses in New York have captured headlines through their walk out and the attempted smearing of a strike leader by Jeff Bezos’s leadership cadre, with Chicago Amazon workers ramping up their own efforts. “Gig” Instacart workers have led their own strikes over two weeks, alongside delivery workers at Target, Barnes & Nobles, and other large retailer and warehouse facilities. Trader Joe’s has also become a live site of strikes and public protest, bringing new worker power energy to a large multinational corporation that has historically fought hard against labor.

Unions are also using strikes to move employers. A union-led bus driver’s strike in Detroit led to significant new protections — a move from management that was sadly too late for one driver who lost his life due to COVID-19 complications. A mix of union authorized, wildcat and new strikes — many led by Latinas — are popping up at food processing plants from Georgia to Colorado, which are also high-risk, high-contact zones. Union-led campaigns are also challenging the lack of response of fast-food chains with strikes starting this week across a large number of chains, including McDonalds, Taco Bell, El Pollo Loco and more (mainly in California).

Where unions are not able to move fast or are facing recalcitrance, workers like those in Detroit’s auto industry have fought to close plants with pay in “wildcat” strikes - actions not officially sanctioned by their union.  Many such strikes, like the successful fight to close a Kroger warehouse in Memphis, or for protections for sanitation workers in Pittsburgh, are being led by Black workers.  Even historically-less vocal trade unions, like carpenters in Boston, are launching wildcat efforts to get the state and employers to halt operations with pay.
 
COVID-19 strikes to close operations have been occurring globally. In Europe, this includes car factories in Italy and Amazon, DHL and ASOS distribution sites in Britain. In the United States, talk of a general strike is more active than ever, even among celebrities — a conversation that was already being sparked by youth outlets like Teen Vogue in the wake of last year’s massive strike wave.

Beyond using strikes, there are also numerous other labor organizing efforts already having a powerful effect — from grassroots Starbucks organizing to close with pay as operations reshuffled, to union-led grocery efforts to fundamentally shift daily procedures, provide PPE and include hazard pay. And of course, there are also rent strikes, ICE and other prisoner hunger strikes and student strikes that could lead to significant new solidarities.

This is just a small round up of ongoing efforts and news sources, with an understanding that there are many more dimensions to the labor situation — and many more efforts not covered. NFG's Funders for a Just Economy program will be providing more resources to you about how philanthropy can support such efforts in the weeks to come, including voices from the strike frontlines. If you have ideas about what you’d like to see or strike stories you would like us to highlight, please reach out to me: robert@nfg.org. And of course, the best way to support a strike is not to cross the picket line, virtually or otherwise.

May 29, 2020

Say Their Names: Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade

This piece was written by NFG's Funders for Justice program leadership.

We say their names: Breonna Taylor in Louisville, KY, George Floyd in Minneapolis, MN, Ahmaud Arbery in Glynn County, GA, Tony McDade in Tallahassee, TN.

Black Lives Matter, today and every day.

We Stand in Solidarity: Funders for Justice stands in solidarity with protestors in Minneapolis, Los Angeles, and in cities across the country, fighting for the lives and freedom for all Black people. We know that communities are powerful, and will dream and fight for the transformative justice in which together we create the new world we all need. As funders, our mandate is to fund communities rising up against state violence, and to continue to fund as communities build the power and momentum for long-term change.

We Must Continue to Challenge White Supremacy: While police killed unarmed Black people over and over again, we witnessed no police response to armed white nationalist posted in front of state capital buildings and yelling in the faces of security guards, demanding an end to shelter in place because they wanted to get a haircut and go out in public without a mask.

Stand with Black Women Essential Workers: Breonna Taylor was a young Black woman who was an EMT — an essential worker already risking her life during a pandemic. Yet we repeatedly witness evidence that the state does not protect or respect the people, especially Black women, risking their lives to save others. Essential workers are already facing dangerous conditions, with extremely limited protection equipment, low pay, often dangerous commutes to work, and then in turn endangering their families. That Breonna was one of the latest casualties of state violence is profoundly painful.

How to Support Protestors: We encourage you to fund communities directly, including at times when groups are not able to fill out even a short proposal or form because they are leading protests in the streets. We encourage you to give now however your foundation is able — including getting creative in mobilizing resources — perhaps to use your foundation’s expense account to send money for needed supplies like water and food. And, we encourage everyone reading this blog to make a personal donation, because we all come to the work we do as the full people that we are: part of communities fighting in resistance, part of communities fighting for survival, part of communities taking action in solidarity.

Invest/Divest Now: While millions of local dollars are cut from city budgets — in youth programs, health services, and education, among others — due to shortfalls, the police unions/associations continue to push for more money and more police. Yet police are not saving people in this pandemic — they are policing, fining, and sending people to jail - mostly Black people. The federal administration has refused to send more supplies and funding to medical workers and other frontline workers, while increasing funding to police-related spending and private security guards.

We All Have A Mandate: Philanthropy’s mandate to support communities in living healthy and free lives means funding both the public infrastructure that keeps communities safe — like health care, housing, and education — and funding the people, organizations, and the movements rising up against police violence and building power to defund the police, prisons, ICE, and detention centers. Philanthropy must support divest/invest campaigns and other abolitionist strategies, because nothing the police do is meant to ever keep communities of color safe. Now is the time to divest from the police, when cities are cutting budgets and need the funding for community wellness more than any other time. (Check out FFJ’s divest/invest resource for funders and consider how you want to support community safety and justice.)

Where to donate to support protestors and Black folks organizing for Black Lives in Minneapolis:

May 21, 2020

NFG Announces New President: Adriana Rocha

For Immediate Release
May 21, 2020

OAKLAND, CA —  Neighborhood Funders Group (NFG), a national affinity group that organizes philanthropy to support grassroots power building so that communities of color and low-income communities thrive, is excited to name Adriana Rocha as its next leader. 

After a nationwide search, Rocha will become the 6th President in NFG’s 40-year history. She is a seasoned, action-oriented leader committed to social justice who brings a wealth of nonprofit and philanthropy experience to the role. Rocha has served as NFG’s Vice President of Programs since May 2017. In this role, she supported NFG in deepening its programming — including the development and launch of the Philanthropy Forward leadership program for CEOs and the Integrated Rural Strategies Group — and led the organization’s 2018 and 2020 National Convenings.

“I am thrilled and honored to be NFG’s next President. Having been directly influenced by NFG programs as a prior member, to being an NFG staff member & leader, to now moving into NFG’s President role, I have the breadth of both perspectives and experience to lead what is needed in this moment for NFG to thrive.” said Rocha.  

Rocha and Sarita Ahuja served as Interim Co-Directors for the past ten months after NFG’s former President, Dennis Quirin, stepped down to become Executive Director at the Raikes Foundation in July 2019. 

During its early years, NFG was one of the few spaces in philanthropy specifically focused on people of color-led, grassroots organizing, and power building as the key to effective social change strategies. Today, NFG continues to be many funders' political home at a time when moving resources to struggles for justice is critically important. 

“We deeply trust Adriana is the bold, skilled, and creative President we all need at NFG to usher in an exciting new era and build on our 40 strong years of success and expertise. She is able to both foster the necessary partnerships and push philanthropy to create a stronger, collective vision of justice. She embodies the values & goals of members, board, and staff, and her joy is magnetic!” said Alison Corwin, Chair of the NFG board.

Rocha asserted that, “With NFG’s current momentum, growth, and clarity, I believe that NFG is poised to continue to be the home for philanthropy and leader on place-based grantmaking and community power building. I am so excited for what’s to come for NFG in community with our talented and dedicated staff, board, members, supporters, and movement leaders.”

Grantmakers can join NFG in congratulating Rocha and get a sense of the organization’s next phase by participating in NFG’s 2020 virtual convening series, which will kick off with plenary sessions on June 30 and July 1 and continue through the rest of the year. 

To request an interview with Adriana Rocha or a member of NFG’s Board of Directors, please contact Courtney Banayad, Director of Development and Communications, at courtney@nfg.org or (510) 444-6063, ext. 14.

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About Neighborhood Funders Group 

Neighborhood Funders Group (NFG) organizes philanthropy to support grassroots power building so that communities of color and low-income communities thrive. As a leading affinity group, NFG brings together funders to learn, connect, collaborate, and mobilize resources with an intersectional and place-based focus and to explore shifting power and philanthropic resources toward supporting racial, economic, gender, and climate justice movements across the United States. With 120 institutional members and over 1500 individual grantmakers and members in its network, NFG continues to be many funders' political home at a time when moving resources to struggles for justice is critically important. NFG is a space to draw support, deepen relationships, and find co-conspirators as we propel philanthropy to shift power and money towards justice and equity.
 

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