March 25, 2020

"Intersections of Justice in the Time of Coronavirus" by Cara Page & Eesha Pandit

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.

The essay below was written by Cara Page and Eesha Pandit, who are part of the Funders for Justice community, and urges us to hold this moment for movement & philanthropists to understand what led us here and explore opportunities towards transforming our futures.

Opportunity for A New Frame

This moment asks us to consider how we might pivot and adapt in a way that centers collective care, safety, and protection for each other. This is a good time to re-examine our relationship with vulnerability. Many of us are feeling vulnerable ourselves, while naming communities that require particular care and are more susceptible to COVID-19, including our elders and people living with long term chronic illness. This is an opportunity to deepen our understanding of vulnerability, dis/ability, and chronic illness, at both the individual and structural level. Many of us are now thinking about accessibility and the goods and services we do and do not have access to today. As writer and disability justice activist Mia Mingus says, “accessibility is concrete resistance to the isolation of disabled people.” Now, when many of us are facing isolation for the first time, we must align ourselves in meaningful social and structural ways with people living with disabilities and deepen our political work to ensure that an understanding of ableism impacts all our movements for justice. 

Perhaps most prescient in this call from disability justice advocates is a reminder of our interdependency. Many of us are facing the realization that the “myth of independence” is truly just that, and that we cannot sustain ourselves and our communities alone. We cannot meet all our needs alone. We cannot stay safe alone. At this moment, a public health crisis is creating social, medical, and political trauma that is awakening many of us to the fact our health, safety and well-being are interconnected whether we are in a global health crisis or not. This understanding is the basis of so much work for disability and healing justice, and it is a perfect moment to listen and learn from those organizers. We see many communities building care and mutual aid networks, which is something to consider for both the short and long term haul in the context of increased global fascism and climate change. As we continue to name all the ways our communities are connected and interdependent, it is our work now to name and identify the ways that movements for justice are, as well. 

This creates a powerful moment for a transformative justice and healing justice frameworks to permeate our work. As powerfully named in the Astraea Healing Justice Report, “healing justice is a response to this trauma, lifting up practices that support resilience, wellness, safety and security as a necessary part of organizing and movement work. This increases the strength and long-term sustainability of our movements.” 

This moment is a call to action, a call to slowing down and reconfiguring what is important, listening deeply to what communities are asking for, in the short and long term. It is vital to be mindful of what is urgent and why, and how this urgency impacts the people we work with and will care for and protect each other towards our future.

Perspective and Context

Sitting amidst the chaos of COVID-19, it is difficult to get perspective on where to gather the most sensitive and relevant information for our collective survival without being bombarded with messages from media and the federal government of xenophobia, anti-Asian racism, or pathologizing vulnerable communities that are most impacted, including the elderly community and people living with long term chronic illness. We are wading through a delicate balance of tapping into community and ancestral-led strategies while still needing to rely on a federally funded public healthcare system that, historically, is part of government structures that weaponize disease and that have harmed and marginalized so many of our communities.

What we have learned from history could provide a critical intervention for this moment. The scapegoating of Chinese communities for COVID-19 harkens to the ‘Yellow Peril’ that began in the 19th century, scapegoating Chinese immigrants based on a white supremacist ideology that were seen as a threat to the economy and national security. This ideology remains abhorrently present today in government rhetoric and policy. Criminalizing communities to justify violence and state control is not a new or recent phenomenon. We saw African immigrant communities blamed for Ebola, gay men pathologized for HIV/AIDS, and the list goes on. Such blaming and shaming is rooted in a white, able-bodied, Christian-supremacist lens of who is expendable, criminalized, and/or dangerous. 

This is a moment for our work to counter the myths, truths, and fear of Anti-Asian, xenophobic violence and ideologies that come though the media under the false guise of national security. To be vigilant, we must understand the role of philanthropy, both historically and in contemporary times, that have contributed to funding harmful ideologies.Take for example the 1900’s eugenic and ethnic cleansing under the tenet  of public health, (source: pg. 107; Killing the Black Body; Race, Reproduction and the Meaning of Liberty by Dorothy Roberts) in the US that was funded by wealthy donors.  

This is the time to ensure that we do not perpetuate government hate-speak and harmful bias. Rhetorical shifts in how we talk about certain people as “dangerous” or “criminal” is an oft-used and effective war tactic. As we watch the growing militarization of this pandemic, we have to resist an “us and them” mentality rooted in implicit fear of one another, and in this case, a fear that can be used to violently attack and blame entire Asian communities here and around the world. Which can also extend to other vulnerable communities that will be blamed and shamed for needing care (eg. incarcerated and detained communities, elders and people with immune challenges) if seen too dependent on the state. As funders, whether we are anchored in domestic funding or global, we must note and name that our government’s (US imperialist) policy choices in this time will frightfully impact communities around the world (e.g Iran sanctions). 

We also know that the need for housing, electricity, clean water, and access to dignified healthcare are quintessential to public health. And yet, we are embroiled in a national debate about the ethics of providing water and electricity to low income/ working class communities during these times. Creating a deep fracture between the logic of community wellbeing and the competing logic of corporate socialism and greed. These fractures and ethical inconsistencies existed in our society long before this pandemic even began, and this moment reminds us that the ground is always shifting for marginalized communities.

Transforming Our Lens

We must strip away the dichotomy of “us and them” and begin by framing collective care, safety, and protection; we could then see an ecosystem of care that has the potential to value all bodies, and all communities’ well being and safety. Instead, the logic of profit over people is emerging once again in an economy of corporate care that fuels capitalism over communal well-being. This harkens to the warning made by Naomi Klein in her book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, in which she tracks a long history of “the brutal tactic of using the public’s disorientation following a collective shock – wars, coups, terrorist attacks, market crashes or natural disasters – to push through radical pro-corporate measures.”  This is a moment to remain cautious about where resources are being directed, by whom, and to what end. How will this continue to deepen inequities between corporations and communities.   

As we increasingly hear the word “crisis,” which evokes panic and a fear-based response, this is an opportunity to be clear and intentional about exactly what the crisis is. In fact, though we are indeed facing a public health crisis in the form of a virus, 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. 

So, we face an important paradox: On one hand, the spread of this particular virus means that we need information, support, and practical care from our government as well as public and private institutions. On the other hand, many of us know that reliance on the public health care system, a system that was never made for us or by us, poses its own danger to our communities.  Our task requires holding this complicated and contradictory dynamic with clarity and intention. We can do this by distinguishing between immediate need and long-term structural changes, while deepening our analysis with historical context and lessons learned from many of our communities at the margins.

The Economics of Care

In the economy of healthcare within the medical industrial complex, grounded in a gendered, ableist, classist, and racist economic structure preserving a social safety net for those with wealth, the need for safety will result in the exploitation of cheap labor of many, for the safety of some — all in the name of national wellbeing and security. This includes city and government workers (eg. public transportation, sanitation), front line healthcare workers including hospital staff providing cleaning and food services, alongside nurses and physicians at higher risk for COVID-19 without adequate protection and realistic working hours, as well as those whose livelihoods are at risk due to hospital closures.It also includes healthcare workers, domestic workers and caregivers that are employed to take care of other people’s families without job security or health insurance for themselves or their families. 

“Most domestic workers in the United States today are black women and women of color, and this was also true in the 1930s...The Occupational Safety and Health Act that mandates basic protections excludes domestic workers,’ says  Ai Jen Poo, Founder of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, in the March 9th, NY Times Op-ed, “Protect Caregivers from Coronavirus.” In fact, so many low income communities already live in conditions that make safety and quarantine impossible to achieve. Take for example those who are food insecure, people who are unhoused, those living without clean running water in their homes, and so many others who live in precarity. 

Also at high risk are institutionalized communities, including detained and incarcerated people who were already unable to receive adequate healthcare while their labor is exploited. People being held in prisons, jails, and detention centers around the country are acutely at risk given that they are being held in spaces designed to maximize control over them, not to minimize disease transmission or to efficiently deliver health care. 

What we are witnessing is the deep need for more community-led economies of care, rooted in interdependence, healing justice, mutual aid, and collective care and safety strategies. Despite not having infrastructure, we are seeing communities respond innovatively to this moment based on building short and long term vision including: mutual aid and care networks; policy and legislative strategies to protect health care workers. What could we imagine if we were funded for the long haul to build global infrastructure that sustains across disciplines, care and safety strategies that both recovers and sustains the earth, while regenerating healing traditions of our communities? This is the vision many of us have asked for in healing justice strategies within the US, and now the ask is global and rooted in care and protection. 

Towards Taking Sustained Action

As we consider what solutions can meet both our immediate needs and begin to build our futures, we believe there are a few anchoring strategies that can help us respond and rise to the challenges before us, not just in the immediate days, but for the long haul:

  • Grounding in analysis. We cannot fall prey to the US imperialism and xenophobic fears being perpetuated. In the coming days we will see the rise of militarism and  nationalist US imperialist rhetoric. Our work is to ensure that we do not succumb to this curation of fear. We need to keep focused on how this pandemic has already impacted the communities that were most vulnerable to begin with and stay grounded in our collective care & safety response. The focus should not be to blame and scapegoat Chinese communities and all East Asian communities, but to deepen our understanding of our interdependence and interconnectedness. 

  • Leaning into intersectionality. Our political frameworks and understanding of this moment offer an opportunity to deepen our intersectional analysis and collective memory on amplifying collective well being, care, and safety strategies that have worked in our past and can be amplified in our futures. What can we learn inside global movements that deeply impacts and connects our survival during this pandemic and future crises? These political frameworks that fuel our movements include Economic Justice, Racial Justice, Disability Justice, Healing Justice, Holistic Security, Transformative Justice, Reproductive Justice Racial and Gender Justice, Trans Justice, Environmental Justice, and Climate Justice. 

  • Build public and political discourse to interrupt the medical industrial complex as an extension of state control & violence. We will need to transform our relationship to an archaic and harmful military and medical industry that will blame & criminalize before looking for solutions that don’t perpetuate harm. How are we interrupting generational trauma from the medical industrial complex and building collective care and safety strategies globally. (To learn more go to Changing Frequencies; @changingfrequencies.)  

  • Stepping into the policy change arena. There is no room for paternalism in policy change. We believe that all our communities, particularly those most vulnerable in this time, know what they need to be safe and well. If we are not vigilant, dangerous policies will be implemented without us in the room, both during this pandemic and once it is over. Activists, organizers, grantmakers, and all community advocates should resist ceding the ground of policy work. It’s time to support grassroots organizations, who work directly with impacted communities to shape and influence our policy solutions,and we hope that many, many more of us join this fight for policy that puts the needs of the people first. (For more information please visit The Center for Advancing Innovative Policy.) 

 

May 31, 2022

Discount Foundation Legacy Award

   

The Discount Legacy Award annually identifies, supports, and celebrates an individual who has demonstrated outstanding leadership and contributed significantly to workers’ rights movements in the United States and/or globally. Through public recognition and a $20,000 stipend, we hope to recognize and amplify the work of individuals at the intersections leading the way toward justice for low-wage workers of color. This is a one of a kind opportunity to recognize the often unheard voices of worker movements - that includes volunteers, members, workplace leaders, and more who are transforming the lives and rights of their fellow low-wage workers of color. 

Created in partnership with Jobs With Justice Education Fund and the Neighborhood Funders Group’s Funders for a Just Economy, the Discount Foundation Legacy Award was launched in 2015 to commemorate and carry on the legacy of the Foundation’s decades-long history of supporting leading edge organizing in the worker justice arena beyond its spend down as a foundation in 2014.


  

El Premio Discount Legacy identifica, apoya y celebra anualmente a una persona que ha demostrado un liderazgo sobresaliente y ha contribuido significativamente a los movimientos por los derechos de los trabajadores en los Estados Unidos o en todo el mundo. A través del reconocimiento público y un estipendio de $20,000, esperamos reconocer y ampliar el trabajo de las personas en las intersecciones que lideran el camino hacia la justicia para los trabajadores de color con salarios bajos. Esta es una oportunidad única para reconocer las voces a menudo inauditas de los movimientos de trabajadores, que incluyen voluntarios, miembros, líderes en el lugar de trabajo y más que están transformando las vidas y los derechos de sus compañeros trabajadores de color con salarios bajos. 

Creado en asociación con Jobs With Justice Education Fund y los Funders for a Just Economy del Neighborhood Funders Group, el Premio Discount Foundation Legacy se lanzó en 2015 para celebrar y continuar el legado de décadas de historia de la Fundación de apoyar la organización de vanguardia en el campo de la justicia laboral más allá del exceso de gastos como fundación en 2014. 


 
  

 

2022 Awardee:

Wendy Melendez Garcia

Worker Leader, Local 32BJ SEIU District 615

Wendy Melendez Garcia is a longstanding worker leader at SEIU 32BJ District 615, the New  England division of janitors, security officers, and airport workers, and a janitor at Tufts Medical Center in downtown Boston. She has been a key leader in contract campaigns that have raised the wages of Boston-area janitors to become among the highest paid in the nation at over $20 per hour, with other benefits such as fully-paid family health care and access to lawyers for immigration services.

“Wendy fosters in other people this contagious spirit of hers, in which we raise hell, crack jokes,  and care for each other as whole humans, so that — despite what can be bad odds for low-wage workers of color — we continue to fight, and we continue to dream.” -Victor Yang, nominated Wendy for this award.

She organized cleaners at Boston’s Logan Airport as part of a decade-long union drive, leading  workers through strike after strike. She helped navigate racial tensions between Eastern  European, Latinx, and African immigrant workers; and just last year, the union ratified their first-ever contract. She has taken a leave of absence from her job to fight in contract campaigns in other states, with  other janitors, and has organized workers to strike at non-unionized cleaning companies. While she would be quick to say that such victories are collective efforts - and indeed they are - Wendy is one of the key figures agitating and leading from behind. She has also led victories that often go unseen, most critically in her leadership development of those around her, which shifted the culture of the union.
“Oftentimes she is able to be a portavoz (spokesperson) for others who may not have the courage to speak up — she is the one who will say it directly to union management and employers.” - Victor Yang, nominated Wendy for this award.

Top 10 2022 Candidates

We have so many amazing nominees for the Discount Foundation Legacy Award, and the nominations remind us, year after year, of the vast, interconnected and often invisible work of frontline workers and community building movements, mutual aid, and solidarity globally. We invite you to learn more about the top ten candidates and to reach out to support their work:

Award Runner Up: Nap Pempena, Secretary General, Migrante USA

Nap was born and raised in Manila, Philippines. He believes that worker organizing must be fought alongside the fight for broader social change. Nap started organizing in 2009 in the Philippines as a student organizer and elected student government council member at the University of the Philippines. When he migrated to Los Angeles in 2010, he continued to organize among Filipino youth and students and  among fellow undocumented students. He eventually transitioned to organizing Filipino  immigrant workers, including labor-trafficked workers in Los Angeles. He then started to get more directly involved in organizing victims of trafficking and wage  theft in Los Angeles in 2015. When he moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, he helped  support and organize dozens of Rainbow Bright workers, caregivers who were victims of  trafficking, wage theft and sexual abuse. 

In 2018, he was elected as Secretary General of Migrante USA, an alliance of 13 Filipino immigrant worker organizations in the U.S. To fulfill the mission of Migrant  USA, Nap believes that migrant workers possess the knowledge and power necessary to  achieve victories and contribute to the liberation of our communities. During the pandemic, Nap has defended the rights and welfare of young hotel workers on temporary J-1 visas who were displaced by the shutdowns through the national Support J-1 Workers campaign. He has exemplified boldness, courage, persistence, and determination to fight for the  rights of exploited migrant workers despite repeated and ongoing attacks against him and his organization.

Antonio "Toño" Solis, Leader, Las Deliveristas Unidos

Los Deliveristas Unidos (LDU) is a collective of app delivery workers who are fighting for justice.

Antonio Dominguez Alcala, Worker Leader, CLEAN Carwash Worker Center
The mission of the CLEAN Carwash Campaign is to support and empower car wash workers in Los Angeles, CA as they improve and create long-lasting change in their workplaces, lives, and communities. 

Armando Arzate, Member Leader, Workers' Dignity/Dignidad Obrera

Workers’ Dignity is a worker-led center in Nashville, Tennessee organizing for economic justice and dignity for all. They are developing solutions to wage theft and the systemic abuse of workers by building power through relationships with fellow low-wage workers and allies.

Maria Salinas, Worker Leader, North Bay Jobs with Justice/Movimiento Cultural de la Unión Indígena

North Bay Jobs with Justice is dedicated to bringing community and labor together in the fight for workers' rights. Movimiento Cultural de la Unión Indígena seeks to reclaim and preserve indigenous cultures, provide educational information to the public on indigenous cultures, and to implement programs that enhance the civic participation and the economic and social well-being of indigenous communities.

Nita Carter, Outreach Coordinator/Lead Organizer, Mississippi Workers' Center for Human Rights

Mississippi Workers' Center for Human Rightsprovides legal advocacy and training for low-wage Black workers through direction action/public awareness campaigns, legal advocacy and popular education.

Rocío Caravantes, Healing to Action

Healing to Action builds the leadership and collective power of the communities most impacted by gender-based violence to achieve economic and social equality.

Troy Walcott, Co-Founder and President, People's Choice Communications

People’s Choice Communications is an employee-owned social enterprise launched by members of IBEW Local #3 to bridge the digital divide and help our neighbors get connected to the Internet during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Virginia Badillo, Member Leader, Workers Defense Project; Board Member, Workers Defense Action Fund
Workers Defense Project is a community organization for low-wage, immigrant workers in the Texas construction industry, standing alongside workers as they fight to be paid a living wage and protected in their work.


2021 Awardee:

Crispin Hernandez

Organizer at Workers' Center of Central New York

"Yo soy Crispin Hernandez  Mixteco del Sur de Mexico. Yo vengo de un lugar donde nació el maíz. Yo trabajé en la agricultura por unos años en específico en la industria lechera. Ahorita soy organizador del Centro de Trabajadores de Nueva York Central." My name is Crispin Hernandez and I am Mixteco from southern Mexico. I come from the lands where corn was first cultivated. I have worked in agriculture for several years, specifically in the milk industry. Currently, I am an organizer at the Workers Center of Central New York.

“All workers deserve to have a voice and be heard at their place of work, and farmworkers deserve to be treated with respect and dignity,” states Crispin Hernandez, who was fired from his job as a dairy worker in Lowville, NY in 2015 after his boss saw him meeting after work with co-workers and human rights organizers to discuss workplace conditions. In May of 2016, he filed suit against the State of New York, challenging the legality of the State Employment Relations Act for categorically excluding farmworkers from collective bargaining protections despite the guarantee contained in New York’s bill of rights that all "employees shall have the right to organize and to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing." In May of 2019, New York’s Supreme Court Appellate Division issued a ruling affirming the constitutional right of farmworker to organize, while compelling the state legislature to enact strong collective bargaining protections for farmworkers in June of last year. Thanks to Crispin’s courage and leadership, some 80,000 farmworkers can now exercise their right to freely associate in defense of their common interests and negotiate collectively to improve their working conditions.
 
As an organizer with the Workers’ Center of New York, Crispin is working to educate and organize farmworkers to understand their new rights and put them into practice, including leadership in efforts such as the Green Light NY campaign, which successfully won legislation to restore access to drivers licenses for undocumented New Yorkers. Both among workers and farmworker advocates, Crispin is widely respected for his leadership and incisive analysis of the issues affecting New York’s farmworkers. He models a style of leadership and organizing that centers the experience of farmworker communities, uplifts and develops the power of directly impacted people, and emphasizes the collective nature of social change work.

Learn more about Workers' Center of Central New York.


 

Top 10 2021 Candidates

Award Runner Up:
Rev. Cherri Murphy, Faith Rooted Organizer, Faith Alliance for a Moral Economy

Minister Cherri Murphy is a lead organizer with Gig Workers Rising and Faith Rooted Organizer with East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy.  She is also a doctoral candidate at Berkeley School of Theology. Gig Workers Rising has been a key voice for workers in the face of the billions being poured in by tech companies like Uber, Doordash and Lyft to strip labor rights for predominantly workers of color. Faith Alliance for a Moral Economy is a project of the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE) advances economic, racial, and social justice by building a just economy based on good jobs and healthy communities. They aim to address the root causes of economic injustice by developing strategic alliances among community, labor, and people of faith to build power and create change with low-income workers and communities of color.


Abdirahman Muse, Executive Director, Awood Center
The Awood Center is a community organization in Minneapolis focused on advocating for and educating Minnesota’s growing East African communities about their labor rights by educating, organizing, developing leadership and mobilizing to improve the economic and political life of the community and all working people.
 
Antonio Dominguez Alcala, Worker Leader, CLEAN Carwash Worker Center
The mission of the CLEAN Carwash Campaign is to support and empower car wash workers in Los Angeles, CA as they improve and create long-lasting change in their workplaces, lives, and communities. 
 
Armando Arzate, Member Leader, Workers' Dignity/Dignidad Obrera
Workers’ Dignity is a worker-led center in Nashville, Tennessee organizing for economic justice and dignity for all. They are developing solutions to wage theft and the systemic abuse of workers by building power through relationships with fellow low-wage workers and allies.
 
Linda Oalican, Co-founder and Executive Director, Damayan Migrant Workers Association
Damayan empowers low-wage workers in New York to fight for their labor, health, gender, and immigrant rights. Established in 2002, their purpose is to build leadership at the grassroots level to eliminate labor trafficking, fight labor fraud and wage theft, and to demand fair labor standards to achieve economic and social justice.
 
Megan Macaraeg, Organizing Director, Beloved Community Incubator
Beloved Community Incubator supports and organizes resources for community-based cooperatives and social enterprises in Washington, D.C. that have a vision for racial and economic equity and unlikely relationships.
 
Mohamed Attia, Director, Street Vendor Project
The Street Vendor Project is a membership-based project with more than 1,800 active vendor members who are working together to create a vendors' movement for permanent change in New York City.
 
Myriam Ramirez, Community Organizer, Make the Road Pennsylvania
Make the Road Pennsylvania is dedicated to organizing the working class in Latino communities, building power for Justice.
 
Nap Pempena, Secretary General, Migrante USA

Migrante USA is an alliance of Filipino worker and migrant organizations dedicated to fighting for rights and welfare of Filipinos in the U.S. and for the genuine democracy and freedom in the Philippines. 
 
Virginia Badillo, Member Leader, Workers Defense Project; Board Member, Workers Defense Action Fund
Workers Defense Project is a community organization for low-wage, immigrant workers in the Texas construction industry, standing alongside workers as they fight to be paid a living wage and protected in their work.


 

2020 Awardee:

Andrea Dehlendorf

Co-Executive Director of United for Respect

Andrea DehlendorfAndrea Dehlendorf is Co-Executive Director of United for Respect, a national organization building power for people working in low wage jobs by centering their voices, experiences and solutions in the national movement fighting for the future of work, our economy and corporate regulation. With Andrea’s fierce leadership, United for Respect organizes people employed at the country’s largest employers to amplify their demands on corporate leaders in the service economy and policymakers to provide family-sustaining jobs. United for Respect leverages technology — social media and a new digital platform, WorkIt — to support people working in retail by bringing them into communities of support and action with one another. Through online peer networks and on-the-ground base-building strategies, United for Respect scaffolds the leadership and stories of working people to advocate for solutions to the pressing needs of the country’s massive low-wage workforce.

Andrea’s roots in the movement go deep, and include seminal experiences winning major victories with people working in the most unstable and precarious low wage service jobs, from janitors to hotel workers. Prior to United for Respect, Andrea worked on some the labor movements most innovating campaigns including Justice for Janitors, Airport Workers United and hotel worker organizing in Las Vegas. She lives in Oakland, CA with her twelve year old son.

Learn about United for Respect.


 

2019 Awardee:

Odessa Kelly

Co-Chair of Stand Up Nashville

Odessa KellyA native of Nashville, Odessa Kelly works diligently to bring positive and equitable change to the Nashville community by serving as co-chair for Stand Up Nashville, a coalition of community-based organizations and labor unions that represent the working people of Nashville who have seen our city transformed by development, but have not shared in the benefits of that growth. She also serves as Nashville Organized for Action and Hope (NOAH), Economic Equity & Jobs task force chair. Her work with NOAH has included building one of the largest and most powerful social justice movements in Nashville. She has advocated for the working class and underserved communities in Nashville, issues ranging from affordable housing to establishing the first ever Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) in the state of Tennessee. She believes that Nashville has the potential to achieve a progressive paradigm shift -- a cultural shift in how a traditional southern city becomes a leader in the progressive movement across the country.

Learn about Stand Up Nashville.


 

2018 Awardee:

Enrique Balcazar

Community Organizer and Leader at Migrant Justice

Enrique "Kike" Balcazar immigrated to the United States from Tabasco, Mexico when he was 17 years old. He joined his parents on a dairy farm in rural Vermont and worked for years on farms across the state. Enrique joined Migrant Justice and became a leader in the successful campaign to expand access to driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants in Vermont. He became part of the organization's Farmworker Coordinating Committee and is now an organizer and spokesperson. Enrique is one of the principal architects of Milk with Dignity, a worker-led program securing human rights and economic justice in dairy supply chains. In 2017, during a national campaign calling on Ben & Jerry's to join the program, Enrique and fellow organizer Zully Palacios were arrested by ICE agents while leaving the Migrant Justice office. A wave of protests won their release from detention, though Enrique remains in deportation proceedings. Despite the government's persecution, Enrique continued to lead the Milk with Dignity campaign to victory, signing a historic contract with Ben & Jerry's in October, 2017. 

Learn about Migrant Justice.


 

2017 Awardee:

Luna Ranjit

Co-founder of Adhikaar and the New York Healthy Nail Salons Coalition

Luna Ranjit’s work is rooted in the community. For more than a decade, Luna guided Adhikaar's programs, research, policy advocacy, and partnerships, building visibility and power for the emerging Nepali-speaking immigrant community. As a co-founder of the New York Healthy Nail Salons Coalition, she helped lead the way for the sweeping changes to improve working conditions in the nail salon industry. She also served on the advisory board of the National Healthy Nail and Beauty Salons Alliance. Luna has been quoted and featured in print and broadcast media on the issues related to workers’ rights, immigrant rights, language justice, and civic engagement. Her groundbreaking work has been recognized by many community organizations and elected officials. In 2016, she received the Grinnell College Innovator for Social Justice Prize created to support and inspire innovative social change makers throughout the world.

Learn more about Adhikaar.


 

2016 Awardee:

Alfred Marshall

Organizer with the New Orleans Workers' Center for Racial Justice

As an organizer in New Orleans, Alfred works to win back power for structurally unemployed and underemployed Black men and women through campaigns to achieve higher wages and better standards in his community. Through Alfred’s tremendous organizing campaigns, he has helped win local hiring on post-Katrina public construction and development projects, a “Ban the Box” rule, and a living wage and paid sick leave ordinance for individuals employed under city contracts. “By sitting down and talking with other workers at the New Orleans Worker Center, I realized that we’re in this together,” Alfred said. “New Orleans won’t stop. I won’t stop. This award is bigger than I am. It’s all about doing the work on the ground. We’re shaking this world up."

Learn more about the New Orleans Workers' Center for Racial Justice.

 

 

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May 31, 2022

How NFG Celebrates Worker Justice Movements: NFG's May 2022 Newsletter

At the beginning of May — on International Workers' Day — Neighborhood Funders Group was excited to announce the winners of our 2022 Discount Foundation Legacy Award!

We're resharing this announcement and sending our sincerest congratulations to this year's awardee, Wendy Melendez Garcia of Local 32BJ SEIU District 615, as well as the runner-up and equally-inspiring Nap Pempena, Secretary General of Migrante USA. The award, which was created by NFG's Funders for a Just Economy in collaboration with the Jobs with Justice Education Foundation, propels the Discount Foundation's legacy of worker justice support — and includes public recognition and stipends for individuals leading the way toward justice for low-wage workers of color.
 
Year after year, dozens of amazing, unseen leaders globally are nominated for the Discount Award by the public, a reminder of the countless interconnected but often invisible efforts of individuals building movements, mutual aid, and community power towards a more just economy. We struggled picking just one awardee, and you can learn about (and connect to) all our top finalists. We were, though, unanimous in wanting to lift up the dedication of this year's winner and runner-up, so make sure to read about their work here!

We're sitting with the duality of both graver challenges than ever for low-wage workers of color and working class communities, alongside increasing momentum from exciting wins for worker justice, including curbing the corporate power of entities such as Amazon and Starbucks. As always, NFG is committed to supporting economic justice and worker power to rebuild an economy and democracy that works for all, ensures good quality jobs, and promotes prosperity and health.
 
What risks and bold moves are you as a funder making in alignment with movements for worker justice? NFG is your place to organize with philanthropy and move more money to racial, gender, economic, disability, and climate justice. We hope to see you at some of our upcoming events and would love to hear about the worker justice groups that you're funding. 

In solidarity,
The NFG team

read the newsletter

 

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