September 1, 2017

Reflections on Labor Day from Funders for a Just Economy

Alejandra L. Ibañez, Chair of NFG's Funders for a Just Economy and Lead Program Officer at Woods Fund Chicago, urges colleagues to defend the past achievements for workers' rights that are now being threatened by unprecedented attacks, and to be bold in pushing towards a more just economy.

As we prepare for the Labor Day weekend, which celebrates the strength, resilience, and achievements of workers in this country, I am reminded of the history of organized labor in shaping progressive social movements. And where organized labor has not gone, we see a flourishing of worker centers and the development of cooperatives and small businesses that provide a path towards the economic self-determination for communities of color.

As a Chicagoan, I would be remiss to not recognize the historic role of Chicago workers and activists with such critically important events as the Haymarket Tragedy of 1886 and the Pullman Strike of 1894 in making Labor Day a national holiday. Today our region’s worker centers continue the fight for labor reform and worker’s protections and recently passed the Responsible Job Creations Act, providing protections for our most precarious workers in the Temp industry. This was only possible because Black and Immigrant workers have come together to make unified demands for better conditions.

As an immigrant who grew up in a working class family, with an undocumented mother at the helm forced to work multiple minimum wage jobs, sometimes history can sound like a faint hum against the tireless drum beat of the day-to-day survival for many workers like my mother. Workers today are facing unprecedented attacks we could not have predicted a little more than a year ago and now we have no choice but to do more. This Administration’s current policies are perpetuating economic discrimination based on gender, race, ethnicity, criminal history, and immigration status and eroding job quality, benefits, and health and safety regulations.

In the face of these harrowing challenges, we must articulate and create the economic structures needed to push forward and continue building a more just economy. Since 1996, the Funders for a Just Economy (FJE) has engaged and organized funders around strategies that improve access to quality employment for working families with living wages, comprehensive benefits, improved health and safety conditions, with the aim of economic stability for low-wage workers. First as a community organizer in Chicago’s near south side, and now as a program officer, I have witnessed the power and success of collective efforts by workers, parents and youth demanding what they need for better living and working conditions.

Now more than ever, our understanding of and ability to support the field in addressing systemic racism, structural poverty, criminalization, and gender-based discrimination is critical to resisting economic conservatism, dismantling white supremacy, and shifting power. We must be bold and strong in our strategies and programs to meet the challenges of today.

As a first step, I am inviting you to this year’s learning tour in the state of Alabama. The people of Alabama are on the frontlines of these challenges, as they face pre-emption laws, mass incarceration of young African American males, blatant racism against undocumented workers and social conservatism that permeates local and statewide lawmaking. On this tour, you will learn how communities are organizing for change with migrants, farmers, and people of color leading the charge.

A more detailed agenda for the tour will be available soon. If you would like to learn more about the learning tour or get involved with Funders for a Just Economy, please contact Senior Program Manager Manisha Vaze at manisha@nfg.org.

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February 12, 2019

FFJ Advisor Discussion Series: Marisa Franco

Marisa Franco, FFJ Field Advisor and Director and Co-founder of of Mijente, a digital and grassroots hub for Latinx and Chicanx organizing and movement building, speaks on the current political moment and how funders can contribute to movement work.

Tell us about the particular moment you are in with your work and place in the movement.

Entering into our fourth year, we are doing our best to be a vehicle to both respond to the real-time challenges our communities face and a place to find respite, connection, and replenished meaning. Given what the Latinx and Chicanx community faces, we’ve got to walk and chew gum at the same time (and hop on one leg, juggle, and balance something on our head!) but we believe that through the continued growth where organizers, healers, change-makers, designers, and disrupters feel Mijente is a place to meaningfully contribute to collective liberation means we are going in the right direction. It is my view that our most critical task at this time is growth and recruitment - millions of people are becoming exposed to the injustice and summarily wrong direction we are heading in - our organizations must be open and accessible entry points for people to contribute to moving us in the right direction.

How do you understand the political moment that we’re in? What do you think we need to do differently right now?

Ultimately I think that lots of what we reference as threats that are coming are largely here - crisis as a result of climate change is here, it’s being felt across the planet. The extreme backlash and attempt to re-entrench power due to demographic change is here, occurring in localities across the United States. Authoritarianism is a growing threat beyond Donald Trump and within the domestic United States. Given all of this, at the very least I think it’s critical we start to widen our panorama of political understanding to include outside of the United States and make the connections internationally. Rest assured, our adversaries are in coordination - we ignore our movement siblings and the struggle outside of the United States to our own detriment.

What should funders be understanding in this political moment? What should funders be doing to support organizations and movements?

What’s important to understand in this political moment is how the volatility impacts the plans, perspective, and morale of people in organizations and social movements. It has become more and more difficult to lay out plans that feel real given how normal it's become for so much to turn upside down pretty regularly. Some understanding and support of this from funders, particularly when it means proposed work is not carried out in the way it was initially described, is very helpful.

Continued support for rapid response tactics is critical, as well as funds that help convene key groups and/or leaders in this time goes a long way. In times like these, those that are able to adapt and move quickly are well positioned to make impactful changes. These folks have got to be able to do so with enough support and not too many hurdles, hoops, and paper to be able to move. So some of these existing practices around simplifying processes, making funds available for rapid response activities, and pop up convenings is something that has been helpful thus far and is important to continue.

December 10, 2018

Welcome to the new NFG website!

Thank you for visiting Neighborhood Funders Group's new website! We've completely redesigned and improved how it works to make it easier than ever for our members to use as an online resource.

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