Strategies to Address How Amazon’s HQ2 Will Impact Workers and Local Economies

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

While tax and other incentives are often used to attract corporations to cities, there is little evidence that these mechanisms improve employment rates and spur economic growth. In fact, these public policies can advance a concentration of power and a monopolization of the market. These then drive geographic and racial inequality and force local communities to bear the brunt of revenue loss without reaping the benefits.

The frenzy surrounding Amazon’s new headquarters’ bidding process sheds light on how corporate incentives are used for more profit under the guise of economic development. Using examples from organizing campaigns to challenge corporate power, this webinar explored data that shows how corporate incentives can drive down wages and exacerbate problems related to poor working conditions and a lack of worker protections and benefits. Funders also strategized on how to resource the movement to curb Amazon’s impact and support movement building and grassroots organizing across the country.



Hosted by NFG's Funders for a Just Economy and Democratizing Development Program

Speaker & Moderator Bios:

  • Erica Smiley oversees the organizing department at Jobs With Justice, which includes local and national campaign work and a team dedicated to developing innovative strategies to expand collective bargaining power. She has authored several articles highlighting some of the organization’s most exciting developments in the New Labor Forum, Dissent Magazine and other publications. She is originally from Greensboro, N.C, and in the past has organized with community groups such as Progressive Maryland, the Tenants and Workers Support Committee (now Tenants and Workers United) in Virginia, and SEIU Local 500 in Baltimore. She was national field director of Choice USA (now United for Reproductive and Gender Equity—URGE), before joining the staff of Jobs With Justice in 2005.
  • Greg LeRoy founded and directs Good Jobs First, a resource center promoting accountability in the >$70 billion spent annually by states and localities for economic development. Greg is the author of The Great American Jobs Scam: Corporate Tax Dodging and the Myth of Job Creation (Berrett-Koehler, 2005). GJF was honored by State Tax Notes magazine in 2015 for its landmark victory/accounting rule: Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) Statement No. 77 on Tax Abatement Disclosures. GJF is home to Subsidy Tracker, the only national database of subsidy awards. It is also home to Subsidy Tracker 2, a new database for GASB 77 abatement-disclosure data, and to Violation Tracker, the only national database of federal regulatory agency enforcement records (spanning 43 agencies including wage theft, workplace safety, environmental and consumer finance).  He, GJF’s staff, and their data-rich websites assist grassroots activists, public officials and journalists every day. 
  • Stacy Mitchell is co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, which produces research and partners with with a wide range of allies to design and implement policies to counter concentrated corporate power and create a more equitable and locally rooted economy. Since joining ILSR in 1997, Stacy has focused much of her research and advocacy on two pivotal sectors of the economy: retail and banking. Her work has informed policy-making, shaped media coverage, and helped guide grassroots strategies. Among the first to raise the alarm about the rise of mega-retailers, Stacy has been a national leader in the movement to counter their power and foster a more just and sustainable retail sector. She wrote a best-selling book on the topic, Big-Box Swindle, in 2007; helped develop and pass new local and state legislation restricting big-box retailers; and was for many years a core strategic partner to the Our Walmart campaign. In late 2016, Stacy published an in-depth and wide-ranging report, Amazon’s Stranglehold: How the Company’s Tightening Grip is Stifling Competition, Eroding Jobs, and Threatening Communities, which has played a pivotal role in informing the growing public discussion of Amazon’s power and impact.  The report has been featured in over 300 print and broadcast media stories, attracted over 40,000 readers, been cited by members of Congress, and armed allies in the field with critical information and insights. Stacy is both a close ally of labor and an influential voice among independent business owners.  She coordinates the Advocates for Independent Business, a coalition of organizations representing over 25,000 small businesses, which has emerged as an important voice on issues of corporate power. In addition to her work at ILSR, Stacy serves on an advisory council for the Center for Community Change and on the board of the New Economy Coalition.
  • Mark Meinster is Executive Director of Warehouse Workers for Justice (WWJ), a Chicago-based worker centre founded in 2009 to win permanent, living-wage jobs in the logistics and distribution sector. He has led several successful campaigns to hold large retailers accountable for their US supply chain labour conditions. WWJ grew out of the work of the United Electrical Workers Union, where Mark worked for 19 years as a union organiser, negotiator and educator.
  • Mariah Montgomery co-leads the Partnership for Working Families’ national campaign for just and equitable infrastructure and leads its initiatives to propel the future of work towards worker power and equity, with a focus on nonstandard employment and the way technology is changing work and organizing. Before joining the Partnership, Mariah was the deputy campaign director for retail initiatives at the Change to Win (CtW) labor federation, where she led innovative campaigns in retail and telecommunications with an emphasis on corporate strategy, regulation and public policy. At CtW Mariah designed field and online investigations that generated actionable data for stakeholders and regulators. Prior to her work at CtW, Mariah spent five years working with SEIU in Southern California where she developed research and strategy for campaigns to organize subcontracted service workers. 
  • Alejandra Ibañez is the Lead Program Officer at Woods Fund Chicago and Chair of Funders for a Just Economy (FJE). Prior to her arrival at Woods Fund, she served as the Program Officer at the Oak Park-River Forest Community Foundation, managing the Foundation’s multi-million dollar Communityworksendowment grant and community program. Before entering the philanthropic sector, Alejandra served as the Executive Director of Pilsen Alliance, a social justice organization committed to developing grassroots leadership in Pilsen and neighboring working-class, immigrant communities in Chicago’s Lower West Side. Alejandra was born in Chile and moved to the United States with her family in the 1970s. After spending most of her childhood on the East Coast, Alejandra and her family moved to Chicago in the late 1980s and continue to call it home. She holds a Masters in urban planning and policy from the University of Illinois-Chicago and a Bachelor of Arts in political science from DePaul University.
  • Manisha Vaze joined NFG in February 2017 as the Senior Program Manager for Funders for a Just Economy (FJE). Manisha has more than 12 years’ experience as a community organizer. Before joining FJE, Manisha was the Director of Organizing at Strategic Concepts in Organizing and Policy Education (SCOPE) based in South Los Angeles. Her work at SCOPE helped advance an agenda to eliminate structural barriers to social and economic opportunities, and build replicable job training and workforce models that have regional and national impact. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Cognitive Science from the University of California at Berkeley and a Masters in Social Work from Columbia University.