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Irvine grantees carry on the Labor Day legacy

Labor Day and the worker contributions that the holiday commemorates are rooted in the voices of organizers who fought for better working conditions. And while those efforts are the foundation of the workplace protections many of us enjoy today, thousands of California workers are still denied basic benefits, suffer violations of their labor rights, and are excluded from the decision-making tables. 

Our grantee partners continue the legacy of historic worker rights movements, ensuring that what Labor Day represents — the impact of workers coming together for better working conditions — becomes reality for all Californians.  

We are honored to showcase how a selection of the organizations we support advance the cause of low-wage workers in California in a yearlong partnership with the Chronicle of Philanthropy. You can read selections from these grantee perspectives below.

Note: The views and opinions expressed in these pieces are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of The James Irvine Foundation. 

Photo Credit: EPIC

End Poverty in California (EPIC) wrote about the importance of undoing the assumptions we have about poverty and telling authentic stories about workers paid low wages and their families: “Ultimately, our theory of narrative change involves recognizing that we have to overcome centuries of racist, classist, misogynistic, and xenophobic stereotypes. To combat this, we need to flood the public with authentic stories about economic struggle in America.” Read the full piece from EPIC’s founder Michael Tubbs 

PICO California, the state’s largest faith-based organizing network, discusses how guaranteed basic income can contribute to an economy rooted in belonging: Guaranteed basic incomes can transform the economy and empower people to meet their own needs and make their own choices. Unlike many safety net programs, they do not hamper low-wage workers by constantly threatening to withhold benefits. Read the full piece from PICO California’s Executive Director Joseph Tomás McKellar 

Photo Credit: PICO
Photo Credit: Love Never Fails

Love Never Fails’ work to help trafficking survivors obtain and sustain meaningful careers underscore why it is important to recognize the unique experience of each survivor and holistically address their needs: Both seen and unseen, these barriers are debilitating if left unaddressed and make it exponentially more difficult to obtain stability and sustainable employment. Read the full piece from Love Never Fails’ founding Executive Director Vanessa Russell.

Worker centers are community-based and community-led organizations that support workers through a range of strategies to improve wages and working conditions. Black worker centers have the added focus of addressing systemic barriers and anti-Black discrimination and helping Black workers  organize and advocate for their rights and interests in the workplace. The Inland Empire Black Worker Center (IEBWC) writes, “it’s been critical to create a space for Black workers to come together, learn together, analyze what’s happening in the economy, and develop solutions.” Read the full piece from IEBWC Executive Director Dr. Nosakhere Thomas 

Photo Credit: IEBWC
Photo Credit: California Coalition for Worker Power

The California Coalition for Worker Power (CCWP) focuses on building the power of workers to improve jobs across California, and CCWP members found that widespread retaliation acts as a barrier that keeps workers from being able to advocate for the workplace rights and benefits they are due. Read the full piece from the National Employment Law Project and the Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance to learn more about how funders “have an opportunity to effect change once again and can provide resources to organizations focused on furthering workers’ rights.” 

Just San Bernardino Collaborative (Just SB), a collection of organizations involved in economic mobility, grassroots organizing, community development, and racial equity work in San Bernardino and the broader Inland Empire wrote about the importance oforganizing residents and community members to build powerand building momentum with small wins. Read the full piece from the Just San Bernardino Collective. 

Illustration by Ness Ilene Garza
Photo Credit: Flintridge Center

Flintridge Center provides services to youth and adults impacted by poverty, community violence and incarceration and collaborates with government partners and community-based organizations to build pathways out of justice involvement, and that experience means they can confidently discuss how “Incarceration is a systemic and structural barrier to economic equity. But it doesn’t have to be.” Read the full piece from Flintridge Center. 

Stay tuned for the rest of this year as we will hear from three more grantees to complete the series

Masthead photo credit: Sam Comen