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Blog, Community Stories

Partnership with Chronicle of Philanthropy showcases grantee solutions and perspectives

The Irvine Foundation is honored to showcase grantees from across our initiatives about their solutions for protecting, advancing, and honoring workers. Our recent partnership with The Chronicle of Philanthropy features 10 grantee-authored articles about improving workplace conditions, connecting Californians to good jobs with family sustaining wages and advancement opportunities, and building power for workers and their families.

While the authors come from different backgrounds and industries, they share common perspectives about what is needed to advance economic mobility for all workers. Read the excerpts below, and in a previous blog post about the series, for more about the importance of listening to community and worker voices, creating workplaces that are more inclusive and offer growth opportunities, and restoring power to workers in the workplace.

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.

Listening to Community Voices

Photo credit: EPIC

Worker perspectives should inform the economic decisions that impact their lives because they know their circumstances, challenges, and opportunities best. EPIC founder Michael Tubbs explains that, when we listen to workers, we hear that they want “a seat at the table so they can work free from fear, be treated with dignity, and be paid enough to afford basics like food, housing, healthcare, and education.” Read more from EPIC here

The Just San Bernardino Collaborative (Just SB) applies this approach to community development in the Inland Empire to build a more inclusive economy. “Community-led, collaborative efforts like ours take time and aren’t always smooth sailing, but with determination and support, they will create the conditions for everyone to achieve economic mobility and, moreover, will strengthen democracy.” Read more about Just SB’s efforts here. 

Artwork by Ness Ilene Garza.

Creating more inclusive workplaces

We can realize the full potential of all workers when we support those who have been traditionally excluded from economic opportunity. RespectAbility describes how philanthropy can champion accessible workplaces that embrace the contributions of people with disabilities. “Through strategic and targeted investments, grantmakers can act as catalysts for change, fostering a business landscape where the talents of individuals with disabilities are recognized, valued, and integrated into the fabric of the workforce.” Read more from RespectAbility’s Executive Director, Ariel Simms, Esq. 

Photo credit: WINTER

Women in Nontraditional Employment Roles (WINTER) pushes us to rethink the construction industry and recognize the skills women can bring to jobs that men have traditionally held. “If we invest in training programs for women to get into nontraditional careers, such as construction and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), we will realize the benefits of global competitiveness, closing gender wage gaps, increased diversity and inclusion, and a robust workforce.” Read the full piece from WINTER here 

Returning power to workers

On the harmful practice of wage theft, Chinese Progressive Association and the Irvine Foundation write about the importance of worker organizing to ensure that the protections legislation offers are actually enforced. “When advocates, like worker centers, have the support they need, they have been extremely successful at making the case for a strong and capable government that protects workers and holds employers accountable.” Read more about philanthropy’s role in preventing wage theft here. 

Photo credit: Joyce Xi
IE Black Worker Center class with Executive Director Dr. Thomas leading a class.
Photo credit: Ted Soqui

Black workers face unique barriers and injustices in the workplace, experiencing discrimination and barriers to advancement, in addition to other violations of workplace rights. Dr. Nosakhere Thomas of the Inland Empire Black Worker Center writes about the critical role worker centers play in providing “a platform for Black workers to organize and advocate for their rights and interests, including fair wages, safe working conditions, and opportunities for advancement.” Read the full piece from Dr. Thomas here

We are grateful to the Chronicle of Philanthropy for their partnership and to the grantee authors who shared their ideas in this series. And you can hear more from Irvine grantees and the workers they support at our partnership with Zócalo Public Square, a series of public programs and editorial essays that highlight the stories and experiences of low-income workers in California. 

Masthead photo credit: Ted Soqui