A social justice activist and funder who has consistently worked with the intersection of race, class and gender for more than 30 years, Susan Wefald is trying to build capacity of organizations and movements to affect change. She is currently the Vice President of Progams at the Ms. Foundation for Women and today, our guest blogger. Having done extensive fundraising for this initiative, we welcome her thoughts for our upcoming program, Advancing Economic Opportunities for Black Communities taking place on November 9th.
Funders interested in addressing income inequality and those interested in advancing racial equity alike will find opportunities for impactful grantmaking in the growing efforts to organize black workers. Attempts to draw attention and action around the black jobs crisis have roots going back to the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, and to Dr. King’s efforts to support the sanitation workers in Memphis in 1968. And yet little has changed over fifty-odd years in which the black unemployment rate has stubbornly remained twice that of whites, and still far too many black workers and their families experience the dispiriting weight of joblessness or wages too low to provide enough to cover their basic needs. Black women, disproportionately single heads of households, were especially hard hit in the most recent recession and have lagged behind in the recovery.
Over the past ten years there has been a significant increase in the number of organizations that focus on or include black workers in efforts to address the racial jobs gap and improve wages, working conditions and job access. Exciting policy gains have been realized. In Los Angeles, a project labor agreement has resulted in an increase in African American employment in light rail construction from 0% to 20%. “Ban the box” legislation has passed in a number of places, preventing employers from asking about criminal records in the initial job application. Black workers have been key to the Our Walmart and Fight for $15 campaigns across the country that have changed the national conversation about low wage work and resulted in significant increases in the minimum wage on a state and city level, and corporations such as McDonalds and Walmart have committed to raising their base wages.
Join us to hear about two groundbreaking reports, And Still I Rise and #BlackWorkersMatter, and learn about local efforts to advance economic opportunities for black communities in northern California.