Earlier this week, the Bread & Roses Community Fund, a partnership of donors and activists working for social change across the region, announced its 2014 grantees.
Twenty-nine organizations, a few of them in the beginning stages, received grants to support grassroots racial, economic, criminal and social justice-oriented work. The average award was $3,000.
Ricardo, 45, a soft-spoken community organizer from Puebla, Mexico, is working with the recently formed Philadelphia Workers’ Association, a new Bread & Roses grantee, to secure a place for day laborers to congregate at Home Depot in Northeast Philadelphia.
Because they are heavily trafficked by contractors, Home Depot stores across the country have become an impromptu place for laborers to meet — and get hired — by potential employees. Dozens of workers with a mix of skill sets mill around their parking lots, hopeful to pick up a day’s wages.
About the laborers in Northeast Philly, Ricardo said: “Everybody has families. Each one pays bills, pays rent. We are looking only for jobs.”
Philadelphia Workers’ Association, known as PWA, is run by volunteers, some of whom frequent the Home Depot parking lot about once a week to “check in with everybody out there and try to help network among the workers,” said Geoff Gusoff, a medical student and volunteer organizer for PWA. The Media Mobilizing Project has also supported the group’s efforts.
Having designated space at Home Depot, Gusoff explained, will not only help the workers network and avoid ticketing — the police issue $200 fines to laborers looking for work on nearby streets — it will also force contractors to improve conditions for workers.
“Four workers that we know have died,” he said. “There’s a huge issue of exploitation of workers, both by unsafe conditions and stolen wages.”
With support from Bread & Roses and other funders, PWA will hire a temporary community organizer to work on the ground, alongside activists like Ricardo, to push for a verbal agreement with Home Depot to secure space. A Home Depot in Los Angeles has forged a model partnership with workers there.
Bread & Roses, founded in 1977, awards approximately $200,000 a year. Grants are determined by a diverse committee of community stewards, who allocate funds contributed by hundreds of individual donors. Other 2014 grantees included ACT UP Philadelphia, Books Through Bars, and Youth United for Change.
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About 80 percent of Bread & Roses’ overall budget is dedicated to programming and grantmaking, noted Casey Cooke, the executive director.
“Unfortunately, we still live in a world with many injustices,” she said. “Bread & Roses believes that the best vehicle for real change is to put resources in the hands of the people who are most affected by the issues.”
Photo copyright Harvey Finkle-30-
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