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Veatch Grantees Step In to Fill Lacking Government Response

A recent article that ran as part of “The America We Need” series in the New York Times highlights the important work of two Veatch grantees during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The article was written by a home health aid based in Miami, Melissa L. St. Hilaire, who suddenly found herself out of work caring for a 95-year-old woman. 

She credits two Veatch grantees for helping her get through this terrible time, as she looks to a more empowered future. When she ran out of food, a friend told her about the Miami Workers Center, a group that organizes low-income workers that has transformed itself into a mutual aid center for those in need. They welcomed Melissa and supplied her with groceries for the week.

She then learned that the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA) is raising $4 million to support 10,000 domestic workers across the country, many of whom don’t qualify for the federal stimulus, who have lost their jobs because of the coronavirus.  She’ll use the money to buy food, and cover part of her rent. 

To be clear — these organizations are first and foremost about gaining systemic changes for low-income workers. But even as they continue to fight policy battles and organizing campaigns on behalf of immigrants, working people, and other vulnerable communities, Veatch grantees like these are quickly and nimbly transforming themselves into life-sustaining hubs and centers of mutual aid because the very policies they are fighting to enact — paid sick leave, health care, safe working conditions — are not there to protect their memberships in times of crisis.

Below is a roundup of recent news and updates from additional Veatch grantees — each of who are fighting back against the disproportionate impact this pandemic is having on vulnerable communities while simultaneously demanding a more just, compassionate response to this crisis from our leaders. 

Joan Minieri
Executive Director

From left to right: Carol Garbarino, Chair; Joan Minieri, Executive Director; Corinne Hayden, Vice Chair   
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Church of the Larger Fellowship —  Impact of Covid-19 on Young Adults

The Church of the Larger Fellowship (CLF) — a Veatch grantee that has no geographic boundary — is tackling the impact of Covid-19 on young adults as part of The VUU: a UU Talk Show. In the latest episode, the show invited two UU young adults to discuss their perspective on how to maintain a faith community in this new world.

"It's not enough for youth and young adults to get spiritual sustenance by just showing up to their bricks and mortar congregations on Sundays," said Tanner Linden, one of the young adult panelists. "I like to think we've had practice as young adults going to find community outside of physical areas." 

The VUU is hosted by Meg Riley — the outgoing director of CLF who recently preached to our congregation — as well as Aisha Hauser, and Michael Tino with production support by Antonia Bell-Delgado. The radio program, a part of Quest for Meaning, a ministry program of the CLF, is dedicated to discussing current topics from an anti-racist, anti-oppressive and multicultural perspective, and streams live on Facebook every Thursday at 11 am ET. 

Maine People's Alliance —  Fighting for Immigrants

The Maine People's Alliance (MPA)— which organizes community leaders throughout Maine — has been working hard to maintain its organizing campaigns throughout this pandemic, while also assisting members via a range of mutual aid programs. To date, the group has organized over 1,000 volunteers to take part in Mainers Together, a group of community leaders responding to the Covid-19 crisis, and held 53 virtual meetings and trainings. 

Among their mutual aid efforts, MPA has worked to connect youth leaders to the media. High school student Pearl Benjamin penned this op-ed, which mentions the Mainers Together network: Keep Calm and Help On. The group also connected member Zoe Borenstein to a reporter for this story, Maine Unemployment Claims Skyrocket to Record 21,500 in One Week, in which she shares her experience as a 23-year-old laid-off line cook at a Portland restaurant, now struggling to get by.

MPA is also ensuring mutual aid programs benefit those commonly left out of the government's response — like immigrants. In a video interview for Sinaan Outlets MPA organizer Mohamed Ibrahim discussed his work organizing an immigrant task force in Lewiston for COVID-response, and is working with allies to start a similar effort in Portland.

Neighborhood Funders Group — Essay on COVID-19 Strike Wave

Rob Chlala, Program Manager of Funders for a Just Economy — a program of Veatch grantee Neighborhood Funders Group — recently wrote an inspiring roundup of strikes along with other labor organizing tactics in response to the ongoing Covid-19 crisis. Among the resources included: Strike demands include things like: personal protective equipment (PPE), hazard pay, closure with pay of work sites where COVID-19 presents a high risk, as well as demands for broader policy and corporate responses to protect communities — such as GE workers call to shift to ventilator production. 

Beyond strikes, Rob pointes out many other inspiring forms of labor organizing occurring in this moment, including: Read the full essay, which is full of incredible examples of labor organizing occurring all across the globe, here. 

Unitarian Universalist Justice Ministry of California — 'Free Them All' Community Action Circle

The Unitarian Universalist Justice Ministry of California — a Veatch grantee advancing justice by cultivating and connecting leaders — is forming #FreeThemAll Community Action Circles to strategize about ways to push for the release of those in prisons and immigration detention centers who are at high risk of complications due to coronavirus infection. 

"While we may not be able to visit our siblings in detention or bear witness by gathering physically, we CAN make an impact through targeted, focused, online actions," the group wrote on a page announcing the Action Circles. "We can make sure that our people who are at the highest risk of contracting/complications from coronavirus are released from the ill-equipped and inhumane conditions that are not designed to preserve their health and safety."

If you are interested in learning more, sign up on UUJMC's Community Action Circle list

Partnership for Working Families — Organizing to Invoke the Defense Production Act 

The Partnership for Working Families — a national network of economic justice organizations — is organizing to demand companies including Honeywell, FedEx and Amazon immediately and publicly support the full use of the Defense Production Act to create N-95 masks, ventilators and other desperately needed equipment.

The network is pushing back against efforts by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to prevent the full use of the Defense Production Act. In an email announcing the effort, the group's Executive Director, Lauren Jacobs, writes: "It is unconscionable that when lives are on the line and doctors, nurses, grocery store workers, and other essential workers need supplies to protect themselves, their families, and their communities, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the multi-billionaire corporations it represents are lobbying against the Defense Production Act, forcing states, cities, and hospitals to compete for life-saving materials."

You can sign a petition started by the Partnership in support of the effort, and read more about the groups' response to Covid-19 here. 

Democracy Now! — An Independent News Source Amid the Pandemic

Veatch grantee Democracy Now! — a media company committed to independent reporting and showcasing a diversity of voices — continues to report on stories related to Covid-19 largely ignored by larger media conglomerates. Among some of their recent stories, include:

Make the Road NY — Launches Memorial for Those Lost to Covid-19

In a reminder that the thousands of lives lost due to Covid-19 are not just numbers, but our friends, neighbors, relatives and co-workers, Make the Road-NY — which empowers low-income workers and immigrants in New York — launched a virtual memorial site for those who have died from the disease.

As Co-Executive Directors Javier H. Valdés and Deborah Axt wrote in an update announcing the memorial, "We remember those who have walked with us, and we continue our fight for justice in their honor, demanding that our leaders address the inequalities and injustices that have left our communities so vulnerable."
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