Marguerite Casey Foundation supports a national grantmaking program for organizations that work across multiple states and align with the foundation’s Equal Voice strategy to support a national movement of low-income families. From 2002 through 2015, the foundation has invested a cumulative total of $96 million in the National portfolio representing 335 grants to 195 grantees. Currently, Marguerite Casey Foundation’s National portfolio consists of 49 active grants to 41 grantees. In 2015, the foundation also provided seven integrated voter engagement grants to five existing grantees, one new grantee and one previously funded grantee for a total of $1.28 million.
One in three families in the United States live paycheck to paycheck, below 200 percent of the poverty line and are struggling to make ends meet in our current political and economic environment. As job growth and wages have stagnated, people of color in the lowest income quartiles have been disproportionately impacted. Our current economy favors the wealthy and our social safety net resources have not kept pace with the growing need. Marguerite Casey Foundation funds a national portfolio of grantees working every day to support, organize, mobilize and empower low-income families to address systemic issues that affect them: historically inequitable public policies and racially driven disinvestment in poor communities of color.
Over the course of 2015, three issues emerged that will influence the upcoming 2016 election cycle, some of which surfaced through grassroots mobilization and incidents that galvanized communities and thrust these issues into the national spotlight.
In 2012 and 2013, fast-food workers organized the largest strike in New York in recent history. The movement subsequently spread nationwide, marking it as one of the largest mass-scale labor actions in recent living history. The movement has continued to gain momentum and now includes retail workers, home care aides, and child care workers, and has been a major driver in shifting our national conversation about income inequality. The National Employment Law Project conducted a study that shows 42 percent of U.S. workers make less than $15 an hour, with women and people of color overrepresented in these jobs. More than half of African-American workers and nearly 60 percent of Latino workers make less than $15 an hour. Many of these jobs are concentrated in frontline occupations in six industries: restaurants/bars, retail, child care, auto manufacturing, home care and hotels.
In the fast-food industry, 96 percent of workers make less than $15 an hour, and 90 percent of people working in child care and home care make less than $15 an hour. For domestic workers, the occupation’s history, rooted in slavery, and the prevalence of Black women in caretaking roles has influenced policy decisions that denied basic worker protections in this industry. Black women still make up 35 percent of domestic workers in the U.S.
The Fight for $15 minimum wage campaign continues to gain momentum across the country with continued local policy wins ensuring that issues of economic justice and workers’ rights will be driving campaigns during the 2016 election cycle. National grantees supported local campaigns to secure a number of wins across the country, including the increase of the minimum wage for tipped workers in New York, a successful campaign to increase wages for Wal-Mart employees, and the increase in wages for domestic care workers along with provisions to provide paid sick leave and a fair work week.
Racism and Police Accountability
The growing public visibility of police brutality and killing of unarmed Black men and boys continues to increase across the country. Grantees and philanthropic partners at both the national and local levels continue to be involved in mobilization efforts to document the on-the-ground reality and improve data collection and reporting; and advocacy on issues related to police brutality, use of lethal force, police shootings and police accountability.
In the summer of 2013, the Supreme Court decision in Shelby v. Holder overturned Section 4, a key provision in the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Section 4 outlined a formula to identify jurisdictions under Section 5, which required that states with a history of race-based discrimination in voting seek federal government preclearance to adopt changes in their voting laws, either through the federal courts or the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division. This decision effectively weakened Section 5, which now requires Congress to pass new legislation to determine which jurisdictions are subject to preclearance. Without action by Congress to pass a bill restoring protections, 2016 will be the first election in 50 years without key voting protections in place.
One month after the Shelby decision in 2013, North Carolina passed a voting law regarding redistricting that grantee Brennan Center for Justice called one of the “most restrictive since the Jim Crow era.” This law was challenged in the summer of 2015, and in early December, the Supreme Court heard arguments in Evenwel v. Abbott on the constitutional doctrine of “one person, one vote” as it relates to legislative districts. The challenge to this law could upend the widely accepted method of drawing district lines based on the number of people, rather than number of voters, to undermine protections for racial equality. This decision in Evenwel v. Abbott is being closely watched by advocates.
At the state level over the past three years, laws to expand voting have passed in 23 states, slightly outpacing laws making it harder to vote that have passed in 21 states. This is all occurring against the backdrop of the historically unprecedented turnout among minority voters. For the past two national election cycles, Black turnout rates were higher than in any election since 1968, when such data began to be collected. In 2012, the Black turnout rate exceeded White turnout nationally for the first time in history, and Hispanic and Asian turnout for these two elections was higher than in any election since 1992.
This confluence of events demonstrates the links between the fight for a fair wage, the immigrant rights movement, the Black Lives Matter movement for police accountability, and the call for criminal justice reform along with “ban the box” which requires the inclusion of conviction history on initial employment application forms. With the growing demand for change from communities, powerful coalitions across issues and constituencies have continued to strengthen and gain momentum. Considering the U.S. Census Bureau’s estimate that millennials (those born between 1982 and 2000) now number 83.1 million, eclipsing the baby boomers, it is clear that demographic shifts will be an important driver of these issues during the 2016 election cycle.
 United States Census Bureau. https://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2015/cb15-113.html