Grantee Cohort Spring 2019, Spring 2020
Founded 50 years ago, the National Employment Law Project (NELP) aims to ensure that all workers, and all who aspire to work, can attain economic opportunity, security, and prosperity through their labor. Achieving this mission demands an inclusive economy—one that has successfully realized NELP’s three core priorities of reducing economic inequality, ending structural racism, and building worker power. NELP is a leading research and advocacy voice focusing on issues of special significance to low-wage and unemployed workers. Their 40-plus-person staff of experts collaborates with state and local allies and policymakers on campaigns to forge an economy that works for all working people. NELP champions several major economic and workplace rights issues, including increasing the minimum wage, strengthening the safety net for jobless workers, modernizing our system of workplace protections, and promoting access to employment for people with arrest and convictions records.
Through an Art for Justice Activating Art and Advocacy grant, NELP will deepen its partnership with Black diasporic artists and cultural strategists using art as a vehicle for challenging mass incarceration and building shared learning for justice reform. While the U.S. criminal legal system already exploited incarcerated and detained workers, the pandemic, recession and uprisings to affirm Black lives have called into question whose work is essential and why. NELP will work with the Afro Urban Society to create space for artists to complete “While I’m here- We Move” – a project by six Black Bay Area artists creating work that explores their personal experiences and artistic practice as a catalyst for social change. This will culminate in a virtual showing of the artwork and a creative facilitation session for NELP staff and community to think about how people who are incarcerated can’t move yet provide essential labor.
In the past, the Fund has supported NELP’s work to improve employment opportunities for people with criminal records in key states like Ohio and Illinois. It focused on organizing and legal and policy reform to create pathways to employment and improve the rewards of work for workers in low-wage jobs, particularly women and people of color. NELP also leveraged its grant to develop and pilot innovative reentry and narrative strategies in partnership with fellow organizations and coalitions in the field.