AFSC and Just economies
Widening economic inequality is harmful to people everywhere—today, economic factors are responsible for more deaths than armed conflict in the U.S. and around the world. For lasting peace, every person needs access to education, adequate food and shelter, and safe, sustainable livelihoods. (AFSC website).
Building just economies is a key concern for the American Friends Service Committee. They address this through campaigning to shift US federal budget priorities, challenging the role of large corporations in the democratic process, and supporting projects at home and abroad that reduce economic inequality.
Federal Budget Priorities
The AFSC campaigns federally and at the local grassroots level for changes in US federal budget priorities. They are concerned that billions of dollars are spent annually on militarism and corporate tax breaks while essential services are cut. They seek to shift priorities away from militarism and warfare and toward housing, quality education, medical care, and fair wages.
At a national level, it works with the Coalition on Human Needs, an alliance of national organizations, as well as with other faith-based groups, to promote public policies to address the needs of low-income and other vulnerable populations.
In Kansas, the AFSC initiated the Move the Money Listening Project, during which 43 listening sessions were held with local community leaders to learn what the impact had been of budget cuts on Kansas City residents and what spending priorities could improve their lives.
The AFSC believes that the privatization of public resources and the increasing influence of corporations threaten the democratic process. They are challenging the influence of corporate money in political elections, military contracts, and prison privatization.
During the passage through congress of a recent immigration bill, the AFSC lobbied against the role of private corporations in escalating the militarisation of the US/Mexico border
In Ohio, the AFSC is supporting a campaign known as the Move to Amend Coalition, advocating a constitutional amendment to remove the constitutional rights of corporations (as opposed to individual human beings) and ending the legal doctrine, established in 1976, that spending money to influence elections is a form of constitutionally protected free speech.
Addressing Economic Inequality
To improve living and working conditions in the US, AFSC organizes grassroots workers’ rights initiatives, community-based economic development, and anti-homelessness efforts. AFSC also advocates at every level for policies that reduce economic inequality.
In West Virginia, the Economic Justice Project (WVEJ) advocates for policies to (for example) reduce racial disparities; increase coal mine safety; expand affordable medical care, subsidise childcare and improve child nutrition, raise the minimum wage, and restore funding for programmes to help victims of domestic violence.
In California, they support the Roots for Peace project, defending the rights of residents to create gardens where they can grow their own food. In New Mexico they have helped to create networks of local farmers who support each other to grow food sustainably and distribute their produce locally.
In New Hampshire they formed part of a Homelessness Task Force, looking at the root causes of homelessness and how to tackle it through the provision of support, services and the availability of low cost housing.
The AFSC also advocates policies that will support economic growth in poorer countries, in order to reduce destabilising pressures such as forced migration and recruitment into armed militias, which are often fuelled by economic hardship. This includes supporting local projects that encourage sustainable growth, as well as advocating for strong workers’ rights protections to be built into free trade agreements.