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All Systems Go!

Updated: Feb 17, 2023

Lifting Lucy's Response to “System Check — Grassroots Groups Provide Legal, Financial Support for Workers’ Unaddressed Needs"



Kate Bernot

Reporter/Editor

Good Beer Hunting

2132 W Fulton Street

Chicago, IL 60612

January 29, 2023

Dear Editor Bernot:


Thank you for your article “System Check — Grassroots Groups Provide Legal, Financial Support for Workers’ Unaddressed Needs”, which highlights some of the barriers to personal development and opportunities in the brewing industry. We appreciate the time you took to highlight the efforts of others, such as Ren Navarro.


While the Lifting Lucy organization declined the offer to be interviewed and highlighted as one of the “mission-based” nonprofits in this article, we still think it’s important to respond to some of the information provided in the published piece.


We hope that by providing insightful feedback, conversations about barriers, race, identity, and beer will continue, and lead to real change and strengthen bonds between all beer lovers.


To facilitate the review of our notes, the following is a point-by-point response to the comments and facts delivered in your article dated January 25, 2023.

  1. COMMENT: "When Navarro planned to attend CBC in 2022, she received financial support for expenses through a grant from Crafted For All..." (lines10-11). RESPONSE: We believe the organization you're referring to is called Craft x EDU. Crafted For All does not have travel grants as part of its programs.

  2. COMMENT:The latest national data showed all employees at these breweries earned an average of $880 a week -which is essentially a baseline living wage for a single person..” (lines 27-29). RESPONSE: You have certainly raised important questions about the competitiveness of wages in the brewing industry - which many associations and organizations, including Lifting Lucy, are focused on addressing. It would be great to provide a link to the BLS information you provided, and not just MIT’s “living wage” calculator.

  3. COMMENT: “Such models have existed for centuries, from movements led by formerly enslaved people to refugee communities, and gained greater national awareness during the COVID-19 pandemic, when neighborhoods and Facebook groups..” (lines 53-56). RESPONSE: It is a bit of a stretch to connect "slaves" and "refugees" from centuries ago, to cookouts or Facebook groups during COVID-19. Slaves and refugees (involuntary displaced people), have been kidnapped, robbed of land, beaten, murdered, and exploited while simply being a human. Yes, many banded together to survive but this was done without laptops, cellphones, and no basic respect as a human being.

  4. COMMENT: “..existing institutions haven’t, and might not ever, meet everyone’s needs—especially the needs of people from marginalized racial, gender, or socioeconomic groups.” (lines 58-60). RESPONSE: Only 1% of VC funds go towards firms and companies owned by women of color. Additionally, women of color nonprofits and businesses receive the least in overall funding. As discussed in this Forbes article, “In the five-year span from 2014-2019, the average revenue for women of color [businesses] decreased from $67,800 to $65,800. Meanwhile, the average revenue rose from $198,500 to $218,800 for non-minority women.” Women of color are also the least likely to be owners of breweries. We are acutely aware that no institution, anywhere, can meet the comprehensive needs of any person, particularly historically marginalized groups. Which is why it is important for all of us to work together in whatever capacities we can. Building each other up. Yes, it is important to establish other avenues to support needs that go unmet. But make no mistake, we cannot realize a better society for all in the brewing industry unless we have maximum participation. No person is an island, and neither is our beloved beer industry organizations, associations, and companies.

  5. COMMENT: Brewers Association (BA), state brewers’ guilds, and the Pink Boots Society (PBS) have proven unable or unwilling, in their estimation, to address the full financial, material, and safety needs of vulnerable workers. (lines 79-81). RESPONSE: We appreciate your interesting perspective. Yet, we cannot think of one corporation or organization that is perfect. People are not perfect. When absolute phrases such as “proven unable or unwilling” without definite evidence are used, it sensationalizes and inappropriately minimizes the efforts that these organizations are making. It would have been welcomed by many who are in need of support if you used your privilege and platform to list the vast amount of resources, scholarships, tools and opportunities available within the associations mentioned. Examples include but are not limited to: BA’s Zywave partnership for HR benefit support that includes State-specific law guidance; salary benchmarking tools; the BA DEI Mentorship program and continuing education scholarships; the BA DEI Mini-Grants Program; state guild support by Equity & Inclusion and Human Resources Partners, THRIVE initiative and educational resources, the BA export programs; BA Bystander training at the Craft Brewers Conference; PBS “Bystander Intervention in the Workplace” training sessions; PBS scholarships for Cicerone classes and exams (of all levels), PBS scholarships to attend upcoming conferences such as Craft Beer Professionals; PBS brewing internship opportunities ($7k stipend included), PBS Chapters’ mental health services; etc. Furthermore, The Brave Noise group has been hired as a consultant by many of the breweries that are members of the Brewers Association. If breweries under Brave Noise’s guidance are still unable to add staff members to their BA directory; take advantage of the tax incentives and grants for hiring individuals within the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program; connect with their local government to apply for new employee salary reimbursement; or understand that processes for reporting harassment may not be effective if race and color are not considered as additional stressors; then we have missed major opportunities.

  6. COMMENT: Mutual aid models tend to develop in times of crisis, such as pandemics or natural disasters. In beer, the 2021 #MeToo movement that began with Brienne Allan was just one such flashpoint. The murder of George Floyd was another. (lines 124-127). RESPONSE: We reflected on the comment and for full clarification, “#MeToo” movement (in or out of beer) was founded and coined in 2006/2007 by activist Tarana Burke - a Black woman who ironically has been left out of most “Me Too” conversations within the beer industry and throughout social media, treated most often as an afterthought. Imagine if people of all colors had backed Tarana Burke over 15 years ago instead of seeing her as a complainer, a Black woman - - we wouldn’t have needed to wait 11 years for ‘doing the right thing’ to catch on. Ensuring Black and other women of color who do extraordinary things are not forgotten or “typed out” of history is something Lifting Lucy is very passionate about. There is a stigma attached to discussing how women of color have to deal with racism within sexism - which does not make the problem, nor our traumas go away. It is time to open up conversations about how inherently many are made to feel that White presenting women should be saved, and Black/Brown presenting women should be strong. Unfortunately, this leads to a mindset that many women of Color (including myself) process daily; we do not have the luxury of being “brave”. It is the reason that "for every Black woman/girl that is “harmed”, there are 15 more that never come forward”. So while women who identify as “White” are applauded for being “brave”, Black- and Brown-identifying women who choose that same path of "bravery" are dismissed as an inconvenience. Hence, the mention of Brienne, without giving one ounce of credit to Tarana. We invite you to read more about the Black women behind the “Me Too" movement, that Brienne Allan was unknowingly able to draw inspiration from when she asked a question on social media. https://apnews.com/article/we-as-ourselves-black-women-metoo-9f672965d85b2f9993e9b9841ea2efec https://www.npr.org/2021/09/29/1041362145/me-too-founder-tarana-burke-says-black-girls-trauma-shouldnt-be-ignored While we appreciate the acknowledgement of George Floyd’s murder, as we now reckon with Tyre Nichols' murder. We also invite you to review information on Black women who have died at the hands of police brutality and/or anti-Black / anti-Black trans violence. Unfortunately, Black/Brown women’s names are not mentioned very often. https://www.teenvogue.com/story/say-her-name-origin/amp https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/SayHerName https://harvardcrcl.org/americas-war-on-black-trans-women/

  7. COMMENT: “..has wrestled with whether the description is appropriate to describe the group. Ultimately, says co-founder Ashlie Randolph, the group determined mutual aid wasn’t best even though there are aspects of mutual aid that might apply to Lifting Lucy. The group was born out of “seeing a need that was not being met by the quote unquote ‘system’ of craft beer,” but doesn’t feel its work is necessarily reciprocal enough to clearly fit the criteria.” (lines 276-128) RESPONSE: Our organization works hard to stay away from a groupthink mentality. With this policy in mind, our team briefly discussed this opportunity and decided that we did not need to be highlighted in this article as we do not define ourselves as a mutual aid group. Out of respect for Editor Bernot, we did speak about our organization. There was no wrestling involved with our decision to turn down being highlighted - just an environment where all team members have a voice to be heard and respected, and included in decisions. We welcome any conversation that allows you to take a thoughtful amount of time to learn more about what our organization does and does not do.

Again, thank you for giving us the opportunity to send suggestions and respond to information in such an important piece that is shared with a vast public audience. We graciously hope you consider some of our responses as you publish future articles discussing beer, social issues, and historically marginalized groups. We appreciate everything you do to make the beer industry a better place for all.

Respectfully,

Tranice Watts

Co-founder

Lifting Lucy

Washington, DC office

contact@liftinglucy.org

(240) 659-8167




********************************

Words by Kate Bernot

January 25, 2023


When Ren Navarro was invited in 2019 to attend the Craft Brewers Conference (CBC), an annual beer industry event offering seminars, a trade show, and networking aplenty, she had to launch a GoFundMe to cover $1,500 worth of travel expenses. It was worth it, Navarro says, because her first appearance at the conference helped her launch her consulting business, Beer.Diversity. Navarro’s experience seeking financial aid from her peers in order to attend a professional conference is an example of how some workers in and adjacent to the beer industry need external funding in order to meet basic needs and job functions.

While Navarro sees value in such industry events, she acknowledges that many others simply don’t have the money to be a part of educational conferences and other professional development opportunities. (When Navarro planned to attend CBC in 2022, she received financial support for expenses through a grant from Crafted For All, a craft beverage professional development platform.)

“If I do a really great job at the conference, the best payout is that someone hires me [as a consultant], and that’s not guaranteed,” Navarro says. “I’ve had so many fights with people who are like, ‘Why won’t you pay $1,000 to come to my conference?’ And it’s because I can either pay my rent this month or I can come to your conference.”


Finding balance between career and finances is a tightrope to walk. Whether working in a brewhouse, in a taproom, or selling beer across cities and towns, having up-to-date knowledge and skills is crucial to career advancement and higher wages. Meanwhile, brewery staff earn the lowest wages among beer, wine, and spirits workers, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which tracks salaries from production breweries (not brewpubs). The latest national data showed all employees at these breweries earned an average of $880 a week, which is essentially a baseline living wage for a single person with no children in many major metropolitan areas in the U.S. The last time brewery staff earned an average weekly rate higher than distillery or winery staff was almost eight years ago.

Given that reality, Navarro says even when conference organizers provide speakers with free tickets to attend the event, it’s still not possible for some to afford to travel there.

“Conferences need to stop making it sound like it is a goddamn amazing thing that they can give you a ticket to attend—but they can’t pay you [for your time or expertise],” Navarro says.

The precarious finances that come with working in many beer jobs—plus rising costs of living—mean many beer professionals lack clear access to opportunities that would improve their abilities, aside from online webinars or educational groups. A lack of money and support can prevent them from attending networking events, seeking medical care, or leaving abusive workplaces. Given that most breweries are small businesses without unionized labor forces, it’s not always clear where workers can turn for necessary help or the chance to get better at their jobs.

That’s why an increasing number of grassroots groups in beer and hospitality are working to change the status quo. Within the last few years, leaders from these industries have loosely organized around mutual aid models, which focus on “helping people get their needs met when the system or structures in place are failing to meet their needs,” says Danielle Littman, a PhD candidate at the University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work and a member of its Mutual Aid Collective.

Such models have existed for centuries, from movements led by formerly enslaved people to refugee communities, and gained greater national awareness during the COVID-19 pandemic, when neighborhoods and Facebook groups came together to distribute face masks, cook for each other, babysit children, or provide money to those who needed it. The purpose of mutual aid is to acknowledge that existing institutions haven’t, and might not ever, meet everyone’s needs—especially the needs of people from marginalized racial, gender, or socioeconomic groups. In beer, such organizations have sprung up to cover expenses related to abortions (Drinking in Another State), deportation-related legal fees (Another Round Another Rally), gender discrimination and sexual harassment (Bevolution Brave Voices Fund), and more.

TOWARD STRUCTURAL CHANGE

In general, mutual aid groups have two aims: to meet immediate needs and to build more equitable models for the future. Littman says that in addition to covering day-to-day necessities, mutual aid groups generally also have “an underlying political commitment to be making a better future where there are changes in how we relate to one another and structures that more sustainably meet our needs.”

It’s been made clear in recent years that workers in beer need support. Whether because of unsafe workplaces; gender-based discrimination, abuse, and harassmentt; racism in the workplace; or economic hardship; people from historically marginalized groups who are working in beer often bear the greatest burdens while being the least likely to receive institutional support.

Among many people participating in mutual aid groups within beer, there’s a belief that this model is necessary because trade groups such as the Brewers Association (BA), state brewers’ guilds, and the Pink Boots Society (PBS) have proven unable or unwilling, in their estimation, to address the full financial, material, and safety needs of vulnerable workers. However, each group cites other areas of work that provide impact:

The BA this year launched grants to fund travel to CBC, which will award 25 people up to $1,500 in reimbursements and/or prepaid expenses. This is the first year the BA has offered travel grants, though a BA spokesperson said the group’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee had been “incubating” the idea for two years. The spokesperson did not explain why the BA had not offered this grant previously, and added that the BA also offers “DEI Mini Grants” to fund initiatives that foster a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive craft beer community.

PBS offers a variety of educational and professional development scholarships for women and non-binary individuals. Blanca Quintero, president of the Pink Boots Society’s board of directors, says that because of the organization’s standing as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, it’s able to provide those resources and more, including networking, but is “precluded from financially providing resources outside of our scope.” She adds that “any material support outside of the mission and scope of our organization would be in violation” of that nonprofit status.

For almost the entirety of craft beer’s existence in America, trade groups have been appointed to provide guidance on aspects of safety, marketing, quality control, and more, but it’s only been until the last several years that they’ve offered leadership on topics like racism, sexism, classism, and a host of other systemic inequities. Until recently, they’ve lleft the industry with an expectation of self-policing. This has created a situation where grassroots organizers see nowhere else to turn when seeking change.

“That’s where mutual aid comes in: We don’t need you. We’ll figure it out ourselves and you can help out if you want, but it’s on our terms,” says Jen Blair, an Atlanta-based brewer, beer educator, and activist. “People directly affected by a situation need to be the ones determining how to allocate resources.”

But mutual aid models—in beer and beyond—typically have to resolve their own tensions. Many of these tensions have to do with how radical a group wants to be in its approach. For example, some people see a benefit in establishing a mutual aid group as a 501(c)(3) charity, allowing it to apply for grants and making donations tax-deductible. Others see this move as a continuation of the charitable-model status quo, perpetuating hierarchies and bureaucracy. But this is just one tension mutual aid groups face. They must also resolve questions like: Do they put pressure on the system to change, or work entirely outside of it? Do they distract from an organized labor movement, or contribute to greater worker solidarity? Mutual aid groups among beer professionals differ in their answers to such questions, but all share a common thread: to fill the financial and emotional gaps the existing industry structures leave open.

WHAT’S MINE IS OURS

Mutual aid models tend to develop in times of crisis, such as pandemics or natural disasters. In beer, the 2021 #MeToo movement that began with Brienne Allan was just one such flashpoint. TThe murder of George Floyd was anotherr. The Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade was yet another.

The court’s ruling on a woman’s right to abortion—known as The Dobbs decision—spurred Lindsay Malu Kido, the founder of the publication and diversity advocacy project Beer Is For Everyone, to establish Drinking In Another State (DIAS). The new program gives financial assistance to workers in the beer industry who need to travel out-of-state to obtain abortions.

“DIAS acknowledges that the current socio-political system is not meeting the needs of our people, specifically those with uteruses,” Kido says. “While there are many, many other funds that specialize in reproductive care on both national and local levels, Beer Is For Everyone wanted to make sure that there was an option that prioritizes our people [in the beer industry] first.”

DIAS sells merchandise and accepts donations to generate money to share with applicants. Citing confidentiality, Kido doesn’t share statistics about applications, how many people have been assisted, or total donations raised, but they say the program has received applications since DIAS launched in June 2022. The program also asks for virtually no follow-up or public acknowledgement from recipients, in order to keep barriers to assistance low and to ensure confidentiality. The start and end of DIAS’ involvement is to get financial assistance to people who say they need it most, as fast as possible.

“We cannot fully comprehend the true impact that the fund has had for individuals, since we maintain our distance to keep people comfortable and respect their privacy,” Kido says. “However, it has been gratifying knowing that we are a small part of the process to promote reproductive justice.”

This is another tenet of mutual aid models. Rather than stringent eligibility requirements or lengthy applications, mutual aid generally assumes that people who ask for aid do need it and can best determine how to use it. Traditional, institutional aid models—think of the applications for relief through Federal Student Aid or the Federal Emergency Management Agency—are typically lengthy and require the sharing of personal financial documents to demonstrate neediness.

“It’s a real switch to think: People will just tell you what they need and you should work to meet that need,” says Kimberly Bender, a faculty member of the University of Denver’s Graduate School of Social Work Mutual Aid Collective. “The bureaucracy we set up around more conventional charity, mutual aid is really trying to dismantle that.”

This trust and reciprocity is possible because people who are providers of mutual aid have been or in the future may be in need of that same aid. It’s peer support rather than a top-down, charitable approach—one that relies on empathy. It’s a rejection of capitalist systems or a return on investment in favor of providing help without expectation.

“This is your community and you’re empathetic to what that experience of need is. I’ve been in that position several times in my life where even $50 can make a massive difference in terms of my mental health. Most of us [in the industry] are not that far removed from that experience,” Blair says. “Under mutual aid, when you’re giving, you’re not expecting anything in return, but there’s the idea that your community will take care of you if and when you need it.”

The combination of financial assistance at a time of increasing worry around budgets is an important one. Based on BLS data, the average production brewery staff member is making roughly the same amount of money a week as they did pre-pandemic, while inflation has caused prices of goods and services—not to mention housing—to rise.

Navarro says breweries themselves should also consider their community partnerships through a mutual aid lens, rather than one of pure charity. Charity implies that someone is the magnanimous giver, providing help to a person or group who has nothing to contribute in return. She uses an example of a brewery that donates its space to a Deaf meet-up or American Sign Language class. Donating the space is charity; attending the meet-up or class as brewery staff fosters reciprocity and the idea that aid recipients are also teachers.

“We tend to think of aid as a one-way road, that I don’t get anything out of it except for this weird warm feeling that I’m Mother Teresa, instead of thinking: ‘I could have also attended that event and learned,’” Navarro says. Again, mutual aid is insistent on empathy and dignity, rather than a purely charitable approach to giving.

TO DESTROY OR TO REFORM

A central tension within the mutual aid groups that Littman, Bender, and their colleagues have researched is whether to work inside the system to make it better or whether to dismantle the system and build an entirely new one. This is true of those in beer, too. Mutual aid groups serving the beer industry have varied approaches, and some groups advocate for reform at the same time they’re building separate systems.

For example, Another Round Another Rally is a 501(c)(3)-structured nonprofit that provides emergency financial relief as well as educational opportunities to hospitality industry workers. The group has paid for medical treatments, provided free legal aid, distributed groceries to unemployed hospitality workers’ families, and covered the cost of mental health services. Co-founder Travis Nass says mutual aid principles are important to the group, but they haven’t precluded it from partnering with large companies such as Campari and Anheuser-Busch InBev for funding, or from drawing on powerful individuals within the hospitality industry to serve on its board of directors, such as Kiowa Bryan, national brand manager for Spiribam Fine R(h)m Specialists, and Jackie Summers, creator of Sorel Liqueur.

In fact, Nass says, those large donors are necessary to help meet the level of need that exists among hospitality workers.

“During COVID, the first week we opened applications [for emergency financial assistance], we got more than 70,000. We were getting more than one application per second,” he says, adding that the group distributed more than $1.75 million in pandemic-specific cash relief to people all over the country. The group provided groceries to 10,000 families and supplied $500 grants to 1,400 front-of-house employees of color, in addition to other programs. “COVID is an extreme example, but there’s always going to be more need than money available.”

Another Round Another Rally courts deep-pocketed donors (and often has to wait on their legal departments to review the details of the transactions and actually transfer funds), but also strives to make sure that it’s providing what bartending and restaurant workers truly need: security for their future. A recent survey facilitated by the organization made it clear there was a lack of 401(k)s or retirement plans for hospitality workers, with one response in particular standing out.

“As soon as we got that response back, it was like: How do we put together a pension plan?” says Amanda Gunderson, CEO of Another Round Another Rally. “She had a really poetic way of putting it. She said she wanted ‘peace of mind that I can retire and not having to worry about anything but living the life I worked hard to have.’”

While Another Round Another Rally works with established institutions such as alcohol corporations and bartending competitions, the Bevolution Brave Voices Fund—which provides cash grants to workers who want to leave hostile workplaces—is more skeptical of existing industry groups. Blair says that when beer’s #MeToo movement gained steam in 2021, she expected more material support for survivors from trade groups including the BA and PBS. For years, the BA and state guilds have struggled with whether and how to police the behavior of employees of the now more than 9,000 craft breweries operating in the U.S.

“When Brienne [Allan] started sharing stories on Instagram, both organizations were quick to say: ‘This isn’t what we do,’” Blair says. “A lot of us realized: Yeah it would have been nice to have these organizations step into this role, but they’re correct, that’s not what they do. Now we know where they stand on these things, and we can move forward from that.”

She says that as long as trade groups are funded by and voted on by brewery management and ownership, they won’t be especially responsive to rank-and-file brewery workers—or consumers. They’re not the groups that workers can turn to for financial assistance to buy work boots, or to seek legal guidance when they’ve been harassed at work, Blair says. Trade groups have reasons for their reluctance to provide this type of support to workers, whether it’s because it could create legal vulnerabilities for the trade group or because doing so could alienate some dues-paying member businesses.

“There’s a realization that that’s not what they are for,” she says. “This is not where you get your resources.”

Instead, the Bevolution Brave Voices Fund was established to provide small monetary grants to cover workers’ time off from harmful jobs or to cover expenses related to job-hunting, like purchasing a laptop or clothes for an interview. The fund isn’t established as a registered nonprofit, and Blair hopes that shows other beer workers that they don’t have to hire lawyers or labor over paperwork to create mutual aid networks.

“People say, ‘I won’t start this because I can’t do this as a 501(c)(3).’ But you don’t have to do that. You can share someone’s Venmo on your Instagram and that’s community-building,” Blair says. “[As beer professionals], we’re notoriously underpaid and overworked. With mutual aid, there’s less barriers to saying: ‘Yes, here’s $50 to fix the flat on your car today.’”

FINDING THE FRAMEWORK

Though the term “mutual aid” is now more mainstream than just a few years ago, it’s still not a model that all groups feel comfortable adopting. Lifting Lucy—a nonprofit organization that provides grants and scholarships to Black, Indigenous, and women of color for beer industry events and educational opportunities—has wrestled with whether the description is appropriate to describe the group. Ultimately, says co-founder Ashlie Randolph, the group determined mutual aid wasn’t best even though there are aspects of mutual aid that might apply to Lifting Lucy. The group was born out of “seeing a need that was not being met by the quote unquote ‘system’ of craft beer,” but doesn’t feel its work is necessarily reciprocal enough to clearly fit the criteria.

“I feel mutual aid is more short-term rather than long-term,” Randolph says. “We started out very grassroots but that’s not where we are now and where we’ll evolve to.”

Littman and Bender have found wide variance in whether groups they’ve researched choose to use the term “mutual aid.” Among those who don’t, some groups and individuals feel uneasy about its radical political connotations; others are just not aware of it as a model; and still others are pursuing an established nonprofit or charitable model. To recipients of the aid, these semantics may not matter, but internally they can create potential implications for the long-term mission and organization structure of a particular group.

DIAS’ Kido says she wasn’t aware of the definition of mutual aid, but having read up on it, feels that the project falls under the definition put forth by University of Georgia School of Social Work’s Joel Izlar: “Mutual aid is when everyday people get together to meet each other’s needs, with the shared understanding that the systems we live in are not meeting our needs and that we can meet them together, right now, without having to pressure power structures to do the right thing.”

“Yes, DIAS is a mutual aid [group] that is the culmination of the craft beer community coming together for our people,” Kido says.

There are other ways besides mutual aid that craft beer could improve material conditions for its workers. Organizing via labor unions is one, but so far, that’s remained a rare anomaly. (This is not the case among larger breweries such as Anheuser-Busch InBev and Molson Coors, many of which have unionized workforces.) Littman calls the interplay of mutual aid and labor organizing “a can of worms” because whether mutual aid supports or undermines unionization is a matter of debate. But she says that her group’s research has generally found alignment between the two since they both focus on “building more equitable futures and building structures and systems that better meet folks’ needs.” Again, this raises questions of dismantling versus reforming institutions, such as corporations and established industry organizations. There’s no definitive answer to whether mutual aid allows a capitalistic system to continue functioning unchecked, where labor unions might theoretically be able to reform it.

“Is mutual aid allowing these larger structures to get away with not changing? I also don’t have the answer for that,” Littman says.

While heady political questions are essentially baked into mutual aid work, a more immediate focus of all such groups remains meeting the needs of people who’ve been left out by existing power structures. For Navarro, industry-sponsored programs designed to address inequities are too often structured from the top down, and create barriers for applicants who really need the help. Applications that require resumes and essays, for example, require time and computer access and reliable internet.

“We overcomplicate things because we don’t really want to do it,” Navarro says. “The irony is that you usually have to have some kind of socioeconomic flexibility to go ask for this economic help.”





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