Ideas and Impact

Bringing Workplace Policies Into the 21st Century

This Arabella case study examines how smart philanthropic investments in advocacy generated precedent-setting policy victories for women and families in Oregon.

The tale of how advocates prevailed in winning mandatory paid sick leave for Oregon workers isn’t just a great story. It’s a case study in how local funders and advocacy groups can take on powerful interests and succeed in driving life-changing social progress—particularly in areas where public policy lags behind public support.

Recognizing such an opportunity, a coalition of advocates in Oregon, led by Family Forward Oregon and supported by the Rockefeller Family Fund (RFF), launched a campaign to secure paid sick leave for the state’s workforce. They began by channeling their energies into winning local victories in cities like Portland and Eugene that would, in turn, build grassroots momentum for state-level change. By partnering with family-serving nonprofits, racial justice organizations, and unions, the coalition was able to align a deep bench of community-focused allies around a shared goal. Critical to this effort was RFF’s astute understanding of the advantages and legal limitations of organizational vehicles such as 501(c)(3)s, 501(c)(4)s, and PACs—and the strategic deployment of these vehicles through each stage of the campaign. Funders also need to get comfortable with the reality that short-term investments won’t yield transformational change.

The 2015 legislative victory in Oregon was achieved through a three-year investment strategy and began with a single success that had a domino effect across the state. With paid sick leave laws now on the books in 21 cities and four states, RFF continues to invest in state and local advocacy campaigns and has set its sights on a national bill requiring paid sick leave for all American families.

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