New York Communities for Change (NYCC) is a New York City-based labor and community organizing group. NYCC is a key agitation force behind the Service Employees International Union’s (SEIU) “Fight for $15” union organizing efforts, and has received over $7 million from SEIU and its local unions alone since 2012. NYCC is one of several successor organizations to the defunct ACORN multi-issue organizing network. The group is a member of the left-wing Strong Economy for All coalition.
Like other left-wing groups in New York City, NYCC has close ties to Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) and former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-Manhattan). The organization has shared a small Brooklyn office building with the left-wing Working Families Party (WFP), and NYCC Executive Director Jonathan Westin has served on WFP’s executive board.
After ACORN folded amid numerous controversies in 2010, the community organizing network divided into city- and state-specific labor activist groups, many keeping staff from the original ACORN offices. New York Communities for Change was no exception. Additionally, the Working Families Party—a labor-union backed left-wing political party that uses New York State’s electoral fusion voting system to pressure Democrats to take union-friendly economic positions—provided a network to rebuild the labor organizing outfit after ACORN folded.
NYCC’s first executive director, Jon Kest, was a co-founder of the WFP and head organizer of New York’s ACORN office before NYCC was created. The WFP and NYCC shared their small building in Brooklyn until NYCC moved out in 2015.
Fight for $15
Also see Fight for $15 (Movement)
NYCC is deeply involved with campaigns associated with major labor unions in New York City. The most prominent, which has substantially raised NYCC’s national profile, is the Service Employees International Union’s Fight for $15 campaign to unionize workers in the fast food industry and raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour. The SEIU, its subordinate unions, and worker organizing committees funded by SEIU have contributed over $7.2 million to NYCC since the Fight for $15/Fast Food Forward union organizing campaign began in 2012.
New York Police Department Practices
The organization is also involved with other progressive efforts in and around New York. The Atlantic Philanthropies network funded NYCC as part of a coalition to change New York Police Department (NYPD) policing practices. Other groups including the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) labor union have funded NYCC attacks on financial industry businesses under the Hedge Clippers banner.
Given NYCC’s close alignment with the aggressive left-wing Working Families Party, it is not surprising that voter mobilization is a substantial part of its work. NYCC was credited with driving up support for the campaign of Bill de Blasio in New York’s 2013 mayoral election.
New York Communities for Change receives most of its funding from organizational contributors, including progressive foundations, labor unions, and other labor-aligned progressive groups. The group does not clearly disclose its donors.
Known funders of NYCC have been identified from publicly available filings with the Internal Revenue Service and Department of Labor. Unless otherwise listed, funding totals are from the donor’s 2014 tax or fiscal year.
- Fast Food Workers Committee: $2,018,313
- Service Employees International Union (including local and regional unions and councils): $88,750
- Communications Workers of America (including local and regional unions and councils): $240,434
- United Federation of Teachers, AFT Local 2: $236,440
- Retail, Wholesale, Department Store Union, UFCW (including local and regional unions and councils): $137,250
- Mason Tenders District Council of Greater New York, LiUNA (including local and regional unions and councils): $5,000
- New York State Nurses Association: $10,000
- American Federation of Teachers (including local and regional unions and councils other than the United Federation of Teachers): $37,334
- United Food and Commercial Workers: $5,000
- Center for Popular Democracy: $91,667
- New World Foundation: $50,000
- New York Communities Organizing Fund: $684,577
Jonathan Westin is the executive director of New York Communities for Change. He sits or is reported to sit on multiple boards of left-wing organizations in New York; they include the Working Families Party, the teachers’ union pressure group Alliance for Quality Education, and the proto-labor union Fast Food Workers Committee.
Prior to Westin, NYCC was led by a longtime ACORN organizer, Jon Kest. Kest, who died in 2012, was reportedly very close to then-New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio.
NYCC is part of a revolving door between left-wing New York City politicians and the left-wing organizing community. Former NYCC political director Amelia Adams was later hired by NYCC-backed City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.