CEJA Action Brings Environmental Justice to Sacramento
California’s halls of power are starting to reflect the communities of color they represent. However, the environmental movement has historically been white-led and is only now starting to address racial justice as a key tenet of its work.
Community-based environmental justice groups have struggled to gain access to financial resources despite climate change disproportionately impacting low-income communities of color. These communities experience higher rates of asthma, heart disease, birth defects, and shorter lifespans.
Tides Advocacy’s commitment to engaging directly with those most impacted by injustice made investing in environmental justice a natural priority.
In 2014, we saw a need for community-based environmental justice groups to increase their electoral power. We connected with the California Environmental Justice Alliance (CEJA) about increasing their 501(c)(4) political capacity so they could hold elected officials accountable and influence policy.
At the time, CEJA had six member groups in various parts of the state. Each group organized and built power in its region, while CEJA united their local efforts and developed statewide solutions. But without a 501(c)(4), CEJA had a limit to what they could do.
Tides Advocacy provided multi-year seed funding, strategic support, and fiscal sponsorship to create CEJA Action. With its new funding and unlimited capacity to lobby, CEJA Action was able to hire a full-time lobbyist and put them to work.
“We had always talked about forming a 501(c)(4), but were either too scared, or didn’t know the process, or didn’t have the capacity. When this opportunity came to us, it was just so easy. It just felt like it happened overnight.”
– Strela Cervas, Statewide Organizing Director
In 2015 and 2016, CEJA Action began to have a stronger presence in Sacramento, taking positions on state measures and helping elect environmental justice champions into office. CEJA Action was a driving force behind the passage of SB 350 in 2015, which increased renewable energy goals for the state.
Tides Advocacy goes beyond the fiscal sponsor role for CEJA Action and its member groups. From providing ongoing funding to strategic advising, we unleash their power to take on new challenges. “Tides has been absolutely critical to our advocacy work,” remarked CEJA Action Executive Director Gladys Limon.
CEJA Action receives regular compliance guidance and operational support from Tides Advocacy Senior Strategic Advisor Andrea Granda, and also receives briefings and electoral strategy advice from Political Program Manager Ben Malley.
In early 2018, Tides Advocacy partnered with CEJA Action to spearhead a campaign to stop Prop 70, which would have “undermined climate investments that are improving health, cleaning the air, and fighting climate change.” The proposition was defeated with 63% of California voters opposed.
“We couldn’t have pursued the campaign without Tides Advocacy and its expertise.”
– Gladys Limon, Executive Director
The impact of their work is palpable. There has been a shift in the discourse where advocates, lawmakers, and stakeholders now not only understand the concept of environmental justice, but also understand that communities of color must be centered in state policymaking. CEJA Action has even recently developed a toolkit for municipalities, planners, advocates, and community members for incorporating environmental justice into their local and general plans.
“We’re in a very different position than we were four or five years ago. The first bill we tried to run got killed. Nobody was paying attention to environmental justice. Nobody cared who we were. The situation is very different now.”
– Strela Cervas
Our partnership is built and sustained on mutual trust, collaboration, and a shared commitment to the goal of environmental justice. It is just one example of how we go “all in” to build political power with those impacted by injustice.
“Tides Advocacy’s nurturing and contributions are so important for the California EJ movement.”
– Melissa White, Development Director