Building Power in Place: A Municipalist Organizing Toolkit

Building Power in Place: A Municipalist Organizing Toolkit presents a snapshot of the praxis and theory of various place-based movements we describe as radical municipalist: a vision that our movements can destroy the hegemonic structures that rule over us and replace them with alternatives based on direct democracy and the solidarity economy. This toolkit provides tools and practices to share with fellow organizers, community members, and comrades. Our intended audience is people seeking cultivated space to think through questions around place-based organizing strategy.

Maybe the term municipalism is new to you, maybe it is familiar. Regardless of your familiarity, we invite you to think deeply about the ways that you are already using many of these theories and practices in your movement work.

While you can work through this toolkit from start to finish, many sections can stand alone. Refer to the table of contents to jump to the topics, exercises, and case studies that best suit your current needs and organizing moment. Please take what feels useful to you from this toolkit and leave the rest. You know your organizing context best and you’ll know if something is or is not applicable to your local environment.


Making Sure the Shoe Fits: An Exploration of Guaranteed Income Pilots in California

Oakland, CA – Making Sure the Shoe Fits, a report released today from the Insight Center for Community Economic Development, offers new research supporting the targeting of guaranteed income pilots to those who need it most.

The Insight Center reviewed 27 current guaranteed income projects managed across 10 of California’s 58 counties by a range of public and private institutions, measuring the cost of living in each area using the organization’s Family Needs Calculator (FNC). Unlike the outdated federal measures of poverty, the FNC is representative of the actual costs of living and includes expenses such as housing, childcare, groceries, health care, transportation and taxes.

“California is leading the way on guaranteed income, and must set the example for other states — and the country — on the importance of using this policy to close longstanding racial and gender inequities that are only being compounded by current inflation and rising interest rates,” said Insight Center Director of Research and report co-author Yvonne Yen Liu.

People of color are disproportionately represented among those who are struggling in the state. For example, the FNC to cover the basic needs of two adults and two children in San Francisco — home to four different guaranteed income pilots — is ​​$153,227, but Black women in the city are paid barely a third of that. Across the 10 counties with GI pilots, two in five residents do not get paid enough to cover their basic needs. Three-quarters of those who are below the FNC – 1.5 million individuals — are people of color; almost three in five families headed by a Latinx woman are below the FNC, and more than half of the households headed by Black women cannot meet their basic needs.

“Guaranteed income has tremendous potential to create a more equitable economy, but only if programs target these resources to those who have been most marginalized by our economy,” said Insight Center Executive Vice President and report co-author Jhumpa Bhattacharya. “Pilots must, at the very least, be targeted by income. Elon Musk does not need a guaranteed income, a Black mother in San Francisco does.”

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No Piece of the Pie: U.S. Food Workers in 2016

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Food Chain Workers Alliance and Solidarity Research Cooperative released a new report that finds 21.5 million workers in the food system make up the largest sector of employment in the United States. That means one out of every seven workers labor in the food chain. In the five sectors–production, processing, distribution, retail, and service–poor working conditions, below average wages, plus discriminatory and abusive practices are commonplace.

Prison Strike’s Financial Impact in California


September 9, 2016 was the start of the largest prison strike in U.S. history. Over 72,000 incarcerated workers in 22 states refused to provide their labor to profit the prison industrial complex. California forces 5,588 incarcerated workers to labor in exchange for little or no compensation. The financial losses to the California prison system are as much as $636,068 in revenue or $156,736 in profit for every day of the prison strike.

Sidewalk Stimulus

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Street vending is a $504 million industry in Los Angeles.  Every year, 50,000 microbusinesses set up shop on the sidewalks of the city, according to the Bureau of Street Services.  Street entrepreneurs play a complementary role to brick and mortar establishments in the retail ecosystem.  The physical presence of purposeful and neighborly vendors on the street is associated with less frequent rather than more frequent incidents of crime.

Los Angeles Rising

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This report assesses the benefits and consequences of raising Los Angeles’ minimum wage to $15.25 per hour. The result will be an economic stimulus of $5.9 billion and more cash in the pockets for families to survive. Paying fair wages will be adjustment for some, but the result will be a bigger, sustainable and more inclusive economy for Los Angeles.

Sinking Underground

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Construction is a $152 billion industry in California, employing 895,000 workers. One of out of six construction workers in the Golden State, that is 143,900, sank into the informal economy in 2011. Informal construction workers earn about half of what their formal counterparts bring home and their households are three times more likely to live in poverty.

The Third Shift


Over half of the workers in food preparation and related occupations are women, most of whom are concentrated in the lowest-paying occupations.  Almost 2 million are mothers, 15 percent of employees in the industry.  More than half, 1.2 million, are single mothers with children in the household.  More than 1 million are single moms with children under age 18.  Mothers pay a gender penalty, as well as a motherhood penalty, earning less than males, fathers, and their childless female counterparts.

Better Together in Action

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Three case studies challenge the assumptions that racial justice is incompatible with LGBT rights.  The experiences of South Asian Network, FIERCE, and Southerners on New Ground embody models of how the two movements can collaborate and be better together.