WE ARE HERE TO PROVOKE CHANGE
The mission of Equity and Transformation (EAT) is to achieve social and economic equity for Black Chicagoans engaged in the informal economy.
History and background
Founded by and for formerly incarcerated and marginalized Black people in Chicago, Equity and Transformation (EAT) strives to uplift the faces, voices, and power of individuals that operate within the informal economy. These are the bucket boys who we pass on the way to the train every day, the DVD bootlegger at your local barber shop, the person selling loose cigarettes at two for a dollar in front of the local liquor store, and the trans and cisgender commercial sex workers in our communities.
Outside of the protections of unions and conventional definitions of “employment,” Black Chicagoans have created informal economies to survive. Yet they are still technically considered unemployed and thus don’t have the protections of the formal economy. Their survival on the margins presents critical lessons for transforming both the informal and formal economies to one that is inclusive, just, and equitable.
More than a decade of neoliberal reforms has privatized the public sector, weakened workers’ rights, and accelerated the use of automation. In Chicago and across the United States, these moves have limited both the options and power of state-supported interventions to address the Black unemployment crisis.
To create a more democratic society, we need strategies that can help society’s most disenfranchised people change the social and economic conditions affecting their lives. By mobilizing workers in the informal economy to advance their own interests in the public decision-making arena, we can increase Black engagement in our democracy, influence decision makers, build authentic social and economic equity, and create safer communities.
EAT’s strategy focuses on research, media-based organizing, community organizing, advocacy, and policy development to mobilize Chicago’s informal workforce to:
Transform the narrative of engagement in the informal economy from one of criminality to survivability; this is an intervention to reduce othering and increase safety.
Reimagine the definition of “laborer” through a lens that considers both the history of exclusion of Black workers and the depth of creativity required to thrive within an alternative labor system in a capitalist country.
Build bridges between the informal and formal economy for constituents seeking formal employment.
Create Informal Workers Associations (IWA) that defines its own vision of safety and equity.
Develop an Informal Workers Bill of Rights (IWBR) that supplements traditional labor standards with an alternative system of organization; this intervention can promote safety and sustainability within the informal economy.
EAT primarily applies these strategies to its work in the Chicago neighborhoods of Austin, Garfield Park, and Englewood.