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Paid sick leave’s largest donors are out-of-state nonprofits

November 7, 2017

Courtesy MIRS News Service

The head of the paid sick leave ballot proposal said her campaign is a grassroots one, but it drew funding from just three sources on its latest campaign finance report. Its two biggest funders are out-of-state nonprofits that don’t have to disclose their donors.

The MI Time To Care has raised $465,010 so far this year and has been paying for signatures toward its campaign, a departure from the mostly volunteer efforts from recent years that haven’t crossed the finish line.

The committee drew $200,000 of its support in the recent period from the Sixteen Thirty Fund, which lists its address in D.C. It’s a 501(c)(4), according to a 2015 990 tax form available on Guidestar, meaning it doesn’t need to disclose its donors. 

According to the 990 tax form, it operates exclusively for the purpose of promoting social welfare, including, but not limited to, providing public education and conducting advocacy regarding progressive policies. It ended 2015 with $5.6 million listed in net assets. 

Its website at sixteenthirtyfund.org says this: “The Sixteen Thirty Fund promotes social welfare by conducting public education, advocacy, and other campaigns to support progressive policies,” and leaves an email address. 

A spokesperson for the fund, Kelly Reed, could not say if the Sixteen Thirty Fund would continue to fund the paid sick time drive. She also couldn’t say how the Sixteen Thirty Fund and MI Time To Care got connected. 

Asked the same question, MI Time to Care leader Danielle Atkinson tossed it back to the Sixteen Thirty Fund. 

“They heard about the campaign . . . and wanted to be supportive,” Atkinson said. “I’m so glad they share our values and wanted to be on board.” 

The Sixteen Thirty Fund’s 990 from 2015 reveal other groups they provided grants to, which include the League for Conservation Voters’ Education Fund as well as the Planned Parenthood affiliate in Wisconsin. 

But the Sixteen Thirty Fund isn’t MI Time To Care’s only funding source. 

Besides the $50,000 from Mothering Justice – the organization Atkinson founded seeking to equip the next generation of “mother activists” – there was also $103,800 given by The Fairness Project. 

The group is another outfit with a presence in D.C. that says it has supported increased minimum wage ballot proposals in other states, according to its website. 

It doesn’t say so on the “About” portion of its website, but The Fairness Project is another 501(c)(4) that doesn’t have to disclose its donors, according to its 990 tax form for 2015 on Guidestar. It listed just a bit more than $1 million in net assets at the end of 2015. 

An effort to get a comment from The Fairness Project this week was unsuccessful. 

Speaking of minimum wage, Atkinson said MI Time To Care doesn’t have a “formal relationship” with the folks working on the minimum wage increase campaign here in Michigan, which has also raised a half-million dollars toward its efforts. 

Known as Michigan One Fair Wage, the committee lists 111 contributions on its most recent filing, but the bulk of its money is coming from just a few groups, as well. 

First, a total of $289,350 came from Raise MI, which is listed at a P.O. Box in Royal Oak and appears to be Raise Michigan, the ballot committee behind previous attempts at the paid sick time ballot questions. 

The Raise Michigan ballot committee made $240,000 in direct contributions to the MI One Fair Wage committee in the most recent reporting period. It also tossed $15,000 to MI Time To Care. 

The Raise Michigan committee took nearly all of its contributions — $250,000 — in the recent period from the “UAW Cap Council,” which is located at the same address as UAW’s world headquarters. 

Back to the minimum wage drive, besides Raise Michigan, the campaign got $125,000 from the Restaurant Opportunities Center, which has a Michigan chapter that is part of a larger national organization that, according to its website, has a mission to “ensure that all people who work in restaurants can achieve financial independence and improve their quality of life.” 

There was also $75,000 from the Economic Justice Alliance of Michigan, which describes itself as an alliance of grassroots organizations “committed to building power in low-wage and working class communities to advance economic justice and racial equity in our state and local cities.” 

Its list of partners include the Restaurant Opportunities Center of Michigan and Mothering Justice. 

A Google search doesn’t provide a Michigan-based website for Michigan One Fair Wage, but rather a national site for the One Fair Wage project, which lists an address in New York City. 

On that website, the group says it’s “advancing campaigns across the country to pass legislation in cities and states that will require the restaurant industry to pay all its employees at least the regular minimum wage.” 

A call to the Michigan One Fair Wage committee phone number wasn’t returned and a call placed to the person listed as treasurer on the committee wouldn’t go through today. 

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