Moral Economy

Building a Moral Economy

Over 30 years, PICO California has engaged in successful state and local organizing campaigns to address the many manifestations of what Pope Francis calls the “economy of exclusion.” These include campaigns to:

  • Raise the state or local minimum wage
  • Expand pilot programs that provide people with a Guaranteed Basic Income
  • Create a family-friendly workplace including Earned Sick and Safe Time, Paid Family and Medical Leave, and expanded childcare and pre-kindergarten
  • Raise and protect the federal and state revenue we need to invest in healthy families (health care, education, housing, job training, income supports, family leave, etc.)
  • Ensure good jobs and fair hiring of excluded workers, especially the 1 in 3 American adults who have a criminal record
  • Stop the worst abuses of payday and other predatory lending

While we continue to advance state and local campaigns across many issue fronts, PICO California’s deeper goal is to build bases of organized people across the state who hold a moral critique of the values underlying the dominant economic ideology (i.e. hyper-individualism, commodification, racial hierarchy, competition, scarcity) and who are working together to create a moral economy based on new set of values, beliefs and identities.

What We Believe

We approach our Moral Economy work with a number of core beliefs:

  • We are generating more wealth in California than ever before in our history. We are blessed with more than enough for everyone to flourish.
  • Most Californians are experiencing greater and greater economic insecurity and anxiety. The cost of housing, education, transportation, childcare, food, health care are all increasing while wages remain stagnant, work becomes more uncertain and precarious, and debt levels rise.
  • We believe at the core of this contradiction is the logic and mechanism of extraction. The billionaire class has written the rules in order to extract and hoard a greater and greater share of our wealth – wealth that we help generate and therefore rightly belongs to everyone.
  • So much of what we are struggling against (gentrification, predatory lending, climate injustice, privatized criminal justice and immigrant detention system, etc.) is actually the result of two central features of an extractive economy: “commodification” and “racial hierarchy”. In the never-ending quest for profit, everything – including people and nature – must get turned into an object to be bought and sold.
  • This is deeply immoral. Commodification and racial hierarchy inevitably invade the institutions that we hold most dear – including our faith, our family, and community. A culture of commodification and racial hierarchy teaches us to see our family members and neighbors through a market lens as disembodied objects whose purpose is to produce economic benefit, rather than as God’s creation with inherent value and dignity. Commodification and racial hierarchy are existential threats that we must not ignore.
  • These same forces are creating more and more social and political instability – and sowing greater racial division – to keep people divided across race, class, geography, gender and any of the other fault lines we experience in society.
  • We believe there is an architecture that determines how capital and wealth is distributed. That much of this architecture (and much wealth) is hidden from public view and understanding, which is what allows it to flow to the very top.
  • We believe that people can come together across race, class, geography, gender and any of the other lines that normally divide us and broaden access to capital and wealth for the masses. But doing so requires that we get clear about how this system is devouring each and everyone one of us, and that we get free and become a new people together.

Our History of Organizing for a Moral Economy

  • COVID-19 relief and recovery: PICO California helped pass the largest expansion of tenant protections in the nation in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. As the pandemic and ensuing economic impacts ripped through low-income communities of color across the state, PICO California held virtual town hall meetings with elected officials, dozens of research meetings with state representatives, leadership assemblies with thousands of attendees, and in-person rallies pressuring our government to care for the state’s most “essential” and not attempt to balance the budget on the backs of the poor. We helped extend the COVID-19 Tenant Relief Act and COVID-19 Rental Housing Recovery Act to protect hundreds of thousands of tenants with a COVID-19-related financial impact from eviction for nonpayment of rent. We also helped create and implement the CA COVID-19 Rent Relief Program, which paid eligible tenants and landlords 100% of a tenant’s past-due rent and utilities going as far back as April 1, 2020, protecting hundreds of thousands from eviction and debt collection lawsuits. We organized to get the Department of Health Care Services to implement no-cost testing and treatment of COVID-19 regardless of immigration status, achieved $75 million in statewide disaster relief assistance funding to provide financial support for 150,000 immigrant workers affected by COVID-19, and helped pass local emergency shelter ordinances and state legislation to protect millions of tenants from eviction and property owners from foreclosure due to the economic impacts of COVID-19.
  • Minimum wage, earned sick time, childcare and Pre-K: PICO California federations and faith allies helped lead state and municipal campaigns to raise the minimum wage, pass earned sick time, create paid family medical leave programs, and expand childcare and pre-k benefiting millions of workers and families.
  • Payday and other short-term lending: We have organized to end predatory lending and create clear usury caps, including organizing with our national partners to press for strong rules from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau regulating the payday loan industry. This work builds on years of strong state and local work to fight predatory payday lending.
  • Raise and protect state revenue and public programs: PICO California has fought for progressive tax policy measures to fund schools and communities and helped secure billions of dollars in state budgets for historically-disadvantaged communities.
  • Fair hiring: PICO California has won “ban the box” and other policies barring discrimination against formerly incarcerated individuals both locally and statewide.
  • Responsible development and community benefits: PICO California has helped win community benefit agreements and other policies that ensure more equitable outcomes in private and public development and transportation projects.
  • Financial regulation and foreclosure prevention: With our national partners at Faith in Action, National People’s Action, Alliance for a Just Society, Right to the City and many other state-based organizing groups we helped stem the tide of foreclosures and hold Wall Street banks accountable in the wake of the housing and financial crisis of 2008. Our efforts led to federal and state laws and programs that helped hundreds of thousands of families reduce their mortgage payments and save their homes, including Homeowner Bill of Rights legislation in California.
Skip to content