wHO wE ARE
Dedicated to Building A Movement
We believe social change happens from engaging with and developing the leadership of community members who are most impacted by an issue. We believe that capacity building at the grassroots level, including engagement and education, leadership development, and coalition building are the basis for political and social change. The key to social change is people’s power, which means we have to build a broad grassroots movement that is rooted in communities and supports individuals and families that are excluded from the benefits of our current system.
The Coalition for Social Justice Education Fund is dedicated to building a movement led by low-income community members with a focus on black, indigenous, people of color, and women. In order to raise the voices of those who have experienced the impacts of economic hardship, we have several focuses: education, volunteer recruitment, leadership development, and building or participating in effective coalitions that address the economic survival issues that our members face. We build our membership through inspiration and by cultivating relationships that guide leadership development.
Advocating for Change
At the Coalition for Social Justice Education Fund (CSJ Ed Fund), we are more than just a grassroots organization – we are a family of passionate activists and dedicated volunteers who have come together to fight for economic opportunity and social justice. Since our founding in 1994, we have nurtured a strong leadership core of individuals who were first drawn to our cause and have since become lifelong advocates for change.
Our organizing staff is equally diverse, consisting of volunteers who were directly impacted by the issues we prioritize. Through ongoing outreach efforts, we connect with families in public housing developments and low-income neighborhoods in multiple languages, ensuring that we can effectively reach all those affected by poverty.
Our campaigns have made a meaningful impact on a variety of issues that impact struggling families in Massachusetts, in Brockton, Fall River, New Bedford, Taunton, Randolph and Attelboro, and beyond. As a founding member of Raise Up Massachusetts and the founder of Common Start, we have led the way in advocating for change and mobilizing our community to raise their voices and demand justice.
At CSJ Ed Fund, we are more than just an organization – we are a force for change, driven by our unwavering commitment to creating a more equitable and just society for all.
WHAT WE DO
Common Start Child Care Program
Common Start Child Care Program is a new initiative that aims to provide affordable and quality childcare for all families in Massachusetts. The program will offer subsidies to eligible families based on their income and needs. The program will also support childcare providers with grants and training to improve their services.
Learn more about it here: https://commonstartma.org/
The Common Start Coalition, founded and directed by Coalition for Social Justice Education Fund, has been working to re-engage our coalition partners and members across the state. So far, Common Start has engaged 311 partners and stakeholders in a variety of activities including: a legislative briefing; followed by members walking around the Statehouse to engage their legislators, a series of roundtables focused on distinct stakeholders such as parents, early educators, family child care providers, and administrators.
Affordable housing is a pressing issue for many people who struggle to pay rent and face the risk of eviction. This legislation aims to address this problem by allowing local governments to implement rent stabilization policies and protect tenants from unjust evictions. This would help ensure housing stability and affordability for low-income households.
CSJ Ed Fund has taken action to address the state housing crisis. Rents are increasingly unaffordable, with families paying 40% or more of their income in rent. We found from our issue surveys in our communities that housing is an issue that is particularly deeply felt by our low-income constituency and among people of color. Our first step will be to participate in a state funded eviction diversion program, which involves canvassing households against whom eviction proceedings have been brought. We will be informing people about the availability of legally-mandated mediation to help resolve the issue and stay in their homes.
No Cost Calls
No Cost Calls is a campaign that aims to end the high fees that incarcerated people and their loved ones have to pay for phone calls. By making calls free, No cost calls hopes to promote family ties and reduce recidivism rates. No Cost Calls believes that communication is a human right and should not be exploited for profit. As of December 1st, 2023, phone calls are free in Massachusetts prisons and jails.
The Coalition “Keeping Families Connected” (KFC) has a robust number of active organizations and individuals and serious efforts are being made to allow currently incarcerated folks and their families to be very involved in the process. Locally, CSJ Ed Fund has helped reach out to incarcerated women and people involved in a re-entry group who have given written testimonies as to the dire need to connect with families, children, attorneys, doctors, and the burden of very expensive calls thwarting this connection.
Public transportation is a vital service that connects people to jobs, education, health care, and recreation. Investing in mass transit can reduce traffic congestion, greenhouse gas emissions, and air pollution. It can also stimulate economic growth, create jobs, and improve quality of life. Therefore, public transportation deserves more funding and support from governments and citizens.
Coalition for Social Justice Education Fund is laying the groundwork through diligent canvassing and phone banking efforts, legislative advocacy, and story collecting at local transit stations with people directly affected by transit issues.
Environmental justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people in environmental decision-making. It aims to protect people of color, low income, and immigrant communities from the disproportionate impacts of toxic pollution. These communities often face higher exposure to health hazards and lower access to resources and opportunities.
Coalition for Social Justice Education Fund continues to anchor a coalition of Taunton residents to fight a gasification plant which would burn sewer sludge releasing harmful toxins into the air. Together with residents, environmental justice partners Clean Water Action and Conservation Law Foundation, we have fought the Aries project to a standstill.
Free Public College
Free public college is a policy proposal that aims to eliminate tuition fees for students attending public colleges and universities. It is based on the idea that higher education is a public good and a human right, and that everyone should have access to it regardless of their income or background. Free college would be funded by taxes or other sources of public revenue, and would require reforms in the higher education system to ensure quality and accountability.
CSJ Ed Fund worked to pass a progressive program that would make community college free. In the 2023 Massachusetts budget, $38 million were included to offer free community college for students 25 or over, plus another $12 million to cover all costs for those in community college nursing programs beginning Fall 2023.
Minimum Wage For All
Minimum wage for all is a policy that aims to ensure that all workers earn a decent income for their labor. It involves raising the minimum wage to a level that covers the basic needs of living, such as food, housing, health care and education. Supporters of this policy argue that it reduces poverty, inequality and exploitation, while opponents claim that it reduces employment, competitiveness and economic growth.
CSJ Ed Fund has always been at the forefront of the minimum wage increase. Founding Raise Up Massachusetts, a coalition focused on increasing the MA state minimum wage, CSJ Ed Fund has raised wages multiple times over the past two decades. In 2006, CSJ Ed Fund and Raise Up Mass won an increase from $6.75 to $8.00 an hour. We played a leading role in a campaign to win an increase in the minimum wage to $11 per hour again in 2014. Once again, we worked to pass legislation to establish a $15 minimum wage in 2018. CSJ Ed Fund and Raise Up Mass continue to push for minimum wage increases as necessary.
Days of Change
Meet Our Team
The Coalition for Social Justice Education Fund team is a group of dedicated and passionate individuals who bring a diverse range of experiences and expertise to their work, committed to advancing social justice by utilizing their collective skills in research, advocacy, and community engagement to promote equity and inclusivity.
Deb Fastino (she/her) is Executive Director of the Coalition for Social Justice Education Fund. She has 23 years of experience in community organizing, campaign directing, and coalition building. She came to us as a single mother of one who was experiencing economic struggles and connected with the issues we were working on. She rose through the ranks, starting as a volunteer to Executive Director in 2012. She is a prominent and highly respected statewide social justice leader. She has played a leading role in several statewide campaigns, including the ACT Coalition’s healthcare victory in 2006 and multiple minimum wage campaigns in 2006, 2014 and 2018. She played an important role in the founding and conceptualization of Raise-Up Massachusetts where she led the victories on Earned Sick Time, and Paid Family & Medical Leave. She is the founder and currently directs the Common Start Coalition, focusing on affordable and accessible early education and childcare.
Marlene Pollock (she/her) is a co-founder of the Coalition for Social Justice which is celebrating its 28th birthday! Marlene is a grassroots organizer, primarily working in New Bedford. Marlene has been successful in involving many volunteers in the work of CSJ Ed Fund over the years. Whether it’s asking volunteers to make phone calls, go door-to-door, attend rallies at the State House, send an email or a letter, or call your Representative or Senator, Marlene has seen that everyone can make a difference at whatever level they choose. With this kind of model, Marlene has been able to involve many volunteers in raising the minimum wages over the years, petitioning to get affordable health insurance, earned sick time and paid family and medical leave, and organizing for comprehensive criminal justice reform and progressive tax measures. Marlene believes that the Coalition’s ability to win on so many issues is directly connected to its ability to pick issues that are of concern to many people, and offering them options of involvement, each one making a difference! Currently, Marlene is the point person in passing legislation that would make calls free for incarcerated people and their families. Also, Marlene is involved in the struggle for affordable rents in New Bedford.
Transit and Environmental Justice Coordinator
Sabrina Davis (she/her) is our Transit and Environmental Justice Organizer. As a volunteer, Sabrina Davis contributed to organizing and passing a vital paid sick time ballot question in Massachusetts and a minimum wage legislative campaign in 2014 with the Coalition for Social Justice’s Fall River chapter. In 2016, Sabrina led the organizing effort in opposition to the Charter School Expansion Bill in Fall River. Sabrina canvassed, trained volunteers, cultivated leaders, managed the field team, and reported data. Sabrina was hired in 2017 and was instrumental in organizing Fall River for another minimum wage campaign and a paid family and medical leave campaign, culminating in legislative victories in 2018. Sabrina started organizing for the fair share tax campaign as a volunteer in 2015 and continues to work toward a victory at the ballot in 2022. Sabrina currently organizes CSJ’s transit and environmental Justice campaigns, where she continues to fight for better and more affordable public transit and protecting gateway communities from corporate polluters.
Director of Development and Administration
Sophie Kripp (she/her) is a previous CSJ Edu intern and National Policy Coordinator who now serves as CSJ Edu’s Director of Development and Administration. Sophie works with local and national partners, focusing on areas of paid leave and child care. Sophie works closely with one of CSJ Edu’s national partners, Family Values @ Work. As a CSJ Edu intern in 2021, Sophie increased engagement around the census and re-engaged community members in New Bedford in Drawing Democracy. Drawing Democracy is a redistricting campaign that provides better representation for marginalized community members in the area. CSJ Edu led the campaign and in collaboration with other local groups, created the first ever majority-minority New Bedford State House district, and a minority Influence State House district.
Director of Civic Engagement
Danielle St. Pierre (they/them) serves as the Director of Civic Engagement. They have worked on many social justice issues since graduating from college. Most of their work has been focused on policies combating sexual violence. As one of the founding members of The Every Voice Coalition, they aided in passing a student-written, survivor-centered bill that was signed into law in January of 2021. The MA Every Voice Bill (CH 337) enacts comprehensive measures to combat sexual violence and support survivors studying at Massachusetts’ private, public, and community colleges and universities. They have extensive background in grassroots organizing, working in the mental health field and raising up the voices of all sexual violence survivors. They strive to bring communities together to dismantle systems of oppression and are a member of the LGBTQ+ community.
Community Liaison and Volunteer Recruitment Coordinator
Ethan Mattos (he/him) serves as the Community Liaison and Volunteer Recruitment Coordinatorfor the CSJ Education Fund. He is working to build and strengthen partnerships between the CSJ Ed Fund and local organizations throughout MA, alongside increasing volunteer support for CSJ Ed Fund initiatives. Ethan graduated from Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva,NY with a B.A. in Public Policy, continuing on to earn his MSc in Public Policy and Human Development from UNU-Merit in Maastricht, the Netherlands. His research for his master’s thesis focused on the significance of LGBTQIA+ representation in American media and its effects on the LGBTQIA+ community, having experienced first-hand the impact that positive media representation can have on queer individuals. Prior to joining the CSJ Ed Fund, Ethan worked as an English language teacher in Tokyo, Japan and in sales development in Waltham, MA. A natural people person and highly skilled communicator with 4.5 years of living, working, and studying internationally in multicultural environments, Ethan is excited to use his experiences to help build a diverse coalition of community partners and volunteers who can work together to create political and social change.
Grassroots Campaign Coordinator
Pegah Rouhani (she/her) serves as the Grassroots Campaign Coordinator for the CSJ Education Fund. She spends her time reengaging with organizations in the Common Start Coalition to advocate for policies in favor of affordable, accessible, high-quality early education and child care for all Massachusetts families. She is working to identify and recruit individuals and groups who have been significantly impacted by the current conditions of EEC programs in Fall River and New Bedford, while also tackling statewide affairs. Pegah holds an M.A. in Law, Justice and Culture from Ohio University where much of her research focused on combating systemic racism, economic inequality and gender-based violence. A second-generation Iranian American and champion for women’s rights, she has consistently galvanized support for the Woman Life Freedom Movement, tirelessly amplifying the voices of her community since September of 2022. Through the power of storytelling, Pegah strives to inspire, inform and empower others to ignite meaningful change, engaging hearts and minds in the pursuit of social justice.