Where We've Been and Where We're Going
How We Got Started
On September 15, 1999 San Pedro Attorney Diane Middleton announced the formation of the Diane Middleton Foundation. Middleton has long been active in Harbor area labor, civil, and human rights issues and has served as a City of Los Angeles Housing Commissioner, Neighborhood Commissioner and on the boards of many local agencies.
At the time the DMF was founded, Middleton stated: "There is such a thing as 'enough.' I have enough. I have contributed over $1 million to this Foundation because it is the right thing to do."
Our Initial Premise
For more than 40 years (until her retirement in 2009) Middleton represented injured longshoreman, shipyard workers and asbestos victims. "My work has shown me two things: the rich have become much richer while the poor are barely holding on. I think this means we have fundamental problems with our economic system. Something is wrong where 200 to 300 of the richest people in the world control billions of dollars and others don't have enough to eat or even have safe water to say nothing of education and health care.
Second, nothing can be done without an organization behind you. Longshoreman have benefited from a rich history of labor struggle and membership in one of the strongest unions in the world, the International Longshore and Warehouseman's Union. I believe nothing will be done without folks getting organized and I have started this Foundation to support those who are trying to make a stand for economic justice."
Middleton has tried to give back to the community for years through being active in the fight for economic justice, contributions to progressive organizations and causes, and sponsoring events to benefit working people. The purpose of the Foundation is to support individuals and organizations that seek to respond to the causes of economic and social injustice and not merely manage the consequences.
From 1999 through 2012, the DMF funded 271 different projects submitted by 105 organizations in the total amount of $754,800. All of these grants were in amounts of no more than $5,000 and had very specific stated outcomes relating to community and labor organizing, civil rights, education and working class culture.
As the economic crisis has intensified, the divide between rich and poor has become even greater. Good paying union jobs with benefits are on the verge of becoming extinct.
Our Board decided we needed to reevaluate our funding priorities. We suspended our stated funding practices with the Funding Cycle of 2012.
We had board retreats to focus on internal strategic planning.
Our working hypothesis was that the key factor to brining about revolutionary change in America was the necessity of training thousands of new leaders who would be armed with a political analysis of capitalism : who is the enemy and what can be done.
For 2013, we solicited proposals from groups we had funded in the past that would provide political education based on the practical work they were doing but focusing on “Big Picture” class analysis. We made four small demonstration grants and held a Grantee Conference with our Board to discuss these “pilot / demonstration” grants. The process and results are described in the accompanying article.
What Made Us Change?
The old manufacturing economy is in decline. The unionized good wage industries exemplified by Detroit and the auto industry have been replaced by the anti-union low wage Walmart model. The new economy seeks to privatize every part of the public infrastructure. The “banksters” and real estate crooks must reorganize society to fit their needs.
What is unique about this moment in history is that we are not fighting scarcity but abundance. There is “enough” – the inequality stems from the distribution of resources not their production.
As the disparity between wealth and poverty intensifies, workers are finding new forms to enable their fight for a better life – for safe good paying jobs, educational opportunities, decent housing, a clean sustainable economy , and an end to unequal treatment of any form (be it class, race, sex, gender, or immigration status).
How We Can Help You Make Your Work More Effective
Whether it is the spontaneity of the occupy movement, the development of worker centers across the country, or the mini revolts of fast food and warehouse laborers, the working class is fighting back. New leaders are emerging from these struggles. To have any chance of success, these efforts MUST be grounded in a class analysis and a criticism of capitalist structures. These new leaders deserve the opportunity to gain a political understanding that enable them to recognize the role of capitalism and the class warfare that is being waged by the wealthy and powerful on the rest of us. The new leaders need to know who are their friends and their enemies in the battles they fight.
When founded in 1998, we stated that our “purpose was to support individuals and organizations that seek to respond to the causes of economic and social injustice and not merely manage the consequences”. We want to narrow our focus and invest our remaining funds in projects that will offer the greatest return in the effort to build the movement against capital.
The DMF understands that in every organization (be it church, union, or community group) for every 100 “members” there are 10 who are active and 1 willing to make a major life or death commitment. That 1 out of 100 have the potential to make a world of difference.
We seek to fund groups that will educate that 1%
Read our MISSION STATEMENT and FUNDING PRIORITIES for more details on what we will fund.
Read our revised LETTER OF INQUIRY for how you should apply for funding.
Read our FINAL REPORT FORM for what we will expect from you if we fund you.