In the 1920s, AFSC established a feeding program for coal miners and their families across parts of West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky while seeking long-term solutions to the region’s reliance on coal mining. Need grew in the following years as the Great Depression left thousands of miners unemployed and more families hungry and desperate. While helping them meet their basic needs, AFSC supported miners and their families in taking up other trades—especially furniture making—and helped start the Mountaineer Craftsmen’s Cooperative Association.

Today, AFSC’s West Virginia Economic Justice Project works on issues affecting low-income and working families, and young people from coal-mining communities are a critical part of that advocacy work. AFSC has successfully pushed for changes to increase coal mine safety, expand Medicaid to cover the uninsured, provide childcare subsidies for working families, improve access to school meals, and raise the minimum wage. The program also works to oppose racism and increase youth civic engagement in the state.

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  • Group of children stand together outside.
    Our work with unemployed miners and their families in West Virginia during the 1930s led to decades of focus on social and economic issues in the region.
  • Two people stand, looking at a sign painted on a wall that reads "Friends Self-Help Housing."
    AFSC’s effort to help low-income people improve their housing through cooperative efforts and “sweat equity” started in Philadelphia in the 1950s, but spread to other parts of the country.
  • Two children sit together on a lawn.
    Through the 1960s, AFSC advocated for equal opportunity in housing and interracial communities.
  • Man stands next to a tent and holds up a sign that reads "Oakland Homeless Union."
    In 1987, AFSC staff helped found the Oakland Union of the Homeless and began engaging in civil disobedience to demand resources for housing the homeless.
  • Group of adults and children sit in seats together and clap.
    People without homes from East Oakland, California, flooded City Council chambers in a demonstration organized by AFSC's Homeless Organizing Project and Mission SAFE.
  • Group of people stand outside, making calls on cell phones.
    In the early 2000s, AFSC sponsored a national toll-free number to Congress that generated 100,000 calls to preserve safety-net programs.
  • Group of people stand outside as part of a vigil, holding candles.
    AFSC called for a “moral federal budget.” Here staffer Rick Wilson (center, in grey) speaks at a vigil against budget cuts in Charleston, West Virginia.
  • Flyer for the "Let Justice Roll Living Wage Campaign."
    We co-founded the “Let Justice Roll Living Wage Campaign,” a coalition effort that played a significant role in raising the federal minimum wage to $7.25 an hour by 2009.
  • Old, grey building with empty parking lot in front of it.
    When this public housing project closed in 2008 in Syracuse, New York, AFSC brought residents, nonprofits, and public agencies together to help families relocate and avoid homelessness.
  • Two people stand together holding a piece of paper.
    New Hampshire Governor Joe Lynch honored AFSC’s Martha Yager for her role in increasing affordable housing units and raising the state’s minimum wage.
  • Group of people walk together, holding a banner that reads "Life over debt."
    AFSC’s economic activism also includes international issues. Our 2004 “Life Over Debt” campaign showed how the burden of debt repayment was devastating African countries.