The prominent progressive group Justice Democrats laid off three more members of its staff this week, adding to a contraction of its workforce that began in mid-July.
Departing staff members held either administrative roles or positions at the group’s political nonprofit arm, Organize for Justice, according to Usamah Andrabi, a spokesperson for the group, which led a number of successful primary challenges against moderate Democrats, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s 2018 landmark win in New York City.
Andrabi did not provide a formal statement about the development or additional details about the layoffs or the exact day when they occurred. He also declined a request for an interview on the staff changes.
Amid fundraising struggles, Justice Democrats had already laid off nine out of 20 staffers in mid-July. The departures this week bring the group’s total layoffs to 12 and reduces the size of its full-time staff to eight people.
Justice Democrats has blamed its financial troubles on an across-the-board decline in grassroots giving, which has hit progressive groups harder than most, and the escalated spending of groups like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which opposes Justice Democrats-affiliated lawmakers’ efforts to impose stricter conditions on U.S. aid to Israel. Faced with the need to shore up incumbents from AIPAC-led primary challenges, the group has yet to endorse any challengers or candidates running in open races in 2024, a contrast from this point in the last election cycle, when the group was already backing four new candidates.
The group’s restructuring aims to de-prioritize the work of Organize for Justice, which was tasked with lobbying on Capitol Hill and other non-electoral priorities, and double down on Justice Democrats’ original mission of electing ― and reelecting ― left-wing Democrats to Congress. Seven out of the nine people whom Justice Democrats laid off in July were employed by the Organize for Justice part of the organization.
The changes have nonetheless raised concerns about the future of an institution that once struck enough fear in the hearts of elected Democrats to noticeably shift the party to the left. Justice Democrats’ left-wing critics argue that the group would have less trouble fundraising if it had succeeded in organizing its affiliated members of Congress into a cohesive bloc capable of extracting concessions from President Joe Biden. Other progressives argue that the group has receded in importance because of Biden’s liberal policy achievements, including the climate-focused Inflation Reduction Act.
But Justice Democrats maintains that it is as relevant as ever.
“We pushed the Biden administration and Democratic Party as a whole more to the left than anyone could have imagined in 2020, but that was only achieved by coordinated organizing from our progressive movement and tireless advocacy on the part of the progressives we sent to Congress,” Alexandra Rojas, executive director of Justice Democrats, told HuffPost in July. “And we will continue to push any time the Biden administration falls short, be it on defending the rights of Palestinian people, supporting workers and unions in all contract disputes, protecting abortion rights, canceling all student debt or fighting climate change with the resources that match the scale of that crisis.”
One funder that Justice Democrats can continue to count on is Way to Lead PAC, a nonprofit that serves as a vehicle for wealthy progressives to invest in campaigns and causes.
The group contributed about $1.3 million to Justice Democrats in the 2020 and 2022 election cycles. And it plans to support Justice Democrats’ super PAC spending in the 2024 cycle as well.
“Primaries are a bedrock of our democratic process, and Way to Lead PAC will continue to engage in primaries and back candidates who work in partnership with communities fighting for an agenda that improves lives and creates Democratic majorities,” Jennifer Fernandez Ancona told HuffPost in July.