Our Work: Organizing People, Activating Leaders
OPAL’s work is at the intersection of environmental justice, civil rights, and transportation and housing. We’ve organized around issues ranging from air quality to congestion pricing, to reducing policing and increasing bus service, and have had dozens of victories since OPAL’s founding in 2006. Community members lead our work at every step of the way as we create campaigns, develop programming, and organize to win!
By organizing the transit riders union, Bus Riders Unite! (BRU) and the Youth Environmental Justice Alliance (YEJA), we have accumulated victories for over 15 years, stopping TriMet’s proposed fare increases, defending and expanding the YouthPass program, winning a low-income fare program, and pushing transportation agencies to uphold the values they espouse to our communities.
We believe that it is necessary for community members who are most impacted by these issues every day—particularly BIPOC, low-income, youth, and transit-dependent folks—to organize and be heard. Our communities must be included in decision-making processes, and we continue to fight for transportation and housing that reflects our needs and rights. We believe transportation justice is environmental justice, and housing justice, and that high quality and accessible transit and housing are civil and human rights!
OPAL empowers community members who are most impacted by environmental justice issues, and develops leadership through our program, Seeding Our Liberation (SOL). These trainings teach community members how to organize for liberation in their own lives, whether that’s on the buses, in housing, or in any part of the community where injustice persists. By equipping community members with the skills they need to make change and lead campaigns, our members have engaged thousands of people through direct actions, policy campaigns, and educational workshops.
OPAL launched the Seeding Our Liberation (SOL) Campaign, a 12-week, stipended EJ leadership development program and is currently planning its second cohort now! SOL members will take part in twelve workshops aimed at building communications, organizing, and public speaking skills and will learn about EJ topics, just transition, grassroots feminisms, and more. Members will also participate in OPAL campaigns and several nonviolent direct actions in the region to spread awareness and help catalyze change.
This program will directly benefit the coalition and wider EJ community at large by cultivating leadership, fostering community, and developing connections with community groups across the region. Fellows will learn about coalition partners’ work and could even become involved in coalition initiatives after completion of the program!
OPAL utilizes a Just Transition framework that describes how we can move from an extractive, exploitative economy to an economy that is cooperative, intersectional and regenerative for our communities. In partnership with national thought leaders in the Climate Justice Alliance (CJA), Grassroots Global Justice Alliance (GGJ), the Environmental Justice Leadership Forum, as well as local movement leaders in the Getting There Together (GTT) coalition and multiple other coalition tables, we build power from the grassroots.
OPAL directly engages members in policy creation and political advocacy, most recently demonstrated with the Let’s Get Moving campaign in 2020—which incorporated funding for YouthPass—and House Bill 2482, which would have prohibited police officers from checking fare, protected individuals who use a name different than the one on their ID, and prohibited police officers from charging individuals with a crime for not having proof of payment. We work with community members to develop public testimony, lobby elected leaders, and politically pressure our communities to address the most pressing environmental justice issues of our time.