The Latinx Advocacy Group Causa Abruptly Announces Closure

The 27-year-old nonprofit won big victories on driver’s licenses and sanctuary cities.

In a surprise announcement today, Causa, the Salem-based nonprofit that’s been a strong voice for Latinx Oregonians, said it will cease operations July 31.

“After more than two years of fundraising difficulties and unprecedented turnover among staff and leadership, the organization has reached a point where it will begin spending down its financial reserves to cover expenses,” Causa’s board said today. “This is not sustainable for the organization.”

Founded in 1995 to advocate for Latinx immigrants, Causa won big victories in recent years.

The biggest might have been a law passed in 2019 that gave undocumented immigrants the right to driver’s licenses. That win came after a decadelong battle. Causa also worked across the state to cement 17 sanctuary city agreements in 2017 and in 2018 helped defeat Ballot Measure 105, which would have abolished the state’s sanctuary law.

In its most recent tax return, filed in July 2020 for the 2019 tax year, the nonprofit reported revenues of just under $1.2 million and an operating surplus of $54,000. It also held $550,000 in net assets in the form of cash and savings accounts.

It’s unknown how much Causa’s financial condition deteriorated since then, but the board said it would spend down the organization’s remaining reserves on severance for employees (Causa’s website showed a staff of 11 as of today) and will grant anything left over to partner organizations.

In addition to the challenges of the pandemic, the board cited another reason for Causa’s closure: labor problems, which is notable given that the organization got its start in part by advocating for farmworkers.

Communications Workers of America Local 7901 organized Causa workers in March 2020. The newly formed union and management have been at a stalemate ever since.

In an open letter last fall seeking public support, the Causa union accused management of “union-busting” tactics and reported it had filed an unfair labor practices complaint with the National Labor Relations Board.

“We feel a painful irony in how the behavior of Causa management and board of representatives betrays the values that Causa has historically espoused,” the union wrote. (Local 7901 could not be reached for comment.)

In its closure message, the board cited the standoff as well.

“We have been unable to finalize a contract with our employees’ union,” the board said. “Causa’s board members are proud to support labor unions and to be a nonprofit with union staff members, and voluntarily recognized the union two years ago. But unfortunately, union leadership has been unwilling to enter mediation or put a fair contract offer to a vote, focusing instead on a damaging public pressure campaign.”

The battle is now moot.

“While Causa is closing its doors, we are confident our mission to give Latinx immigrants a powerful voice in Oregon will continue through the work of our incredible community partners,” the board concluded.

“We know our community is strong, will continue to march forward, and new leadership will emerge.”