Buck Dinner Grants

The Buck Dinner has funded many organizations and causes since 1929. As Maurice Sugar once stated, the purpose of the Buck Dinner is, “To give money and moral support to people and organizations involved in ongoing struggles and who are unlikely to obtain aid from conventional sources.”

There are three core organizations that receive funding on an annual basis and the most substantial grants: The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Michigan, the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) and the Maurice and Jane Sugar Law Center for Economic and Social Justice (Guild Law Center).

American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU

The ACLU of Michigan’s mission is to realize the promise of the Bill of Rights for all and expanding the reach of its guarantees to new areas through all the tools at our disposal: public education, advocacy, organizing, and litigation.

Protecting these liberties and rights and pushing for more freedom and equality in our lives is our job. Our 2020 plan prioritizes work to end police abuse and discrimination, end over-incarceration, secure a quality education for all children, immigration reform, secure LGBT rights and reproductive Justice, and to modernize the fourth amendment to protect our privacy.  

In addition, in 2013 we launched the Open Government Project, staffed by veteran investigative journalist Curt Guyette, recently named Journalist of the Year by the Michigan Press Association for his ground-breaking work uncovering the water crisis in Flint.  To read more and see special videos produced by photojournalist Kate Levy, go to http://www.aclumich.org/democracy-watch-blog

And in 2015 we launched the Trans-Advocacy Project to help speed progress in securing rights for the entire LGBT community.  

To see our ambitious legal docket, go to: http://www.aclumich.org/courts/legal-dockets and legislative docket, go to: http://www.aclumich.org/current-legislative-watchlist. To become a card-carrying member, go to: https://action.aclu.org/secure/join-aclu-michigan

National Lawyers Guild, NLG

The NLG, founded in 1937 as the first integrated bar association in the country, is dedicated to the fundamental principle “...that human rights shall be held more sacred than property interests.”  The NLG, throughout its history, has maintained its commitment to this mission and to the need for basic changes in our political and economic system. It provides one of the few outlets for progressive legal workers, law students and lawyers to become part of an effective political and social force in service of the people.

Since 1937, when founded, by among others Maurice Sugar and Ernie Goodman, the NLG has provided direct legal and coalition political support to the grassroots and political movements for social change. For example, the NLG has provided direct representation of and support to: 

  • The burgeoning labor and workers’ rights movement of the 1930s-1940s; 
  • Those hauled before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) of the 1940s-1950s, and of those illegally prosecuted under the Smith Act;
  • The civil rights, anti-war, Native American, women’s, LGBT, affirmative action, and prisoner rights movements starting in 1960s-1970s — including direct representation of:
    • Wounded Knee activists;
    • Black Panthers wrongfully prosecuted and killed;
    • The Attica prisoners wrongfully charged during the rebellion of 1970;
    • The Black activists wrongfully arrested and prosecuted during the Detroit rebellion of 1967;
  • The movement against nuclear weapons in the 1970s-1980s;
  • The anti-Iraq War protest movements of the early 2000s; 
  • The movements for Palestinian rights/self-determination, affirmative action, Central American and Cuban solidarity, immigrant rights and housing rights, from the 1970s to the present;  
  • The fight against police brutality and misconduct;
  • The fight against the anti-democratic and unconstitutional Emergency Manager law; and
  • The fight for affordable and clean water that is waging in Detroit and Flint.

The NLG has represented civil disobedience arrestees since its founding, starting with — among others — Maurice Sugar’s representation of rank and file union sit-down activists during the 1930s-40s, the representation of thousands of arrestees during the Walled Lake/Williams International protests of nuclear weapons production of the 1980s, the mass arrests of the Detroit newspaper strikers in the 1990s, and most recently the Homrich 9 arrestees in 2014 protesting the mass water shut-offs in Detroit. 

The NLG is also co-counsel — pro bono — with the Sugar Law Center and the ACLU in the longstanding legal battle challenging the unconstitutional Emergency Manager law, (having been at the forefront of the fight against this right-wing assault on democracy long before it culminated in the mass poisoning of Flint’s water system). 

The NLG has also provided all the pro bono legal work on behalf of the Homrich 9, starting with Legal Observers at the initial action and representation of every defendant during their protracted criminal prosecutions. These politically explosive criminal prosecutions have resulted in a nearly two-year battle in the courts to protect the constitutional rights of civil disobedience activists to defend themselves fairly with the defense of necessity and the right to be tried together.  

With an ever-increasing strategy of aggressively prosecuting civil disobedience activists who are arrested while protesting the Keystone Pipeline, fracking, police brutality, water deprivation (in both Detroit and Flint) and the like, the NLG, on a shoe-string organizational budget, continues to provide consistent Legal Observer support and pro bono representation to those activists throughout the State of Michigan, at great personal sacrifice to each volunteer lawyer who steps forward. 

Sugar Law Center

The Sugar Law Center for Economic & Social Justice is a national non-profit, public-interest law center based in Detroit. The Law Center was founded in 1991 with the generous support of Maurice and Jane Sugar. Driving Sugar Law’s work is the principle that economic and social rights are civil rights, inseparable from human rights.

Sugar Law provides legal assistance, advocacy, organizational, and technical support to individuals, activists, community groups, unions, worker advocates and others who are working for economic and social justice. Project areas directly address workplace justice and community justice issues. Our workplace initiatives focus on wage theft, workplace discrimination, the rights of persons facing job loss, and support to organizing campaigns. Our community initiatives focus on community benefits during large-scale development projects, democratic governance issues in economically distressed communities, and environmental justice.  

Throughout our history, we have stood with people and communities throughout Michigan to combat corporate power and government overreach. In the 1990s, Sugar Law pioneered litigation and public policy campaigns to protect workers facing mass layoffs and we developed ground-breaking legal strategies in support of the environmental justice movement.

In the 2000s, we provided critical support to the living wage movement and following the recession of 2008, the Sugar Law Center along with a coalition of attorneys from the National Lawyers Guild, Center for Constitutional Rights and private law offices filed the first federal and state lawsuits challenging Michigan’s emergency manager laws.

In recent years, we have also provided ongoing support to local community benefits campaigns, workers centers, wage theft activists, and filed the first federal lawsuit challenging Michigan’s unemployment insurance policies that punish and criminalize the unemployed. To learn about our work, please visit us at www.sugarlaw.org, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter at @SugarLawJustice.  

See a list of many of the grant recipients over the past eight decades