A photo of a statue holding the scales of justice with bills of money in the background.

Making 2018 Count

Who’s Fighting for Fair Labor Laws?

Without regulation, employers of hourly and part-time workers can create impossible environments for their employees. These organizations are fighting to make dignity and stability a right for all.

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It’s shaping up to be a long three years. Because of that, it is important that we take care of ourselves and take care of each other. A few weeks ago, we highlighted organizations that help good people get elected. This week we’ll be looking at organizations that fight for economic justice—an especially important fight in the Trump era, where the rich are rewarded and everyone else is harmed.

Working Families Party

With a focus on the economy as it affects real people, not just how it can benefit corporations and the super-rich, the Working Families Party strives to decrease economic inequality and ensure that everyone, regardless of their place in America’s economic strata, can flourish.

The Working Families Party has already won legislative victories. In Rhode Island, it worked to get the General Assembly to pass a law that will provide more than 100,000 employees in the state with sick days. In Oregon, it worked with other labor groups to get a fair work week law passed, providing predictable scheduling for workers in the types of jobs—think retail and food service—where employers call employees in at the last minute, making it impossible to plan for things such as child care or another job. These are tangible, meaningful steps towards economic equality.

WFP has also won legislative victories at the local level in several municipalities and states. Across Connecticut, they endorsed 56 candidates in local races and saw 35 of those win. In Albuquerque, New Mexico, they helped get progressive candidate Tim Keller elected mayor by door-knocking, phone-banking, texting, and fundraising.

You can back WFP’s initiatives and candidates by donating and, at the national level, reaching out to your congressional representatives.

Fight for 15

With a targeted campaign—”1,000s of workers. 100s of cities. 1 movement. $15 and a union”—Fight for 15 works on one thing and one thing only: getting $15 minimum wage laws passed.

They began in 2012 with just 200 fast-food workers in just one city—New York. Those workers courageously walked off the job to show just how serious they were about getting $15/hour and union rights. Since then, Fight for 15 has grown to 300 cities.

Fight for 15 focuses on low-wage professions, often dominated by women, such as fast-food workers, child care providers, retail employees, and home health aides. Those home health aides, for example, are over 90 percent women with a median average pay of just $9.38 an hour, and they usually don’t get 40 hours per week. Their yearly take works out to about $17,000. No one can live on that. Similarly, fast food workers earn roughly between $8 and $9 per hour. You can’t support a family on that.

Most importantly, Fight for 15 gets results. In 2016, we saw governors in both California and New York sign legislation putting workers on a pathway to $15. Target has committed to a $15/hour wage by 2020. Referenda in four states—Arizona, Colorado, Maine, and Washington—passed in 2016 and will result in higher minimum. Wages for those states.

As the Trump administration attacks the rights of workers on all fronts, organizations like Fight for 15 are vital. This fight is going to have to be undertaken city by city, company by company, state by state. You can check out their guide on how to organize.

National Low Income Housing Coalition

Even prior to Trump’s election, housing availability for low-income people was terrible, with demand for the housing outstripping availability by over three times. Now that Trump has installed Ben Carson, a person with no experience whatsoever with housing issues, as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), that problem is only going to get worse. And let’s not forget that Trump also named Lynne Patton as head of the New York and New Jersey HUD office. Patton’s qualifications? Having planned Eric Trump’s wedding and attacking journalists on Twitter.

The National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) works to preserve what paltry federally-assisted public housing there is and expand the supply of available low-income housing. Because they realize that lack of housing is a multi-faceted problem, they also focus on equity issues, such as breaking down barriers to housing for those people that have been involved with the criminal justice system and planning for just communities where everyone has access to educational and economic opportunities.

Right now, NLIHC is leveraging the possibility the fact that tax “reform” may provide opportunities to make it attractive to invest in affordable housing, so they’ve created the United For Homes (UFH) project. You or your organization can endorse the project, you can donate, or become a member to provide ongoing support to NLIHC. If you work on housing issues in your city or state, they provide research resources and connections to state-level partners.

National Committee on Pay Equity

Women still earn only 80 cents for every dollar men earn. And for women of color, of course, it is far worse: Latina women earn 54 cents for every dollar a white man earns. And now, Trump is making some serious moves to ensure that equal pay remains a pipe dream. That means that the fight to close the pay gap may have to move from federal-level legislation to the state level and to getting individual companies to commit to pay equity.

The National Committee on Pay Equity (NCPE) provides a toolbox for people to work on closing the pay gap. April 10, 2018, is the equal pay day. It’s an excellent time to call attention to the gender gap in your community or, if you feel safe doing so, at your job. NCPE has suggested equal pay day activities, sample letters to the editor and op-eds, and sample proclamations to ask your governor or mayor to publicize and endorse equal pay.

Finally, if you are in a position at your job to undertake a review of your company’s pay policies, NCPE has an Employer Pay Equity Self-Audit. It walks you through what you need to do to ensure your organization is doing everything it can to close the gap, from how your company recruits new employees to training opportunities to position descriptions.

We can no longer count on the federal government to help us get fair wages and good housing. We’re going to have to do it ourselves, and we need to start now.

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