Union Yes! Celebrating and Strengthening Worker and Economic Justice in 2022
There is much to reflect on and celebrate this Labor Day — the first Labor Day since 1965 where more than 70% of Americans approve of unions. Something we should all celebrate!
We’ve all seen unions dominating the headlines this year – from Starbucks, to Amazon, to universities, to congressional offices and beyond. In the first half of this year alone, unions won 641 elections — the most in nearly 20 years. We also saw the defeat of anti-worker measures like the Massachusetts initiative bankrolled by Big Gig companies that would have denied gig workers basic protections and fair wages. Even more to celebrate!
Victories for working people didn’t happen by accident. For decades, our friends and allies in the Labor movement have fought tirelessly to create a world where all workers are treated with dignity. A world where essential workers are truly treated as essential by receiving fair wages, benefits, and countless workplace protections.
These victories are more than just headlines – they tell us what the people want and need – equity and justice. Workers are demanding the ability to thrive in every aspect of their lives: from our freedom to make our own decisions about our reproductive health to removing exceptions to slavery as a form of punishment in state constitutions. We are making forward movement, but we face challenges. Extremist forces are working just as hard as us to undermine our democracy and the Will of the People. These attacks are continuing to escalate, but the power of workers — the power of the people — will prevail.
And yes, it is about wages, benefits, and the ability to organize and join a union. This year has been monumental in the fight for economic justice and workers’ rights, AND there is still much work to be done. As we look toward the November election, we must defeat a legislatively referred right-to-work ballot initiative in Tennessee while supporting an amendment in Illinois that would create a state constitutional right for employees to organize and bargain collectively. In Massachusetts, the Fair Share Amendment will give voters the chance to ensure that the top 1% of Massachusetts residents — those making over $1 million a year — pay their fair share in taxes, and use that money to fund public education and transportation.
Opportunities to raise the wage are also on the ballot this year. Voters in Nebraska and Nevada have the chance to raise their states’ minimum wage to $15/hour and $12/hour, and DC voters will be able to decide on whether to end the District’s tipped minimum wage and require tipped workers to be paid DC’s prevailing minimum wage of $16.10 by 2027. We know that raising wages wins at the ballot. We know wage increases win at the ballot. Since 1996, 24 measures to raise the wage have been on the ballot in Red, Blue, and Purple states – and all of them have been approved by voters. This just goes to show that direct democracy is one of the most powerful tools we have for advancing workers’ rights and economic justice.
So as we celebrate this Labor Day, I want to thank our friends in the Labor movement and workers justice organizations for making this progress possible, while we continue partnering together to reimagine what our democracy can and should look like. Thank you.
Here’s to another year of wins for working people, for economic justice, and for the movement toward a more just and beautiful democracy.
Chris Melody Fields Figueredo
Ballot Initiative Strategy Center