We recognize that all of our organizing is for naught if we can’t materially change people’s lives and affirm their power. For our movements to grow and succeed, working people must see their power consolidated in a way that improves their lives and communities. That means educating people that “more is possible,” especially through our popular education programming, but simultaneously realizing victories that show people what good government can do for them. The policy wins we notch—together with our organizing and leadership development programs—contribute an effective one-two punch to the progressive movement and the fight for a strong democracy.
We believe that all justice must be intersectional, and that means understanding that all of our policy campaigns are fundamentally interconnected—never siloed.
Some of our policy victories include:
Workers’ Rights: Workers’ rights initiatives are the core of our “bread and butter” category of campaigns—policy reforms that impact a very broad segment of the population or have universal or near-universal impact. These are not only essential in and of themselves, but also serve as accessible and relatable on-ramps into our organizing and leadership programs, as well as catalysts for increased participation in democracy. Notable examples include:
- Minimum Wage: WFPower is a key leader in the ongoing fight to raise wages nationwide and has achieved a $15 minimum in DC, Connecticut, New York, Maryland, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Delaware. We also won $12 in New Mexico, where we continue to push for $15, as well as $15 in Tucson, Arizona and $15.87 in Denver, Colorado.
- Paid Family and Medical Leave: A key pillar of our women’s economic agenda initiative, WFPower has co-led coalitions that achieved public PFML programs in Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Colorado, and DC.
- Paid Sick Days: One of our earliest major policy victories was in 2011, when Connecticut made waves as the first state in the nation to pass paid sick days. Since then, we’ve built on that win with victories in Rhode Island, New Jersey, Oregon, New Mexico, and New York City.
- Pay Equity: We supported policies in Rhode Island and Connecticut which place new standards on employers to reduce the gender pay gap, including salary transparency in job openings and restrictions on employers asking for previous income in salary/wage negotiations.
- Fair Scheduling: We co-led the Fair Workweek coalition that passed scheduling reform in Oregon, helping ensure low-wage workers can budget and balance their lives with greater control of their schedules.
Democracy Reform: Democracy is at the heart of everything we do—defined not just by the integrity of its institutions, but by the participation and empowerment of its voters. While we pride ourselves on building an impactful, positive experience of democracy for our base in each of our campaigns, we also fight for critical reforms to make our institutions work better. While issues like voting access and public financing are critical, we also recognize the long-term need to advance systemic reforms necessary to build a robust, multiparty democracy in America. Some examples of our work:
- In Oregon, we supported the successful campaign to introduce a form of fusion voting to the state’s ballots.
- In New York, WFPower helped form and lead the 200-group Fair Elections NY coalition, which went on to achieve small-dollar public financing, state/federal primary consolidation, and automatic voter registration.
- In New Jersey, we worked with allies in a campaign which earned widespread attention and achieved a mass mail-in voting program.
- In New Mexico, we coordinated with allies to pass legislation to protect Native voter access, improve mail-in absentee voting, and pass both automatic and same-day voter registration.
- In Connecticut, we supported passage of and have played a leading role defending the state’s strong public election financing system. Today, well over 90% of legislative candidates run their campaigns with clean and fair public funding. This has not only reduced the number of uncontested races by over half and increased the viability of primary challenges, but has also generated a significant shift toward candidates spending their time talking with voters—rather than wooing wealthy special interests.
- In DC, WFPower’s work as a leader in the Restore the Vote coalition led to DC becoming the first jurisdiction in the nation to restore voting rights for all incarcerated people. And the robust public financing system we won has enabled new candidates to run and win people-powered campaigns.
- Administrative Wins: In 2020, the pandemic and efforts to undermine and delegitimize voting took center stage. We leapt to the moment, working with municipal, state, and national partners on vote-by-mail, early voting, drop boxes, poll worker recruitment and hazard pay, envelope design, high-speed sorting machines, and other details of election administration. Critical interventions included working with Mayor Jim Kenney’s office to help Philadelphia learn from what has worked in Denver and helping establish the VoteSafe system in Wisconsin.
Climate Justice: Fighting for climate justice and green jobs is a core piece of our federal agenda, as well as a major component in some of our state and local work. Some highlights:
- WFPower co-led the innovative Green Jobs / Green New York coalition that won a then-groundbreaking $112 million for an efficiency standards and green jobs program in 2009. Following passage, we remained on the program’s advisory council as it continued to prove itself and grow in scope over time.
- In Colorado, we supported a successful bill giving local communities new authority to regulate oil and gas activity. We are now launching an organizing effort to mobilize at-risk communities of color to use this new tool to curb dangerous pollution in their communities.
- In New Mexico, we worked with allies to pass a Sustainable Economy Taskforce bill ensuring that disproportionately impacted communities have a seat at the table to envision a stronger, more prosperous New Mexico as the state transitions to a more diverse economy that is less dependent on fossil fuels.
Criminal Justice Reform: Critical to advancing racial justice is our criminal justice initiative to reverse the ills of mass incarceration; defund abusive police departments and invest in alternative community and public safety programs; and advance civil rights and protections against law enforcement abuse. Examples include:
- WFPower is a leading player in DC’s coalition to defund the police department, which—in the wake of George Floyd’s murder—succeeded in cutting roughly $15 million from Mayor Bowser’s proposed police budget and reallocating funds toward education and violence interruption programs.
- Also in DC, WFPower and other advocates backed the far-ranging Comprehensive Policing and Justice Reform Act of 2020, which included several provisions designed to increase transparency and accountability from the police, such as outlawing “chokeholds,” prohibiting officers from reviewing their body camera footage, and requiring that the names and body camera footage of officers involved in a serious use of force case are made public within 72 hours. The Act also expands the Use of Force Review Board and puts new limits on “consent” searches.
- We supported passage of the New Mexico Civil Rights Act that eliminates qualified immunity for government workers, granting New Mexicans the right to sue government agencies—crucially, including police departments—for civil rights violations.
Public Education: Good public schools have long been a core tenet of WFPower’s commitment to strong and equitable public services, and school funding features prominently in our progressive revenue campaigns. Some school funding achievements include:
- WFPower was a core member of the coalition that successfully passed a Milwaukee public school funding referendum by a staggering margin of 78%-22%.
- In New Mexico, our coalition successfully passed a constitutional amendment bill to provide a major, long-term investment in access to programs and services for children 0-5, in addition to funding for NM’s K-12 system. The proposal will go to the voters in November 2023, and we are making every effort to ensure voters make an informed decision.
Immigrant Justice: Immigrant communities are critical to our multiracial, working class base and are often subjected to the worst law enforcement and employer abuses while enjoying the fewest rights and protections. While nationally we have joined calls for an inclusive pathway to citizenship, halting deportations, abolishing ICE, and more, we also seek state and local reforms where possible. Strong examples include:
- In New York City, we supported passage of a new voting rights law that empowers noncitizens (including Dreamers and green card holders) with the ability to vote in city primary and general elections.
- In New York, WFPower organized in support of the Green Light Bill, allowing undocumented immigrants to access state driver’s licenses.
- Also in New York, the $4.3 billion progressive revenue package we won as a co-leader of the Invest in Our NY coalition included state aid for immigrant New Yorkers left out by federal COVID-19 relief.
- In Connecticut, we co-led the coalition that achieved passage of the expanded TRUST Act, which strengthens prohibitions against state and local law enforcement agents detaining individuals on behalf of ICE, notifying ICE regarding custody status or release, or sharing confidential information without ICE presenting a valid judicial warrant. It also includes provisions to increase transparency of ICE’s operations in the state.