Valuing Our Labor and Our Lives

August 29, 2014 -- Nikki Fortunato Bas

This Labor Day, as I take the helm of the Partnership for Working Families, I’m reflecting on the value and dignity of our labor, and also the value and dignity of our lives. 

My heart has been heavy since the events of Ferguson. A mother senselessly lost her child, and Michael Brown’s killing has exposed the brutal fact that our lives are not equally valued. 

From 2006 to 2012 in the United States, a white police officer killed a black person at least twice a week. That black people in our communities must proclaim that #blacklivesmatter reminds us that there are fundamental issues of inequality based on race that we must overcome before fully achieving the worker rights that we celebrate on Labor Day.

Nearly two million people have been deported by the current administration, separating countless families. That immigrant communities must declare #Not1More deportation is another reminder of the unequal value placed on different lives and the underlying issues that prevent many from fully participating in our economy.

Ferguson is not unlike other cities and suburbs – a community facing a lack of jobs, declining public services and aging infrastructure, where its residents (largely working class and people of color) lack political representation.  

Reining in the militarization of police in our communities and at the border would create greater equity; as would prioritizing spending on education, health care, housing, transportation, and child care over the prison and deportation systems. Creating equal access to jobs and ensuring that every job is a quality job – with a living wage, benefits and the right to organize – would allow us all to work in dignity. Ensuring that our decision-makers reflect our communities—not only demographically, but also in sharing our progressive values—would help ensure that public policies and taxpayer spending support the communities that we are building together. 

While no single organization can tackle all these issues, we must each see our work in this complex ecosystem and contribute to solving the root causes of our nation’s problems. 

I am both humbled and excited to be part of a network that is building power from the roots of our communities – among 17 affiliates and 30 more local coalitions. The Partnership for Working Families is reshaping our economy to rebuild the middle class and strengthen healthy communities. What I hope to bring to the Partnership is a deeper commitment to racial justice and democracy, which are fundamental to winning economic justice. This commitment will show up in our network’s core strategies:

  • Deep alliance building that sustains lasting multi-racial coalitions that bridge labor, community, faith and environment.
  • Base building that empowers communities to have a real democratic voice in decisions that affect their workplace and their neighborhoods.
  • Campaigns that win policies which concretely change the conditions of our lives while transforming entire sectors of the economy.

My vision for the Partnership is simple: a just economy and a true democracy, where everyone has a real voice in their workplace and in their community, and can live and work in dignity. However, the road to get there is long and hard, so I invite you to partner with me and our network to build our movement and work toward this vision.

Forward together,
Nikki Fortunato Bas

P.S. There are a few opportunities in the next month to join us: