State Interference

The Challenge

Across the country, cities have proven to be a powerful voice for progressive change. Despite gridlock and even regressive policies at the federal level, cities and grassroots movements have pushed forward, leading the way on raising the minimum wage, ensuring paid sick days and parental leave and protecting consumers and the environment.

While all eyes are on Washington, special interests are systematically working at the state level to stifle this progress for poor people, communities of color, women, LGBTQ individuals and immigrants. These powerful corporate interests have come together through the Koch-brothers-backed American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to pass hundreds of one-size-fits-all laws limiting cities’ right to improve living standards for their residents.

These groups have sought to deny local people a voice in ensuring their basic needs are met in their own cities and towns. In many cases such state interference laws are being used as a tool through which largely white state legislatures both deny cities of color of self-determination and preserve longstanding racial inequities.

Today, there are hundreds of bills making their way through state legislatures across the country to further limit city and municipal governments’ power to solve problems locally.


The Case for a Comprehensive Campaign Strategy:
The extensive stripping of local authority we have seen in the past several years is a strategy driven by corporate special interests and far- right extremists and is moving across a range of states, regardless of party control. While most localities have the power to make policy, most states have the power to preempt them. The legal tools to stop state interference are narrow enough that court victories alone will not be sufficient. To stop state interference, we must make preemption of progressive policy a political third rail. Read more

Our Approach

The Partnership for Working Families has compiled a first-of-its-kind analysis of seven cities  where communities of color have been impacted by preemption legislation passed by predominantly white legislatures.

We must stop outside corporate interests from creating regressive ceilings that keep cities from setting higher standards. In order to protect our cities and towns’ right to improve upon the basic standards set by states, we must act swiftly.

Thus far, efforts to counter this powerful wave of state interference have largely consisted of isolated litigation or policy advocacy. Partnership for Working Families believes that in order to halt the spread state interference, we must employ a comprehensive approach with organizing for change at its center. That means building strong campaigns across multiple cities, throughout states and coordinating nationally to mobilize our communities. By combining the best policy advocacy, communications and litigation strategies with deep engagement of the communities most impacted by state interference, we can turn the tide and help local people regain their right to self-govern.


Our Work in Action

Check out a few highlights from our recent work: