Workers Rising Convening

In 2012, a wave of worker organizing rose across multiple low-wage industries in New York City, propelled by workers’ anger at poverty wages and intolerable labor conditions. Supported by community groups, faith leaders, progressive unions, and elected officials, these workers led the first coordinated strikes in the history of America’s fast food industry, unionized at car washes and groceries, and took on major Fifth Avenue retailers for their reliance on part-time, low-wage labor.

In February, the Center for Popular Democracy and UnitedNY organized Workers Rising, an energizing gathering of 23 partner organizations and over 230 workers, advocates, policy experts, elected officials, faith leaders, funders, and academics to celebrate new worker organizing to improve conditions on the job, and to harness the momentum of 2012 to drive policy victories in 2013 and 2014.

The convening, which was held at City University of New York’s Murphy Institute, began with a conversation among workers from multiple industries about their shared experiences organizing for power in their workplaces; continued with rich discussions among workers, policy experts, and organizers about designing strategies and policy solutions that New York City can adopt to improve life for working families; and was capped by a press conference in which two leading mayoral candidates and eight NYC elected officials expressed their support for building a more progressive and just economy.

As part of the event, CPD and its core partner, UnitedNY, released a report entitled Workers Rising: Organizing Service Jobs for Shared Prosperity in New York City. The report highlights the disturbing increase in poverty and inequality in the city, gives readers a look at the campaigns to improve conditions in four low-wage industries, and lays out a set of six policy proposals that New York City should adopt in order to reduce poverty and improve the quality of service jobs in the City.

The gathering was a rousing success: workers said that they emerged with newfound energy and a sense of solidarity with their brothers and sisters from other industries; influential elected officials embraced innovative progressive policy prescriptions, two of which made their debut in the report and convening; ten different media outlets covered the event, placing our City’s unjust economy back in the public discourse; and organizers built valuable relationships with academics, faith leaders, and one another that we will leverage in coming fights.

Workers Rising typifies CPD’s mission of building strength, catalyzing change, and connecting communities.

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