As friends and supporters, you know that the State of the Dream, our statistically illuminating report often released on MLK Day, has been delayed since the pandemic hit. When reliable data becomes more available and we have rebuilt our communications staff, we hope to resume our reports to you, but in the meantime, we have some exciting developments to share.
We have expanded the reach of UFE through our culture and language diversity. We built our reputation on making political economics available to a broader audience, knowing that the financial bedrock of a fair economy should not require an advanced degree to understand what is going on in the economy. We create actionable information for use by our broad constituency and have emphasized adding Central and South America to our constituency. Our linguistic and cultural competency has broadened and deepened, resulting in a stronger and more resilient organization. Our meetings and training are now fully bilingual, adding an infusion of insights from Spanish speakers who can participate actively.
As we reflect on Dr. King’s legacy today, we have no choice but to continue our work with the communities most affected by economic inequality. We need to find the common interest between Black and Brown people to understand better our own struggles and how much we have in common. We need to recognize those differences, embrace the similarities and work in collaboration to change what is most affecting us. Through workshops and circles, people share their own experiences as migrants as well as the Black experience in this society. Listening to stories and connecting our struggles allows us to build relationships based on empathy, compassion, and solidarity.
UFE is a national organization but has had a regional focus because of its home in the northeast. In the past few years, we have undertaken supporting movement building in the South. Our focus on low-wage work has particular relevance in the South, where much of the workforce earns only a depressed minimum wage, and many states still have “right to work” laws. From our early organizing efforts in North Carolina, we have expanded our collaborations to Alabama, Louisiana, and Tennessee. This work has expanded our practical understanding, enlarged our reach, and made the lessons we have learned about working for economic equality more broadly available.
Recently, we started a partnership with several organizations in Alabama after witnessing the impact of our work with the Raising Wages North Carolina Coalition, work that has been pushing for the most progressive minimum wage legislation in the country, covering domestic workers, farm workers, tip workers, and people with disabilities, something that many groups see as impossible and ambitious. The campaign is still alive and we continue working to raise the minimum wage, with more organized workers who can speak up, educating other workers and gaining more support from allies. The work with the Alabama partners prioritizes Black and Brown solidarity work by creating spaces for learning from each other’s struggles, challenges and working towards building a community.
The pandemic also taught us about the importance of staff development. Physical distance made it even more evident how much we relied on each other and how talented our staff is. We have become even more conscious of creating training and appreciation as part of our daily staff practice. We have continued to examine our own work practices and to take advantage of the work from home flexibility to experiment with new work habits. During the pandemic, we adopted a 32-hour work week and expanded our support for the mental health of our staff.
We recognize that the last few years were particularly challenging, and the challenges will continue. UFE’s work and message of economic justice are needed more than ever as inflation dominates the headlines. While shelter, health, and food costs cause headaches for our constituents, our message provides the clarity that people need to see beyond the headlines to the truth of this economy. We are forever grateful for your support and insights and pledge to continue to do all in our power to bring your message of clarity and hope to those most in need.
“People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.”
— Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
United for a Fair Economy