The UFE-coordinated Raising Wages NC (RWNC) coalition converged with the NC Families Care (NCFC) coalition at the Avila Center in Durham, NC from Wednesday, January 10th, to Thursday, January 11th, 2024.
This powerful gathering of organizers, workers, and revolutionaries was used to analyze the political, social and economic landscape of North Carolina and strategically plan for the new year.
United for A Fair Economy is a co-founder and coordinator of RWNC. RWNC is a broad, diverse group of working people and unions, community organizations, faith leaders, businesses, and policy advocates joined in common cause - we believe that all workers in NC deserve a living wage. NCFC is a coalition of over two dozen diverse organizations advocating for family-friendly workplace policies for working North Carolinians and their families, including paid sick and safe days, paid family medical and parental leave, pregnancy accommodations and living wages.
Participants from all corners of North Carolina came to the beautiful Avila Center to critically reflect on the major victories our organizations have won in 2023. From UE150’s victory of winning $22 wages for Charlotte city workers, to Just Economics and the Asheville Workers Assembly organizing the launch of Asheville Food & Beverage United, to winning paid parental leave in Brevard, NC, and many others. As the Right seeks to maintain power in North Carolina, analyzing how we win is more important than ever.
Victor Urquiza, UFE’s Workers’ Rights Organizer (left) & Jen Hampton with Just Economics (right) reflect on the victories the coalitions achieved in 2023
Two points that echoed throughout this retreat were the need to concretely lay out our most urgent goals and to understand the limitations of passing workers’ rights legislations since we have a state legislature that is hostile to working people. After much discussion, reflection and activities, the group decided that the priorities for our work in 2024 are:
- Local Policy Campaigns
- Electoral Work
- Building Worker Power
- Communication / Cultural Work
Local Policy Campaigns
Vicki Meath with Just Economics (far left), Tina Sherman with MomsRising (center left), &Dante Strobino with UE150 (center right), Ana Pardo with NC Justice Center (far right) talk about local policy campaign strategies.
The first goal RWNC set out to accomplish this year was to create a toolkit for organizations to use to enact changes at the local level. Living in a preemption state creates significant barriers for local policy changes, as the state legislature has the ability to counter progressive policies enacted at the municipal level.
Reflecting on the strategies used by UE150, MomsRising, Just Economics and others to win at the municipal level – such as power mapping, creating strategic allies, building a strong community base and many others – we hope to create an effective toolkit to pressure cities and counties to enact policies that benefit working class people in North Carolina.
As a mixture of C3, C4 and C5 organizations, we spent a part of this retreat analyzing how to make best use of our different organizations’ capacity to educate voters on issues that affect us. As gerrymandering, racism and systemic exploitation continues to plague the North Carolina political system, participating at the state level is crucial and challenging.
The Right is planning years in advance, we must do the same. C4 and C5 organizations will take the lead in this electoral strategy: fighting against gerrymandering, fighting for fair elections and checks and balances, educating voters on issues that affect our communities etc. These will not be easy tasks, far from it, but through strategy, mass effort, organization and commitment, we have the ability to win back the rights taken away from the Right and implement laws that benefit the working class and oppressed communities.
Building Worker Power
RWNC member organizations like USSW, UE150, UFE, National Domestic Workers Alliance, and many others have taken powerful steps in building worker power in North Carolina. Through political education, connecting our struggles and creating multinational unions and worker assemblies, we will continue to fight for all workers in 2024!
The working class makes the world run, so they should run the world! 2023 saw a mass level of worker solidarity through strikes, creation of unions and mass mobilizations for workers rights. As the contradictions of late stage capitalism continue to create inflation, rise in the cost of living and skyrocketing rent, workers will continue to organize and build worker power. North Carolina workers are no exception.
North Carolina has been ranked as the worst state to be a worker in the entire country. With a minimum wage of $7.25, no collective bargaining for city workers, and lack of protections for the majority of low-paid workers, the need to build worker power is imperative.
Ana Pardo with the NC Justice Center (far left), Dante Strobino with UE150 (center left), David McNeil with APRI (center right) & UFE’s Inclusive Economies Project Director Kayan Cheung-Miaw (far right) discuss building worker power in North Carolina.
Communications / Cultural Work
Another key area of work that will be prioritized is the need to expand and improve our communications & cultural work. Using social media, blogs, videos and other forms of media are powerful tools that we will use strategically to reach our target audiences.
We found that using storytelling as a way to agitate our organizations’ causes has been extremely successful and well received. Empowering the voices of the oppressed resonates with the millions of low-wage workers across the state. Using our communication networks to reach workers, youth, politicians, business leaders and other demographics is crucial in spreading our coalition's messaging.
We are witnessing a massive cultural shift amongst the U.S. population, particularly the youth. More and more people are joining unions and speaking out against war, racism and exploitation. It is crucial that we continue to have these conversations about economic inequality, structural racism, workers power and use our coalitions as vehicles for transformative change creating long lasting structures for a better future.