By Teresa Mosqueda
There seems to be a disconnect in the recent election. How can minimum wage and sick leave local ordinances pass in all corners of our country, yet conservative candidates win at the same time?
Yes, voter turnout was markedly low, as low as it has been since World War II. But that can’t be the only reason Democrats lost so many seats around the nation. We need to answer the question of why voter turnout was low in order to begin reengaging the progressive base so that left-leaning voters are present in 2016, if the pendulum is ever to swing back.
Voters who showed up across the nation passed progressive policies for working families, yet elected conservative candidates. In Arkansas, Alaska, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Illinois voters passed minimum-wage increases proving they want policies to address income inequality and create greater shared prosperity. In Massachusetts, Oakland, CA, and Montclair and Trenton, NJ, voters passed paid sick leave policies showing that sick leave should no longer be a privilege for the few, and extend leave to more working families.
Voters, at least those who showed up, agreed with policies that lift low-wage workers out of crushing poverty and voted to provide additional support to help workers take care of their families. And this was the policy result from the conservative voting majority who turned out to elect Republicans. Just imagine what could happen if more left-leaning candidates ran on a platform of creating greater shared prosperity and addressing income inequality.
To re-engage the progressive electorate and make sure they are present and participating in 2016, voters need inspiration.
Last year, progressives in the WA House of Representatives passed a handful of bills on the Washington State Labor Council Shared Prosperity agenda to create greater equity – from sick leave to wage theft prevention measures. This upcoming session, the agenda will be back again. Elected leaders have a chance to show voters, starting now, that they are using every tool possible to address income inequality and rebuild the middle class.
The 2015 Shared Prosperity legislative agenda (which can be found at the Washington State Labor Council website when you click on Legislative Issues) includes raising the minimum wage, passing sick leave, stopping wage theft, creating paycheck fairness, ensuring retirement security, and investing in capital and infrastructure living-wage jobs. These are some of the policies working families need, and it is also the platform candidates can stand on to show voters they are responding to the call for greater economic security.
States not only need the policy initiatives to win at the ballot, but we need progressive candidates to win office to ensure good policies are protected and advanced. Perhaps, in 2016, we will have a ballot that yields progressive policy wins and retakes the majority with candidates who stand proud to run on these principles embodied in the Shared Prosperity agenda. The Shared Prosperity agenda is our roadmap to advancing needed policies, and for re-engaging progressive majorities to turn out and vote.
Teresa Mosqueda is Government Affairs Director of the Washington State Labor Council and a PSARA member.