What’s Possible Beyond Collaboration

Exciting new cooperative efforts could reinvigorate movements for economic justice and workers’ rights. What’s happening is the fruit of long-term relationship-building and a commitment to achieve common goals together that goes beyond mere collaboration.

George Goehl of National People's Action and Sarita Gupta of Jobs With Justice

George Goehl of National People’s Action and Sarita Gupta of Jobs With Justice

George Goehl, executive director of National People’s Action, recently wrote an article for the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP) that calls for just this sort of cooperation, saying “collaboration in and of itself is not the objective.” Movements that can actually rise to meet the challenges of our time need to go much deeper. Goehl draws a distinction between coalitions, which organizers view as temporary, and building “long-term alignment.”

Alignment goes beyond coordinated work on specific initiatives like campaigns, infrastructure building or strategic communications. It means aligning analysis and strategy to better coordinate planning, growth trajectories and movement interventions with our partners. It’s not just working together now, but making plans to work together over the long term.

This is a call to what success demands. The good news is that organizations in the Rockwood LIO network are already forging this kind of long-term alignment, with powerful results.

National People’s Action is working with Jobs with Justice, headed by Sarita Gupta, to advocate for a “Bad Business Fee” at the state and local level across the country. In a joint article published earlier this month on the Huffington Post, Gupta and Goehl explain how corporations that cheat their workers actually cheat American taxpayers too – by avoiding paying taxes while burdening public programs with their underpaid, uninsured workers.

… corporations that refuse to pay their workers a fair wage and offer reasonable benefits should be subject to a “Bad Business Fee.” Such a measure would assess a fine on businesses to incentivize them to provide jobs with decent wages, fair hours and reasonable benefits. A Bad Business Fee could hold a company accountable when it refuses to respond to worker concerns, pays excessively low wages and benefits, and/or relies on taxpayer-subsidized benefits for its workers. And the revenue generated from the fee could then be used to supplement the wages of workers, beef up labor standards enforcement, or even fund community-based organizations that provide low-wage workers with child care, housing assistance and health care in their communities.

Gupta and Goehl have both pointed out that winning campaigns at the local level now is the key to success on a larger scale over time. Gupta published an article in The Nation about local efforts to win rights for contingent, part-time, and low-wage workers. Goehl wrote recently about the opportunity for progressive change in America’s cities – 27 of the 30 largest cities voted blue in 2012. The Bad Business Fee is a perfect example of game-changing local policy that could have a ripple effect with national impact.

Congress may be gridlocked, but there is a lot of progress to be made in cities and states, as recent minimum wage increases in Seattle, Massachusetts, and Michigan have shown. Leaders and organizations working together in long-term alignment can win meaningful victories now, and build momentum for the future.