Strength in diversity and multi-faceted advocacy

Many labor, employment law, civil rights, and consumer protection advocates have become concerned about the evidently growing power of well-financed interests aligned against them. The dysfunction in Congress and elsewhere in Washington, D.C. has made matters worse, such that some have concluded “the system is rigged” – to paraphrase Senator Elizabeth Warren.

Fortunately, not everyone is waiting for those in Washington, D.C. to get their act together. Instead, people of diverse backgrounds and interests are coming together for a more fair workplace, marketplace, and country overall. These creative efforts provide important lessons about effective legal strategy and advocacy tactics going forward.

One of the most powerful examples of the cutting-edge efforts can be found in North Carolina, which recently experienced a takeover of the Legislature and Governorship. Those now in charge in North Carolina have reduced public services and public benefits as well as voting rights and other constitutional protections. While cutting critical services and benefits, the new legal and political leadership has raised taxes on the bottom 80% and, incredibly, cut taxes for the top 5%. The Moral Monday Movement formed in response has inspired tens of thousands across political, racial, religious, class, and other lines of perceived difference to unite in clamoring on a weekly basis for a more just approach. The Moral Monday Movement is now being replicated in other States.

Another illustration of effective advocacy on multiple fronts is occurring in Illinois. A few years ago, the Chicago Teachers Union was on its proverbial heels because of school closures, the expansion of charter schools, and other “free market” reforms imposed by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, who previously served as President Barack Obama’s Chief of Staff. After reallocating resources and staffing, however, the Chicago Teachers Union obtained overwhelming support for and then successfully pursued the first strike in the city in a quarter century. The Chicago Teachers Union has also played a vital role in class action civil rights litigation that is challenging the “free market” reforms that have been harmful to teachers, students, and their communities. By collaborating with a diversity of community partners in a variety of arenas, then, the Chicago Teachers Union has shown how outside-the-box thinking and action can transform the advocates as much as the advocacy.