The main goal in a capitalist society is to make money, and most of the time the people get left on the sidelines. For a long time there was no paid sick leave, no paid family leave, and early childcare was not considered a priority. These issues and others affect a person’s physical, mental, and emotional health, as well as their performance and overall well-being. With the demands of a career, or simply paying for rent, inhumane sacrifices are made.
In 1998 a group of local leaders got together and demanded a better way of living. The Economic Opportunity Institute is a “not-for-profit public policy institute focusing on economic security and educational opportunity for all.” EOI’s key policies include retirement security accounts, raising minimum wage to a living wage, helping Washington build a more responsible budget and much more. The Institutes main goals are to protect “wages and jobs, modernize workplace standards, promote a secure future for retirees, ensure every child has the opportunity to succeed in school, and build a more fair and robust tax system.” They plan to do this by “expand economic opportunity through new public policies to protect and rebuild the middle class; promote investment in public services and structures that make opportunity real; and reinvigorate public debate over economic opportunity in Washington State.” An example of their coalition work is their recent team up with Washington Community Action Network (Washington CAN!) to host a Legislative Summit on Racial Equity, where grassroots organizations were present along with elected officials to reflect and discuss ways to be more racially inclusive and to ultimately bring the state towards racial equity.
The difference between racial equality and equity are very important. Racial equality means that everyone is on an even playing field, however not everyone begins with the same kinds of skills to play the game. Therefore equity means that society provides certain programs so that the opportunity for equality is available, where everyone can step onto the playing field with the skills (such as a living wage, education, health care) provided to play the game. “The goal of the event is to bring together legislators and community members to discuss issues impacting communities of color and low-income communities in Washington…Legislators will have time to talk with community members, hear people’s experiences and gain a deeper understanding of 2014 policy pieces that will advance racial equity. There will be a call to action/commitment from the larger group to work on these issues, and we’ll be asking legislators to be champions for the various bills we’re advocating for.” The Economic Opportunity Institute acts as a bridge between the two worlds of community organizing and the State bringing the voices of the people to where it matters most for progressive change to occur. EOI’s is committed to continue researching and analyzing economic changes over the next 5 years to better their understanding and actions.
As one of a few current projects EOI is working on they have teamed up with Washington Work and Family Coalition working on issues such as paid family leave and partnering with unions across the state to support and strengthen living-wage jobs and the middle class such as with the recent struggle between Boeing and the machinists union (For more info click here). On their website there are publications full of information about the social issues mentioned above as well as the “Pay it forward” debt-free higher education program, a wide range of factsheets, and other work they have done. There is also a blog that people can subscribe to for free that keeps people up to date about the evolution of public policies and a glimpse of the personal side of these issues. EOI also hosts events yearly such as the Legislative Summit where community members are urged to participate.