This week, we honor the life of the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr., who made achieving economic justice a cornerstone of his calls to advance racial justice.
Dr. King conceived of economic justice as “decent wages, fair working conditions, livable housing, old age security, health and welfare measures, [and] conditions in which families can grow, have education for their children and respect in the community.” He reminded us that you cannot achieve true equality without making economic opportunity available to all, including those traditionally locked out of the country’s prosperity.
At Futures Without Violence, economic justice has long been at the center of our work. We believe it’s not only the right thing to do, but is critical to achieve our vision of a world without violence.
Why? Nearly three in four survivors of domestic violence remain in abusive relationships due to financial insecurity – and abusers often sabotage their partners’ attempts at becoming financially independent. Financial insecurity and lack of access to economic opportunity is both a driver and consequence of human trafficking. And we know financial stability is a key factor in preventing child abuse, because when families thrive, children do as well.
Today, the economic fallout from COVID-19 makes centering economic justice in our work an imperative. The pandemic has exposed and exacerbated economic and gender inequality, increased rates of violence and abuse, and widened the chasm of racial disparities in the United States.
The statistics are sobering: women have lost over 5 million jobs since the beginning of the pandemic. Their access to economic mobility is at a 33-year low, at a time when domestic and sexual violence has increased. The unemployment numbers are particularly stark for Black, indigenous, and women of color, and gender expansive people.
But we are also at a moment of opportunity.
As the nation continues its economic recovery, we are at a once-in-a-generation opportunity for greater transformational change to advance equitable economic opportunity. Billions of dollars in resources have been invested or will be invested in our nation’s economic recovery through federal efforts such as the American Rescue Plan, the CHIPS and Science Act, and the Inflation Reduction Act. Centering the needs, realities and aspirations of women, especially women of color, in economic recovery should be a priority.
What’s needed? At FUTURES, we believe economic justice should include three pillars:
- Well paid jobs, which include pathways to high-growth and high-wage sectors, particularly for women of color and LGBTQIA+ individuals, and fairly valuing work traditionally done by women;
- Safe and supportive workplaces, that are free from discrimination and harassment, and include standards, policies and norms that align to survivors’ needs and lived realities.
- Social support, including affordable healthcare and caregiving, paid family leave, and paid safe leave for time off to go to court and seek support from abuse.
We are advancing these pillars in several ways.
FUTURES has long advocated for federal legislation and funding that centers the needs of survivors and their families through our Policy Center. Last year, we worked with partners to unlock more than $2 billion in public funds for programs that prevent violence, provide economic support, and help survivors heal in the U.S. and internationally.
We also work with employers, the public sector, survivors and advocates to advance safe and supportive career pathways and workplaces. This includes our National Resource Center: Workplaces Respond to Domestic and Sexual Violence, and Promoting Employment Opportunities for Survivors of Human Trafficking (PEOST) Training and Technical Assistance Program.
To move forward, we need to do more to create accessible career pathways, promote the dignity of work through employer practices and protections that center workers, and invest in social supports to eliminate obstacles to economic opportunity and mobility.
It’s time to dream big to advance economic justice. Don’t you agree?