United for Respect (UFR) is a multiracial national nonprofit organization fighting for big and bold policy change that improve the lives of people who work in retail. UFR is advancing a movement for an economy where corporations respect working people and support a democracy that allows Americans to live and work in dignity.

They are over 16 million men and women of different ages, sexual orientations, and ethnicities — and they are fighting for a country that works for all of us, not just a few billionaires. They dream big and they win big.

This past cycle, they implemented a Relational Organizing program to mobilize their community and make a significant impact in numerous swing states.

In Michigan, they established and ran the Michigan Civic Engagement Program. With it, they reached into rural, suburban, and urban areas, with concentrated efforts in Genese, Oakland, and Macomb counties, to build and leverage a broad base of political support for workplace and pocketbook issues. Utilizing an online distributed, Relational Organizing model that integrated Relational and direct voter contact with calls to action, they were able to boost voter participation from this critical voting bloc. 

They used paid digital ads and peer-to-peer social media to expand their state network to 9,000 database members, a growth of 5,000 from July (!!!), bringing together those most impacted by gender, racial and economic injustice to share stories, identify solutions and collectively advocate for a shared vision of democratic justice. They then provided low-wage workers with know-your-rights resources, peer support, and information on Covid-19 resources. 

The pandemic provided an opportunity for their members to address the chronic undervaluing and insecurity of their lives. They led campaigns to raise standards (paid family leave, higher wages, earned sick time, a fair workweek), improve safety including UI protections, and increase worker power in the workplace and on related bodies that make decisions about their work environment. 

People Over Profits

When private equity firm THL Partners, owners of Art Van, a furniture retailer headquartered in Warren, Michigan, used Covid-19 as an excuse to abruptly close down the company leaving over 3,000 people without a job, unpaid commissions, or health insurance, their leaders spoke out and sent a letter to THL Partners demanding health insurance. 

They educated Representative Rashida Talib on the situation, who called on THL Partners to provide health coverage for former employees. Ultimately, Art Van employees won a $1 million hardship fund. Their leaders view this as the beginning of their fight for justice and are actively meeting with members of the Michigan Legislature to include a severance mandate bill HB 5035 in the upcoming legislative session. 

They were impressed by the volunteer experience and commitment to the program, even from those who hadn’t come into their orbit prior to the public launch. The volunteer experience was so smooth that even staff and volunteers from other organizations who did not have electoral programs of their own joined their program and invited friends to join as well. What’s more Relational than that?!

This past year was hard for everyone, but United For Respect represents a group of people who had it particularly hard. Using Relational Organizing, they were able to organize and mobilize their political power and make a real difference for the communities that they serve.

We’re so excited to see where they will take the work from here.

Learn more about them at united4respect.org.