Amid the gloom of the recent elections, there was at least a small light: Massachusetts voters, by a 59 percent majority, approved a ballot question to allow almost 900,000 workers to earn up to 5 days of paid sick leave each year. This question appeared on the ballot and was victorious because of a strong effort by a coalition of labor and progressive groups, including Massachusetts Social Democrats.
Earlier in the year, the same coalition gained an enormous victory when the state legislature, faced with a companion minimum wage ballot question, voted to increase in stages the minimum wage to $11 per hour. The coalition had been obliged to collect hundreds of thousands of signatures to bring the two measures to the voters, but cooperation between labor and progressive organizations paid off, largely for better lives for low-wage families.
At least two lessons can be drawn from the Massachusetts victories. First, local action is a way around Washington gridlock. Second, proposals that clearly benefit the people have electoral appeal. The Democrats who tried to blur the issues in the election and who went down to defeat should take careful note.