Collaborating to Better the Lives of Workers: The Council and the Dignity at Work Coalition

The Council strives for a collaborative approach in advocacy. One way it collaborates with other groups and individuals is through coalition work. In 2018, the Council joined the Dignity at Work Coalition. The Dignity at Work Coalition was formed to advocate with a unified voice around issues affecting employment.

Dignity at Work Coalition logo

Multiple factors impact whether a person can get and keep a job, from transportation to wages to schedule and childcare. Learn why employment advocacy is important, what the coalition does, and how to become involved.

Why is Employment Advocacy Important?

  1. Employment gives people the opportunity to share their talents and skills with their communities and make an impact in the lives of others.
  2. When people can do work they find meaningful and fulfilling, they are happier and more satisfied with life.
  3. Fair, equitable employment is the key to getting out of poverty and achieving financial stability.
  4. Steady work and well-paying jobs stimulate the economy, since people have money to spend.

Did You Know? According to the American Community Survey, people with disabilities have a 60 percent unemployment rate nationally. People who are blind and visually impaired have a 70 percent unemployment rate, and a 22 percent underemployment rate.

“Since people who are blind or visually impaired are a largely unemployed and underemployed population, we need to have a fair and living wage and benefits when we do get jobs,” says Denice Jess, CEO/Executive Director of the Council. “They are the ticket out of poverty and the ticket off of SSI and SSDI. Fair and equitable jobs create sustainability and independence.”

What is the Dignity at Work Coalition?

Formed in 2015, the Dignity at Work Coalition has members from around Wisconsin. It raises issues to legislators, sheds light on concerns and supports positive change for people who are employed. The coalition creates space where groups advocating on issues impacting employment can connect, learn from each other and support each other’s work.

“Each of our member organizations works in its own silo,” says Rabbi Bonnie Margulis, the coalition’s President and founder. “We all need our individual silos, because that is where we develop our expert knowledge. The Dignity at Work Coalition serves as a bridge between the silos so we can learn from and support each other.”

The coalition’s employment priorities are: fair pay; predictable, stable hours; paid sick days; paid family and medical leave; affordable, quality child care; accessible public transportation; an end to discrimination in hiring and employment practices; pension protection; and the right to organize.

The Council is a member of this coalition because these issues align with many of the Council’s Legislative Priorities: transportation, employment and ADA/Civil Liberties.

“The issues impacting employment affect us all,” says Denise. “They are not the issue of a small margin of people.”

In a Nutshell, What Does the Dignity at Work Coalition Do?

The coalition has developed election voter guides, held legislative briefings, facilitated writing of op-ed pieces in Wisconsin newspapers, and is bringing forward legislation to lobby for paid medical and family leave policies in Wisconsin.

During both the 2016 and 2018 election cycles, the coalition put together a voters’ guide for economic justice issues. This document provided information on a wide variety of issues so constituents could learn about them and ask informed questions at hearings and candidate forums. The coalition plans to prepare a voters’ guide for the 2020 election.

In February 2019, the Dignity at Work Coalition held a legislative briefing at the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison. Various speakers, representing coalition member organizations, presented on the issues their groups serve as related to employment, and the need for legislative support to bring forth change. The briefing covered the need for: paid medical and family leave policies, affordable childcare and more sustainable and effective public transportation for workers and people with disabilities. The Council presented with Sierra Club about the importance of accessible public transportation.

Screenshot of the La Cross Tribune Op-Ed piece.

This past spring, various coalition member organizations published op-eds in newspapers throughout Wisconsin. The Council’s Denise Jess, along with Cassie Steiner of Sierra Club, published an opinion piece about the need for affordable and accessible transportation for people who are blind or visually impaired. Peggy Haack, Wisconsin Early Childhood Association outreach coordinator, wrote an opinion piece about how working families need childcare assistance. Lynette White, of coalition member organization 9to5 Wisconsin, wrote an opinion piece stating that raising the minimum wage would help women and people of color, since these people are the most likely to work a minimum wage job.

Currently, the coalition is preparing to support legislation which would, if passed, bring about paid medical and family leave in Wisconsin. This bill is to be introduced in September, so connect with the coalition for the most current information about how to get involved. The Coalition is also exploring the addition of an employment workgroup, which Jess would head, to focus on the needs of groups with high rates of unemployment.

What Can I Do Right Now?

Join the email list of the Dignity at Work Coalition and learn how to take part in their work. Get the latest updates about this group’s activities. Sign up at You can also sign up for Council Legislative Update emails at

Follow the Dignity at Work Coalition on Facebook. On the Facebook page, action items and events are regularly promoted. Visit dignityatworkcoalitionwisconsin to follow the page.

Do you know someone who might want to know about the Dignity at Work Coalition? Forward them this message.


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