At EOI, we are dedicated to advocating for statewide policies that support economic security for all Washingtonians. However, we recognize our limitations; our office is based in Seattle, as are most of our staff.
In order to ensure that the policies we are creating, influencing, and advocating for are reflective of the needs of individuals across the state, we must connect and listen to people in many different communities.
To put this practice into action, in 2023, EOI took to the road.
Over the last year, our entire policy team travelled together meeting local advocates and allies. We sat down with partners, lawmakers, and new friends from Yakima, Spokane, Twisp, Mt. Vernon, Bellingham, Olympia, and Centralia.
Listening to the stories and experiences of a diverse group of people who all care deeply about the health and well-being of their communities was eye-opening. What we learned will inform both what we focus on in our work as well as our approach.
So, in the spirit of the time-honored traditions this time of year brings, I present to you… a top-10 list.
The top 10 things we learned on EOI’s Policy Road Trips in 2023:
Communities across the state are facing very similar economic challenges.
In spite of the perceived differences between different corners of Washington, we found a lot of common ground. Everyone we spoke with identified the lack of safe, affordable housing to be a top issue in their community. Other issues that were common across communities were healthcare affordability and workplace fairness and justice.
Even when we have good policy in place, improvements are necessary.
Too often, people in our line of work will get a piece of legislature passed and consider it finished. But in our conversations, we heard that, from Yakima to Mt. Vernon to Centralia, existing programs are not always widely understood or accessible.
Important policies, like Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML), the Working Families Tax Credit, and Paid Sick and Safe Leave are critical to these communities. Without enforcement, engagement, and evolution, though, they can’t function as promised.
Solutions to these issues include legislative fixes and community education – both of which require investment from the legislature.
Time spent together as a team is valuable.
Travelling together as a team truly helped our EOI staff become closer. Having time to get to know each other better, talk about policy ideas, and synthesize the information we were learning deepened our collective commitment to this work and to one another.
Local organizing, social justice, and resistance movements are strong.
There are grassroots efforts in Yakima to establish a public hospital. In north-central Washington, Rural People’s Voice is working to reclaim the rural narrative that our economy should work for everyone. Community to Community in Skagit and Whatcom counties is leveraging power within agriculture worker communities to protect workers, families, the land and our food. The Dignity Guild is building community belonging, dignity, and justice for queer and other marginalized communities in Lewis County though visibility projects like Rural Americans Against Racism (RAAR) and Queer Prom.
Across Washington, people are doing the work.
EOI team can confirm that the award-winning tamales from Los Hernandez in Union Gap are indeed incredibly delicious.
Seriously. Check out Los Hernandez when you’re in the area!
Actively connecting with people around the state helps us grow our network.
A large part of policy work depends on relationships. Planning these trips didn’t just yield face-to-face meetups with partners. Conversations with these old and new friends led to new connections with even more dedicated people and organizations working for economic justice statewide.
People were willing to be frank and honest when we were sitting with them face to face.
We found that meeting people very literally where they’re at fostered a comfort that you don’t always find on Zoom calls.
By gathering in local coffee shops, living rooms, and favorite hometown places, we were able to listen and really hear as people voiced their concerns, frustrations, and even anger at the way our systems are failing the people in their communities.
Some on our EOI Policy Team love to shop!
So we always found a few minutes to stop in local establishments. That includes The Shady Lady in Centralia—a vintage goods shop located in the old brothel downtown (sidebar: We’d like to once again underscore that sex work is work)!
Dedicating time and resources to do this was so valuable that we are already planning next year’s trips!
This was a new endeavor for EOI – and one we’d like to replicate. We are looking forward to connecting with even more of our existing and potential partners in this work of making Washington a place where everyone is economically secure.
Washington is a big state and we have so many more places to visit. Reach out if you’d like us to come to your neck of the woods and discuss how we can work together! firstname.lastname@example.org
This state is beautiful, both in natural wonders and the people who call it home.
OK, ok. This is something we already knew, even before these road trips. But having this yearly touchstone, these checks and balances to how and why we are doing this work is paramount. See you in 2024!
Hitting the road in 2023 was a great way to knit together the corners of our state – and it wouldn’t have been possible without help. We’re so grateful for our generous donors and the incredibly kind and welcoming people we met along the way.
We’d love to come to your town next. Just tell us when and where and we’ll make a date. We’ll also be accepting your suggestions for places to eat or thrift along the way.
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