About Us

Unity Is Strength
La Union Hace La Fuerza

Workers’ Dignity is a worker-led center organizing for economic justice and dignity for all! We are developing solutions to wage theft and the systemic abuse of workers by building power through relationships with fellow low-wage workers and our allies.

Hundreds of workers have recovered more than $200,000 in unpaid wages. Affected workers participated in each step of the recovery process and reinforced others’ efforts through acts of solidarity, including visits to employers, phone calls, vigils and protests, and fundraising.

Our History

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Feb 26

New Workers' CenterFounded in 2010, Workers’ Dignity exists because of our recognition that wage theft had become an epidemic problem among us as low-wage workers, coupled with a realization that across the country the most powerful organizations building solutions to this epidemic were grassroots community organizations and workers’ centers.

The first year and half, Nashville’s first workers’ center focused on recovering stolen wages and building membership and awareness in our community. Recruiting members and allies, the organization worked as an all-volunteer group working out of the trunks of our cars and in borrowed spaces from ally organizations. Members elected the first Steering Committee (Workers’ Dignity’s decision-making body) in January 2011. From this point on, Workers’ Dignity has been a membership-run grassroots organization fighting wage theft and offering a space in the city for workers to organize for economic justice.

Just Hospitality Campaign 

In 2014, Workers’ Dignity expanded Just Hospitality, our multi-year campaign to qualitatively improve wages and conditions among Nashville cleaning workers. In February, 11 housekeepers shook the Hilton DoubleTree Hotel in the downtown tourist district, winning our first major victory of the year. Housekeepers won over $13,000 in unpaid wages and a hotel policy change that increased wages and benefits by anestimated $120,000 per year for about 30 workers.

Cleaning Workers’ Bill of Rights

In July 2015, housekeepers crafted a Cleaning Workers Bill of Rights and signed on 140 of their coworkers and other cleaners to back their demands. In 2016, they’ll begin presenting their demands to major employers in the hospitality industry.

Construction-to-Cleaning Initiative

In December, housekeepers joined unorganized striking ironworkers at the Westin Hotel project to demand living wages and safe working conditions for current construction workers and future housekeepers at the luxury hotel. Stay tuned! This was just the beginning of our Construction-to-Cleaning initiative to improve conditions in tourism and convention projects awarded millions of dollars in local tax breaks.

Music City Riders United (MCRU)

We are a Nashville bus rider group demanding civil rights of all public transit riders!

June 2016, a group of Nashville bus riders collectively posed the question “Why are we still at the back of the bus?”  and formed Music City Riders United (MCRU).

We demand Bus System Expansions! 

In May 2017, MCRU launched a long-term campaign demanding night bus service, expanded weekend service, an end to transfer fees, and improved Access Ride for disabled riders. At the center of the campaign is the call for a major expansion of the No. 22 bus route, one of most underserved in the city, which operates in the historically Black North Nashville community. MCRU is organizing for civil rights in public transit, our organizing center is located in a historically Black neighborhood in North Nashville.

What about our community? What about the people who make this city run?

What about our community? What about the people who make this city run?

Nashville’s inadequate public transit system heavily favors wealthy white neighborhoods while failing low-wage workers dependent on the system. We blasted the question far and wide, “Why are we at the back of the bus?” Metro Council members asked to meet with us, the mayor’s office felt the heat, and MTA changed it’s annual funding proposal to specifically earmark funds toward the #22 Bordeaux route.

Free buses for tourists & Gulch residents 7 days a week, while the Bordeaux bus doesn’t even go to 42% of the stops on Sundays? “It City” for who? Do the right thing and approve expanded funding for MTA, with orders to include expanded #22 Bordeaux bus service.

 Metro Responds

In June, the Nashville Metro Council approved funding that has improved public transit for all 24,000 daily riders after months of public pressure, including marches, soapbox actions, phone banking local government officials, and daily bus rider outreach.

Our Major Victories:

  • Free bus transfers (saving each rider about $540/year. That’s $12,960,000/year total!)
  • Expanded hours on nights and weekends for the #22 Bordeaux bus route.
  • Reduced bus fares across the board, saving riders millions of dollars per year.
  • Elimination of 24-hour reservations for AccessRide, which disabled riders depend on.
  • Placement of a bill-paying kiosk in the bus station, after a 10-month campaign after MTA suddenly cut bus service to the Nashville Electric Service.

There Is More Work To Do

Expansion of the Bordeaux route dealt a blow to transit racism. The Bordeaux route, servicing historically Black and low-income neighborhoods in North Nashville, has been one of the top ten busiest in the MTA. Yet, it has had abysmal service, including no service to 43% of the stops on Sundays.  Mayor Megan Barry and the MTA threw a bone to our communities by extending the free downtown bus route to include going along Jefferson Street to Fisk University, Meharry Medical College, and Tennessee State University. We still have a long way to go to win decent and equitable public transit!

Nashville Metro Council has the power to approve the funding, but do they have the will to do it? Will they stand with riders when deciding the 2018 budget?

$6 Billion Light Rail & PATHE Coalition

We began planning the next round of campaigns: Along with bus drivers, mechanics, and janitors in Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1235, Homes for All Nashville, and Democracy Nashville, we launched People’s Alliance for Transit, Housing and Employment (PATHE) – a coalition leading the fight to include community benefits agreements in Mayor Megan Barry’s $6 billion light rail plan. We’re tired of pro-business politicians throwing billions of dollars to developers while 1000s lose own homes, get pushed to suburbs without public transit options, and grind away at poverty-wage jobs (or get excluded altogether from employment). We have already held a three-day 15-mile caravan September 17-19th to draw public outcry. Read more about the PATHE Coalition here: pathecoalition.org

Building a major immigrant rights network in Nashville.

Nashville Community Defense/Defensa comunitaria (NCD)

Nashville Community Defense is an immigrant and refugee-led rapid response to ICE raids and abuse. After our launch in January 2017, 8 additional anchor organizations have joined the coalition including Homes for All Nashville and the Metropolitan Nashville Education Association. We are currently building a network of Sanctuary Congregations. Approximately 7 congregations have pledged to provide temporary or long-term sanctuary for immigrants.

Strategies:

  1. Create a comprehensive ICE raid rapid response network.
  • Ongoing: Recruit more NCD Anchor Organizations and continue weekly planning meetings.
  • Develop local policy changes to reduce the number of people incarcerated in county.
  1. Establish and expand neighborhood defense communities.
  • Ongoing: weekly train-the-trainer workshops for other community members.
  • Weekly outreach in apartment complexes.

104.1 FM WDYO Radio is Nashville’s first worker-run radio station

104.1 FM WDYO

Radio is a worker-run radio station that Worker’s Dignity public launch July 2017. Call us during our programs at our studio number: 615-933-8575.

Leadership

Fundamental decisions of our organization are made by two bodies: the membership and the Steering Committee that meets once a month. In addition to the monthly membership meetings, there is an annual assembly of the membership that meets once a year to decide the strategic priorities for the organization and to vote for the Steering Committee. These priorities are given to the new Steering Committee to implement.

The Steering Committee must be composed of at least 2/3 low-wage workers. Our allies who are on the committee have a voice, but do not have a vote. Each member of the committee is responsible for taking on an active role in the organization.

Elections for new Steering Committees are held every six months. Members are those who are directly affected by wage theft; allies are those who are not directly affected by it but are actively involved in supporting the members to end wage theft.

The following members are Workers’ Dignity’s 2016 Steering Committee:

Mariana Lopez

Antonio

Niesha Dennis

Conception

Sharonda Johnson

Kelly Waller

 

 

One Comment

  1. David Meador
    Posted February 16, 2017 at 1:04 am | Permalink

    Congratulations on all! I’m just starting to help, Nashville Allies Defending Against Raids.

2 Trackbacks

  1. By Labor day parade celebrates hard workers | WKRN News 2 on September 5, 2015 at 11:58 pm

    […] Following the parade was a fundraising festival for Worker’s Dignity, an organization that seeks ‘economic justice’ according to their website. […]

  2. […] community radio station is coming to Nashville, Tennessee. Workers’ Dignity/Dignidad Obrera, a worker-led workers’ center based in Nashville, is currently fundraising to support Nashville’s first ever worker-led radio […]

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