Because Progress Never Stops!
The end of 2015 is almost here! As we near our holiday break, we’d like to take the time to highlight our favorite 7 progressive victories of 2015:
1) A growing number of workers are earning more: Though there is still much to be done to help workers everywhere, there was serious movement on two issues: minimum wage and overtime. At the state level, 9 states increased their minimum wages due to ballot measure victories and legislative action. And, Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago, San Francisco, and other cities also raised minimum wages this year. Additionally, this past summer, President Obama announced a new overtime rule that would help nearly 5 million workers. Currently, the only salaried workers who earn less than $23,660 a year are guaranteed the right to overtime pay. The new rule more than doubles the salary threshold to $50,440. This new rule helps the economy, families, and workers, especially low-income workers and people of color.
2) Love wins: Thanks to the tireless work of advocates, this year the Supreme Court ruled to legalize same-sex marriage in all 50 states. This decision affirms what a supermajority of Americans believe—that the freedom to marry is a fundamental right that belongs to all. Though we still have a long way to go in the fight for LGBT rights, in this Supreme Court decision, progress and love won.
3) “ACA is here to stay!” and the uninsured rate at an all-time low: In another historic decision, the Supreme Court ruled to uphold the healthcare subsidies in the Affordable Care Act, meaning millions of people will still have access to quality, affordable health insurance. The facts don’t lie: the ACA works. The ACA has brought quality, affordable health insurance to more than 16 million people. And, the uninsured rate has dropped below 10 percent for the first time in decades.
4) Creating a more healthy democracy in 2015: In 2015, pro-democracy ballot measures saw major wins on Election Day. In Seattle and Maine, voters approved measures to blunt the influence of big money in the political system through public campaign financing. In Ohio, citizens overwhelmingly voted in support of an initiative to end partisan state legislative gerrymandering via a nonpartisan redistricting commission. Taken together, these successes represent a movement towards and the public hunger for creating a healthier democracy, one more accountable to the will of the voters and less susceptible to influence in the political system.
5) The world unites to fight climate change: Just this month, 195 countries struck a historic international climate deal. It sets the world on a course to cut greenhouse gas emissions, seeks to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius while aiming for an even more aggressive target, and establishes framework to ratchet up ambition in the future. And this year, President Obama finalized his Clean Power Plan, which is the most ambitious action yet taken in the United States to slow global warming. The Clean Power Plan will lead to climate and health benefits of up to $93 billion by 2030. Meanwhile, by designating 6 new national monuments, permanently protecting more than 1 million acres of public lands, and saving the Land and Water Conservation Fund, President Obama is helping mitigate the impacts of climate change on our forests, wildlife, and waterways.
6) Successfully replacing No Child Left Behind and historic graduation rates: This year was great for students everywhere as Congress passed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which will replace No Child Left Behind. ESSA will help protect at-risk students by preserving annual assessments and the use of data to ensure that students are not falling through the cracks. It makes improvements to No Child Left Behind by allowing states and districts to use additional measures of school and student success beyond test scores to measure progress. And, in other good news, the high school graduation rate this year was the highest on record.
7) Historic Iran nuclear deal: After more than two and a half years of intense negotiations, the United States, along with its partners and allies comprising the world’s greatest nations, reached an agreement that will put Iran’s nuclear program under unprecedented international scrutiny. Not only is this deal historic, it is also effective. The Iran deal meets all five criteria the Center for American Progress laid out that must be met to protect U.S. interests and security. And, it cuts off all of Iran’s potential pathways to a bomb.
BOTTOM LINE: As we approach the end of 2015, we are thankful for the progressive victories this year in issues ranging from education to climate to labor to the Supreme Court. And we’re thankful for all the work progressives did to ensure these victories. We’re looking forward to more progress in 2016!