In an election year, it’s important to ask whether the people in elected office really understand what life is like for average Americans. Trends indicate that being wealthy is increasingly a requirement to run for office. In the era of Citizens United, with extremely costly campaigns, it’s no surprise that members of Congress are wealthier and far removed from the day-to-day experiences of Americans who struggle to stay afloat, or just barely live within their means. Aside from campaign finance reform, how can we address this disconnect between elected officials and the people they represent?
We found one encouraging effort: unions across the country are encouraging their members – everyday Americans like waitresses, nurses, and police officers – to run for elected office at the local, state and even federal level. And as our research demonstrates, when members of Congress held jobs like nurse, teacher, and police officer before entering office, they were more likely to take pro-worker positions such as protecting Social Security, enacting stronger workplace safety and discrimination protections, and reforming the financial industry.
Download How Everyday Americans Are Running for Office… and What Happens When a Waitress Gets Elected (PDF), new research from American Rights at Work.