case studies

Raise Up Massachusetts

Raise Up Massachusetts is a grassroots coalition of more than 150 community organizations, faith-based groups, and labor unions committed to building an economy that works for everyone. Field First, led by Carl Nilsson, has coordinated the Raise Up Massachusetts coalition for the past five years, building a shared strategy and driving the execution of winning campaigns. Since the coalition came together in 2013, it has consistently fought for workers’ rights and to better our economy, and won improvements to wages and benefits affecting millions of workers and their families.

Since 2015, Raise Up ran a three-pronged legislative and ballot campaign program to raise the minimum wage, provide universal best-in-the-nation paid family and medical leave, and pass a constitutional amendment creating an additional tax on annual incomes over one million dollars to fund new investments in transportation infrastructure and public education.

The Goal

Raise Up Massachusetts’ goal is to build an economy that works for everyone – an economy that invests in families, gives everyone the opportunity to succeed, and creates broadly shared prosperity. Raise Up recognizes that we are all part of the community and that unity, not divisiveness, is the way to make our society better and stronger.

The Challenge

While Massachusetts has a reputation as a liberal state, the state legislature had not been advancing policies to combat one of the worst levels of economic inequality in the country.  Workers and families were being left behind as a strong corporate lobby thwarted legislation on higher wages and benefits for workers.

To move forward its agenda, Raise Up decided to use the leverage of ballot questions to win on economic justice issues, a process previously dominated by wealthy conservatives and special interests.

To succeed, Raise Up needed to master the highly complex process of shaping ballot questions that could withstand well-funded opposition campaigns, as well as meet the daunting thresholds to qualify for the statewide ballot.

As a coalition of 150 diverse organizations, Raise Up had the means to do this, but not the history of joint work that could actualize that potential. Field First was needed first of all to streamline and coordinate the work of so many players, but also to structure a process that could set strategy and make decisions while ensuring that every voice was fairly heard and acknowledged.

As a result, Raise Up is a truly grassroots coalition, but one that can efficiently mobilize thousands of volunteers across the Commonwealth to collect signatures, contact their legislators, and educate the public on the coalition’s agenda.

Our Strategy

Field First has coordinated Raise Up Massachusetts since its inception, helping plan and execute legislative and ballot campaigns to achieve and enact measurable progressive change. We know that the key to a successful grassroots operation is mobilizing Raise Up’s base of volunteers, and providing them with the training and tools in order to expand Raise Up’s reach into every constituency and every region of the state.

We also know that in order to successfully accomplish such wide-ranging priorities, we would need to have a well-thought-out, in-depth campaign plan that would chart a clear and concrete path to victory through which we could set accurate goals for turnout to volunteer shifts, rallies and legislator meetings.

Our Work

Feld First is proud and excited to continue our work with the Raise Up Massachusetts coalition.

Field First has built a comprehensive database to track Raise Up’s progress-to-goal for each signature collection and legislative outreach campaign, and to track the current legislature’s pledges, co-sponsors, and votes on relevant pieces of legislation. With every new legislative cycle and new priority that Raise Up takes on, Field First helps write strategic plans that include all the tactics needed to win.

Throughout the year, Field First helps manage bi-weekly meetings of the Steering Committee and monthly meetings of the Grassroots Committee to keep Raise Up running smoothly even between legislative cycles, as well as maintain Raise Up’s digital platform to ensure that the coalition is a constant presence in the politics of the state’s social media.

Field First also organizes and conducts trainings across the state to help volunteers grow as organizers, spreading knowledge and best practices when it comes to constituents pressuring legislators and collecting signatures for ballot initiatives.

Our Outcomes

We are proud that our work with Raise Up Massachusetts has helped raise the wages of almost one million workers in Massachusetts – directly increasing their standard of living and investing in the economy. Our additional victories on earned sick time and paid family and medical leave allow workers and their families care for the health and well-being of their loved ones without sacrificing the security of their job or paycheck.

Field First is proud to have helped Raise Up Massachusetts achieve the following victories:

  • Between 2013 and 2014, Raise Up Massachusetts volunteers collected over 350,000 signatures to put earned sick time and a $11 minimum wage on the ballot.
  • In June 2014, the Massachusetts Legislature passed and the Governor signed into law an increase in the minimum wage from $8 to $11 an hour, avoiding the need for a ballot question.
  • Earned sick time continued to the ballot. Question 4 passed with a 19 point margin in November 2014, ensuring that all workers in the state would have access to earned sick time.
  • In 2015, Raise Up launched the Fair Share Amendment campaign, a citizens’ initiative for a constitutional amendment to add an additional 4% tax on annual incomes over a million dollars in Massachusetts. Volunteers collected over 150,000 signatures, but after an incredibly narrow ruling by the Supreme Judicial Court, it was disqualified and taken off the ballot. The question proved so popular, however, that now it is advancing in the legislature itself, with over a majority of both chambers signed on as co-sponsors.
  • In 2017 and 2018, Raise Up set its sights on enacting a Paid Family and Medical Leave program and raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Volunteers collected over 359,000 signatures to qualify both issues for the ballot. In June 2018, the Legislature passed both Paid Leave and a $15 minimum wage in a piece of compromise legislation, and the Raise Up Grassroots Coalition voted to not take either issue to the ballot.

Quotes and Testimony

Harris Gruman, Executive Director of the SEIU Massachusetts State Council, and former Co-Chair of Raise Up Mass says:

“After decades of successful issue and election work in community and labor organizing, I like to think I’m the expert, but it’s been both humbling and inspiring working closely with Field First the last five years.  I’m a big believer in face-to-face politics.  Field First develops the most high-tech systems I’ve used, not to supplant the old methods but to augment shoe leather through shared open-source documents and databases that hold coalition partners and field teams accountable to each other.  You don’t need a top-down command structure or hired mercenaries when, with the right facilitation and methods, a broad coalition can get the same work done, and in even greater quantity and quality, while maintaining a collegial and democratic culture.  Field First has even taken the formerly daunting task of statewide ballot campaigns — the collecting of hundreds of thousands of signatures, the generating of a million voter contacts — and turned it into a regular occasion for movement-wide teamwork, grassroots engagement, and high morale.  They are organizers in the noblest sense of that calling: they don’t DO the work, they turn the people’s will for change into the people’s engagement in change.  It’s the biggest value-added we’ve had in over twenty years of community, labor, and faith coalitions. Just ask the million Massachusetts workers who are earning a better living and finding a healthier work/life balance because of it!”