When Julia Salazar, the 28-year-old Democratic Socialist state senator in New York’s 18th district, unseated an incumbent last year, one of her most reliable set of volunteers were hundreds of sex workers and sex work advocates signed up to canvass for Salazar in the lead-up to the primary election, reports Mother Jones. Salazar put the rights, health, and safety of sex workers as a priority issue for her campaign. The fight for sex workers’ rights is having a big moment, with bills to decriminalize sex work introduced in Washington, D.C., and New York state.
A handful of 2020 Democratic presidential candidates have come out in support of it—including Sens. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Kamala Harris. In the past year, the push to decriminalize sex work has evolved into a priority for the progressive movement. “Full decriminalization is a feminist issue, a prison abolitionist issue, and a labor issue,” wrote Angel Castillo of the Democratic Socialists of America’s Los Angeles chapter. For sex workers and advocates, this moment is a long time coming. Advocates have been fighting on the margins for the rights and health of sex workers, slowly pushing the needle toward full decriminalization of sex work. It came to a head last year, when President Donald Trump signed the controversial FOSTA-SESTA bills that targeted online sex trafficking and made it more dangerous for sex workers to conduct business.