A sure sign that progressives are changing the political debate in the country is the fact that the New York Times devoted its entire June 10 magazine to articles about inequality and poverty. The issue includes an article on an SEIU union organizing campaign, another on global poverty, another on the role on class and schools, and one on widening economic equality. There’s also an article (and cover photo) about John Edwards, reflecting the fact that he’s been focusing on these issues as part of his presidential campaign. The Edwards article is pasted below.
Speaking about organizing…The LA Times last Sunday published a profile of Madeline Janis, executive director of the LA Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE) and a key strategist and activist among LA’s progressive labor and community groups around economic development issues, particularly since she’s also an appointed member of the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) board. The previous Sunday the LA Times ran a profile of Jono Shaffer, the lead organizer for SEIU’s campaign to unionize janitors and now to organize security guards.
Meanwhile, the NY Times has an article today about the organizing work of the Industrial Areas Foundation in Chicago, focusing on its work in the Muslim community as part of a broader interfaith effort. The mainstream media rarely write about community organizing, so this is a nice exception.
Progressives may disagree on some things, but everyone agrees that reforming our labor laws, our campaign finance system, and our voter registration system are key parts of a progressive agenda. Each would help level the political playing field and provide working people with more political influence which, in turn, would make it easier to adopt more humane domestic and foreign policies. As discussed below, progressives are pushing on all three fronts.
Strengthening the “right to organize” — in the form of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) — is making headway in Congress. Although Bush will veto it, when a Democrat is elected president next
year, labor law reform will be near the top of the agenda. Alec Dubro has a good article on TomPaine.Com about yesterday’s rally in Washington on behalf of the EFCA. Here’s a good summary from today’s Center for American Progress report about the Employee Free Choice Act.
And for those who might have missed it two weeks ago, here’s an article by Kelly Candaele and me about why the EFCA is so important.
Although campaign finance reform isn’t yet a major issue in the Presidential campaigns, it should be a top priority after the November 2008 elections. Senators Richard Durbin (D-Ill) and Arlen Specter (R-Penn.) have laid the groundwork by cosponsoring the Fair Elections Now Act, a bill to expand public financing of federal elections. This builds on laws already on the books in several states, and on the good work of Public Campaign, a national advocacy group for “clean elections”. Those of us in California should write Sen. Diane Feinstein, who has yet to support the Fair Elections Now Act.
On the issue of voter registration reform, the most progressive approach is Election Day Voter Registration. In those states that already have it, voter turnout is considerably higher.
Equally important, election day (or “same day”) voter registration tends to increase voter turnout among poor and working class voters, and makes it easier for unions, community groups, and others to mobilize voters. Campaigns for same-day election reform are underway in several states. The policy group Demos has done good work on this issue and is a good source of information. In contrast, the Bush
Administration has been systematically trying to deny low-income and minority voters the right to organize. John Atlas’ new article on the National Housing Institute/Shelterforce website looks at the the real story behind Atty General Gonzalez’ firing of US Attorneys — their reluctance to participate in the Bush Administration’s effort to intimidate groups like ACORN involved in registering poor and minority voters.
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