Jeff Bryant

What Teacher Walkouts Changed in Our Politics

Even before the votes from the recent midterm elections were completely counted  – a process that took nearly two weeks in many races – numerous prominent news outlets were quick to report on the supposed failure of the “education wave,” those school teachers and other educators who ran for office up and down ballots across the country. One report that received particularly widespread circulation, by Associated Press, carried the headline “Tough lessons: Teachers fall short in midterm races.” Another for U.S. News & World Report said, “Poor Marks for Teachers in Midterms.” Clever, huh.

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James Mumm

Leveling Up And Down

Massive, disruptive change is happening in the world economy. Up to half of all current workers, both white and blue collar, could be driven into unemployment by technology. Automation, artificial intelligence, and machine learning are fueling a new industrial revolution. Once again, as in the past when steam, fossil fuels and biotechnology upended lives and fortunes, workers are getting the short end of the stick—this time robots may come for our jobs. Unless, as science fiction writer Kim Stanley Robinson warns, we become the robots ourselves, first. Instead of tinkering around the edges, several recent authors make a forceful case for a bold solution to our society’s growing levels of inequality and economic insecurity: a universal basic income (UBI).

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Leo Gerard

Workers Petition Congress: Protect Our Pensions

The total number of workers at risk is 1.2 million. In my union, the United Steelworkers (USW), 100,000 are threatened. Daryl A. Bugbee of Olivet, Mich., is one of them. He wrote Congress’ Joint Select Committee on Multiemployer Pensions on Aug. 8: “I am the father of a special needs child who will always need assistance. Without my pension, I will not be able to help meet his needs.” Workers like Daryl count on that money. Most didn’t earn enough to invest in stocks or a 401(k) for retirement. The pension was everything. Now, they’re vulnerable because 8 percent of multiemployer pensions are collapsing. This is not the workers’ fault. Often, it’s not even the employers’ fault. It’s because of economic forces that couldn’t be predicted and Congressional decisions to deregulate Wall Street and ignore trade violations.

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George Goehl

Heartland Holds the Key to Winning in 2020

While the country was captivated on election night by insurgent campaigns led by Southerners like Andrew Gillum, Stacey Abrams, and Beto O’Rourke, people in the America’s Heartland and the Rustbelt were preparing a message of their own. Two years after they sent Donald Trump to the White House, voters in the Heartland broadly rejected his divisive agenda in a people-powered blue wave. Democratic gubernatorial wins in Michigan, Wisconsin, Kansas, Pennsylvania and Illinois were a rebuke of Trump’s racist rhetoric and of candidates who emulate him, and the victories didn’t stop there. In deep-red Iowa, where Republicans controlled three of four Congressional seats, Democrats now control three of four. Eight of the U.S. House seats that flipped from red to blue were in the Midwest.

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Jeff Bryant

How Betsy DeVos Does the Koch Brothers’ Bidding

While the serial outrages of the Trump administration continue to make headlines, the more mundane activities of his cabinet officials and their underlings often fly under the radar. Take U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, for instance, whose nomination drew a history-making opposition and set off an avalanche of ridicule in social media and late-night comedy, but who now operates largely out of public view, behind a security screen that is projected to cost the taxpayers nearly $8 million over the next year. What’s largely been overlooked behind all the lurid headlines and endless insults are all the ways in which officials like DeVos are quietly at work continuing to use our tax money to advance a deeply troubling agenda.

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Jason Walker

Amazon’s HQ2 Is a Punch in the Gut To New Yorkers

Amazon is a massively profitable company. Its founder, Jeff Bezos, is the world’s richest man, by far –  at least $50 billion richer than every other billionaire on the planet, and light years ahead of you and me. That’s why the $3 billion gift bag Governor Cuomo and Mayor De Blasio just promised to Amazon is a punch in the gut to New Yorkers like Nathylin Flowers Adesegun, who like me is a member of VOCAL-NY, a grassroots group devoted to creating healthy and just communities. We’re the ones who make this city great, even as we find it harder and harder to live here.   Ms. Flowers, who confronted Mayor De Blasio about our homeless crisis last month, and I joined a hundred real New Yorkers at Amazon’s flagship store in Midtown Manhattan on Monday to raise our voices in protest.

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James Mumm

What Is a Trumpducken?

If you’re like me, you’re doing a lot of cooking and shopping over the holidays. But there is one item that you’re just not going to find anywhere, much less on sale. It’s a Trumpducken. What is a Trumpducken, you ask? A lie wrapped in a blunder wrapped in propaganda? Our democracy in a flaming trash can, sprayed with Trump-branded hair product? George Papadopoulos stuffed into Roger Stone stuffed into Paul Manafort? Paul Ryan stuffed into Mitch McConnell stuffed into Donald Trump? Mike Pence stuffing a Border Wall through a lame-duck Congress for our Gobbler In Chief? Let your imagination fly, even if this bird can’t: the possibilities are endless. But folks, no matter how you cut it, the truth is this turkey is already cooked. Let’s review the facts. Mueller’s probe is closing in on the Oval Office.

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Leo Gerard

Labor’s Challenge to the New Democrats in Congress

In his victory speech on election night, U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb said he would always remember the union members who helped him defeat two Republican incumbents in one year. “Side by side with us at each step of the way were men and women of organized labor. . .  I will never forget that. I will never forget that. Thank you,” he told a cheering crowd overflowing a ballroom at the Hilton DoubleTree, 20 miles north of Pittsburgh. In his first contest last spring, in a district that went for President Donald Trump by nearly 20 points and that had elected a Republican to the House for 15 years, Lamb received massive support in the form of door-knocking and phone banking from members of the labor union I lead, the United Steelworkers, and from several others, including the Service Employees International Union. Lamb recalled that help when he listed his priorities on his website.

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Alex Reeder

Fight Like Hell for the Living on Trans Day Of Remembrance

What does Trans Day of Remembrance mean in a world that appears to be entering an age of heightened fascism? For me, today is a somber reminder that anti-trans violence is killing our people. And that every waking day, that violence could take another life. Today, we honor those we’ve lost and we carry their legacy forward. Today, we practice remembrance not only for our people but the history that is woven through each of their lives. While many people believe that we live in a time where LGBTQ progress has made the most headway, we must remember that many precolonial cultures around the world acknowledged people who one might call transgender or gender nonconforming today. The hijra of India, the muxe of the Zapotec people, the nádleehi of the Navajo people, the ashtime of the Maale people, and the waria of Indonesia.

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Tim Wilkins

Stacey Abrams Goes Deep For Democracy

Stacey Abrams is right not to concede. The Georgia Democrat, who hoped to become the state’s first Black governor, acknowledged that while she will no longer directly challenge Republican Brian Kemp for the office, she will fight as a private citizen to hold him accountable for his efforts to undermine voting rights in the state.   “Concession means an action is right, true, or proper,” Abrams told supporters in a speech on Friday. “As a woman of conscience and faith, I cannot concede that.” Kemp, who until days ago was Georgia’s secretary of state, supervised his own election – an unprecedented affront to democracy, which prompted fellow Georgian and former President Jimmy Carter – who has helped certify transparency in hundreds of elections around the world – to demand that Kemp resign.

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Jeff Bryant

What School Funding Advocates Should Learn From Midterms

One of the big winners in the 2018 midterm elections you may not have heard about is education funding. This may come as news to you – because just as some observers incorrectly concluded last week’s “Blue Wave” was merely a ripple, quick takes on midterm results on important education-related ballot referendums have overlooked important lessons to learn about where and when increased funding for schools can win. First, high-profile ballot initiatives to boost school funding statewide have always had mixed success. This year’s referendums were no exception. The Winners Voters in Georgia overwhelmingly passed a constitutional amendment that allows school district within the same county to put sales and use tax increases for funding public schools on local election ballots.

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Jacqueline Bediako

The Link Between Climate Justice and Police Brutality

Toxic environments, as evidenced by human exposure to dirty water or polluted air, are deadly for everyone. When the police shoot first and fill quotas, they are are also toxic. To connect these dots completely, we must understand how police brutality and toxic environments are inextricable forms of violence that impact communities. Time and time again, we see Black people murdered by a relentless police institution that operates with impunity. In 2017,  Kiwi Herring, a Black transgender woman, was shot and killed by police. Back in 2014, Tamir Rice was 12 years old when he was murdered by a police officer in Ohio. Walter Scott was shot multiple times in the back by a police officer. Trayvon Martin was murdered by the very person who had been entrusted to protect the property of people within his community.

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Sam Pizzigati

The House Has Gone Democratic. Can It Now Go Bold?

Tony Maxwell, a retired African-American naval officer, was trying — without much success — to get his Jacksonville, Florida neighbor to go with him to the mid-term election polls and vote. The young neighbor, a high-school-dropout, had no interest in taking the ride. “Voting,” the young man declared, “doesn’t change anything.” That world-weary attitude suits some Americans — those who sit atop our deeply unequal economy — just fine. These affluents don’t want things to change. They’ve worked too hard to rig a set of structures and policies that keep their wealth safe and growing, at everyone else’s expense. Now Democrats, thanks to the November 6 midterms, have a comfortable working majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.

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Leo Gerard

The Best Way to Get Voters to Vote

The voter turnout last Tuesday was historic – the highest in half a century, nearly half of the eligible electorate participated, an amazing number for a midterm. The United States Election Project estimates turnout at 49.2 percent. How high would it have risen without voter suppression – 55 percent, 60 percent? Who might have won without the strangulation of some voters’ voices? Would Democrat Stacey Abrams have trounced Georgia Republican Brian Kemp, who acted both as candidate for governor and militant for suppression? Like all disenfranchisers, Kemp did everything he could to choose his voters, making sure to disqualify electors likely to support his opponent’s effort to become the state’s first African American woman governor. That’s right. He targeted Black voters. Kemp and his vote-stifling cohorts are upending the goal of a representative democracy.

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Miles Mogulescu

Is Government Of, By, and For the People Over?

“[W]e here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”             –Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address Union dead at Gettysburg, July 6, 1863. Photo credit: Timothy H. O’Sullivan The 2018 Midterm election, the 2016 Presidential election and the confirmation of the lifetime appointment of two extreme right-wing Supreme Court by Senators representing a minority of the people raises the question of whether “government of the people, by the people, for the people” is in the process of perishing, if not from the earth, then from the United States of America.

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Brooke Adams

Students Shake Up Conservative Strongholds In Midterms

Young people are transforming conservative strongholds in this country. Take Iowa, the Midwestern home of Chuck Grassley, the 27-year GOP Senate veteran who got Brett Kavanaugh confirmed to the Supreme Court, and Steve King, the 4th District Congressman who openly espouses white supremacy.   Just a few days ago, all but one of Iowa’s Representatives in Congress were Republicans – and all were men. After Tuesday, Iowa will send three Democrats to Washington – and two are women. Both of these, Cindy Axne and Abby Finkenauer, were elected with the help of Student Action, in a get-out-the-vote campaign completely run and led by Iowa students “Students at Des Moines Area Community College really blew it out of the water to get Cindy in office – we had a lot of conversations with our peers,” said Jack Reardon, a student at DMACC.

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Jeff Bryant

Midwest Midterms Hold Keys to Victory in 2020

Those who speculated that the Democrats’ prospects in the midterm elections would only happen if they won big in the Midwest were prescient. Indeed, it’s hard to make the argument that any semblance of a Democratic Party “wave” would have been possible without key wins in these states. The need for Democrats to prevail in the Midwest was critical to the party’s success. Donald Trump won Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin in 2016 and came close in Minnesota. But a perhaps more important trend in these states had been the Republican dominance down ballot where Republicans controlled both chambers of state legislatures and governors and most of the U.S. House seats in Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Indiana, and Ohio. In the 2018 midterm contests, that trend took a substantial turnaround.

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Robert Borosage

2018 Midterms: Blue Wave, Red Undertow

The 2018 election is blue wave with a harsh red undertow. First, the wave: Democrats took the House, moving towards flipping over 30 seats, took seven gubernatorial races and counting, and made significant gains in down-ballot races –winning over 330 state legislative seats, six state legislatures and breaking 4 GOP supermajorities, with more victories to come. Amanda Estep Burton (L), newly elected Democrat to WV House But the red undertow gives Republicans a larger majority in the Senate – with Republicans consolidating their hold on conservative, largely white and rural states. Transformative Democratic candidates – Gillum in Florida, O-Rourke in Texas – made stunning runs, only to fall short by the smallest of margins. Stacy Abrams’ historic race for governor in Georgia remains too close to call as this is written.

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Xoai Pham

Three Women Remind Us Why Voting Matters

In August, People’s Action held our first-ever Gender Justice Restorative Retreat. This initiative created a space for women and non-binary from all walks of life and all kinds of issue-based campaigns to be together, to celebrate one another, to heal, and to learn collaboratively. Emma Lockridge, Mary Spaulding, and Chloe Lacasse are three organizers and advocates from People’s Action member organizations who attended this retreat, after traveling from across the country. With the most important midterm elections in a generation upon us, I asked each of them why gender justice matters this election. Here’s what they have to say. Emma Lockridge   Emma Lockridge is from Detroit, where she has been fighting the Marathon petroleum refinery, a major source of pollution in Michigan’s most polluted zip code.

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Jesse Davis

We Can Move Mountains When We Organize and Vote

My name is Jesse Davis, and I’m from Madison County, North Carolina – born and raised. I went to Greensboro, UNCG, for college, but I missed my mountains, so now I’m back. And I’m going door to door for Down Home North Carolina to talk with my neighbors about why their votes matter on November 6. I’ve been here my whole life. What really resonates with me about Down Home and their message is that they’re the only group, ever, that came into this community to organize. Every election cycle, groups set up shop right before a vote – they do great work, meaningful work, but then day or two after the elections, they close up shop – they’re done. But DHNC is a year-round organization. Going door to door in Madison has been a learning experience for sure, but it’s been amazing.

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