News

The family leave shell game, with Ellen Bravo


Donald Trump’s budget slashes social programs to the bone, if not outright eliminating them. Yet he’s followed up–sort of–on a campaign-trail promise, credited to his daughter Ivanka, of providing paid family leave. Yet longtime labor organizer and family policy campaigner Ellen Bravo says the proposal isn’t worth much to anyone but the wealthiest people, and is designed to create still more cuts.

I have been thinking a lot about shell games. In order to win a shell game, the person has to get your eyes on one shell while they are manipulating the others. That is what this budget is. They are hoping that by naming “paid leave” we won’t notice that they are slashing and destroying everything from Medicaid to food stamps to childcare to disability payments, etc.
Secondly, the paid leave itself, they call it paid family leave, but of course it is paid parental leave. It doesn’t deliver even for parents. The problem is it is relying on an unsustainable funding source, state unemployment insurance. They are already grossly underfunded and leave out large numbers of people. The states will get to set the eligibility and amount of payment for your benefit and it is only for six weeks. So too little time for too little money for too few people. It is going to be another shell game to say that the money will come from reducing fraud in unemployment insurance, which is greatly exaggerated as a problem. Essentially it will mean that states will have to cut unemployment benefits to laid off workers in order to have money for the parental leave and of course it’s the same people. There will be someone who needs one and later the other or their partner. Then, they get to decide who qualifies. So, if you are an unmarried couple, same sex couple, adoptive parents, how do you get certified, who gets to be considered legitimate?

Up at the Baffler.

Up at Truthout.

Up at In These Times.

Interviews for Resistance is a syndicated series of interviews with organizers, agitators and troublemakers, available twice weekly as text and podcast. You can now subscribe on iTunes! Previous interviews here.

News

The optics of education, with Elijah Armstrong

Betsy DeVos and Paul Ryan were both greeted with protests last week when they visited educational institutions; DeVos at historically black Bethune-Cookman University, and Paul Ryan at Harlem Success Academy, a charter school in New York. Education organizer Elijah Armstrong explains what the two have to do with one another, and why, even when education policy isn’t at the top of our lists of things being affected by Trump, it is always there.

EA: To me, education is always there. Now, whether it is talked about in a way where folks can see the direct connections, that is different. But, it is very prevalent in all things. Even with the healthcare piece. Most of the folks that need healthcare also go to schools that are 95% or 100% Title I schools, in highly impoverished areas that are all kind of pushed together in one area so they are all completely underfunded. Those kids, their parents, their families are the ones that are suffering the most from also this healthcare piece. It is just like how now in the school system where they can do re-zoning and make sure all these schools are supplemented with enough resources for them to be sustainable, but they purposely make sure that these schools are highly concentrated with poverty and then those are the schools that are always subject to low test scores and the schools that need to be improved and things like that. But, if these kids don’t have the resources, you are literally stripping them of their resources that they need and then calling them failures and saying it is their fault. The same way that they are stripped and they don’t have the services that they need, it is the same thing that is happening with healthcare. The folks that are the most affected, those students go to those schools, they come from those areas.

Up at The Progressive.

Up at The Baffler.

Up at Truthout.

Up at In These Times.

Interviews for Resistance is a syndicated series of interviews with organizers, agitators and troublemakers, available twice weekly as text and podcast. You can now subscribe on iTunes! Previous interviews here.

News

Bird-dogging for healthcare, with Jennifer Flynn


The House has passed “Trumpcare,” and the Senate has taken it up. But congressmembers are already feeling the heat at home, and Jennifer Flynn is out to ratchet that heat up. A longtime organizer on issues of healthcare and HIV/AIDS, she explains what “bird-dogging” is and how and why it works.

JF: Some people actually believed that Trump might win. People had already started talking about how vulnerable the Affordable Care Act was. The House had voted sixty times to undo it unsuccessfully. We knew that this was coming and something that he said he would do on Day One. We also knew that if we could slow down this fight and if we could build a resistance based on this fight, that would only help every other issue that is part of the Trump agenda.

A couple of days after the election, a colleague of mine from the AIDS world—we actually worked together in an organization that came out of an effort of bird-dogging, of following around elected officials back in the late 1990s. We worked together in this organization that was really known for bird-dogging, particularly during the presidential candidates, when they would go around to Iowa and New Hampshire. So, we had done that work all along. We had been on the campaign trail following Trump so we actually could witness first-hand how popular he was in certain parts of the country.

My colleague sent out an email just on two listservs. These kind of listservs that sprung up the night of the election where thousands of people joined immediately because we were all so desperate for something to do in a community, to commiserate with. He said, “I don’t really know what to do in this time.” My colleague, by the way, is named Paul Davis. He now works at Housing Works. He said, “I don’t really know what to do at this time, but the one thing I have done in the past that was very effective under previous Republican administrations, particularly under the Bush Jr. administration, is that we would do this very targeted bird-dogging campaign where we would not let any elected official off the hook and just repeatedly ask them questions and through our question-asking move them, get that different answer each time. We are actually moving them from being strongly opposed to our view to being closer to our side.” He said, “So, if you can get fifteen people and a space, I will come out and do a training.”

He just thought a bunch of people where he lived or he is close to, some place where he could get to easily with sign up and he would go and do a couple of trainings. Within three days, he had thirty-two cities scheduled.

Up at The Progressive.

Up at The Baffler.

Up at Truthout.

Up at In These Times.

Interviews for Resistance is a syndicated series of interviews with organizers, agitators and troublemakers, available twice weekly as text and podcast. You can now subscribe on iTunes! Previous interviews here.

News

No Muslim Ban, Not Ever, with Murad Awawdeh


Donald Trump’s centerpiece policy, his Muslim travel ban, is back in court and protesters are back in the streets. Murad Awawdeh and the New York Immigration Coalition have been planning strategies for resistance since before the election, and that groundwork has allowed them to be ready for the fight.

The work prior to Election Day was planned out for us well in advance of the election. We had a “What if Hillary Clinton Wins?” and “What if Donald Trump Wins?” At first people thought we were crazy for doing scenario-planning for both, because everyone thought it was clear who was going to win. Just erring on the side of caution, we decided that it was really important that we do that. Prior to the election, we were looking at “What can real immigration reform at the federal level look like?” and “How do we revive those thoughts in a way where we are providing 11 million undocumented people a pathway to citizenship and to status in the United States?”

The reality was that whoever won, it was going to be a difficult fight. It is just a different fight now. As opposed to just thinking about “What is that pathway?” now we have to think about this large scale enforcement apparatus that is being created, that is building off of the huge enforcement apparatus that President Obama already had in place. With Donald Trump being elected, we dusted off our “What if Donald Trump Wins?” scenario plan and started to spruce it up. Then, shortly after that, we kicked off our This is Our New York campaign, which really was to illustrate the values of New York and how immigrants have been the backbone and the foundation of building this great state.

….

We have been able to build up our resistance movement built on people from all walks of life coming together to say “This is not right. This goes against who we are.” You can see through the actions that we have done at JFK when the Muslim ban came down, where 5-10,000 people showed up in a span of four hours. The next day we had a march from Battery Park, which overlooks the Statue of Liberty and marched straight to the DHS building at 26 Federal Plaza in New York City and over 30,000 people showed up to that. After that, we had about twenty other events that drew thousands of people consecutively. It became this huge resistance force on the ground. And not only on the ground, but in the courts and providing people with the legal assistance that they needed for free. That was something where we were able to demonstrate as an organization our ability to really put pressure on the streets, but also provide the legal expertise that was needed at that point to help people get out of the situation they were in when they were stuck in JFK.

Up at Truthout.

Up at The Baffler.

Interviews for Resistance is a syndicated series of interviews with organizers, agitators and troublemakers, available twice weekly as text and podcast. You can now subscribe on iTunes! Previous interviews here.

News

Halting the healthcare apocalypse, with Adam Gaffney


After one failed attempt to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act, the Republicans managed, by one vote, to pass another version of what’s being called “Trumpcare” through the House of Representatives largely by pushing it through before anyone had gotten a chance to look at it closely. But any bill before this deeply divided Congress faces an uphill battle, and particularly this one. Physician and universal-healthcare advocate Adam Gaffney joins us to explain what is in the bill, what its chances of passing are, how we got here, and how we stop 24 million people from losing their health insurance in favor of tax cuts for the rich.

AG: I think that there is a realization on the part of many moderates in the House—so-called “moderates”–that this is an ugly, unpopular bill. The last poll I saw was the one that was being cited around the time of Version 1.0, if you recall, that showed 17% support for Trumpcare. That is a dismal level of support.

Part of that is because, let’s remember what Trump actually campaigned on. His healthcare promises were vague, but they aren’t what he is doing now. He said he wasn’t going to cut Medicaid. He said he wasn’t going to cut Medicare. He basically promised more healthcare for everybody. So, every time people sort of chuckle and say, “Oh, I can’t wait to see the Trump voters get what they voted for” on the one hand, I think that is really nasty and is not how we should be approaching politics. On the other hand – and you can fault them for being poorly informed – but, Trump did promise something different. He promised more healthcare, not less. This is just less healthcare. It is really a quantitative switch on healthcare spending. It is less money going into the healthcare safety net and more money going into the pockets of high income people and healthcare companies.

Up at Truthout.

Up at In These Times.

Up at The Baffler.

Up at The Progressive.

Up at Moyers & Company.

Interviews for Resistance is a syndicated series of interviews with organizers, agitators and troublemakers, available twice weekly as text and podcast. You can now subscribe on iTunes! Previous interviews here.

News

Fighting Wall Street for Racial Justice, with Saqib Bhatti and Maurice Weeks

There have been a lot of debates recently about Wall Street and its role in fights for racial justice. For Saqib Bhatti and Maurice Weeks, co-founders of a new organization, the Action Center for Race and the Economy, understanding and combating the power of finance is an indispensable part of the struggle for both racial and economic justice, fights that cannot be separated out from one another.

MW: To me, the Trump administration is actually a perfect example of the demonstration of our analysis. On the one hand, you have a group of people who are just outright racist, who are just pushing forward the most hateful, xenophobic ideas that you could possible imagine. And on the other side, you have this group of people who are some of the economic justice targets that we have been fighting for the past ten or twenty years. Folks from Goldman Sachs, Steven Mnuchin, and that whole bunch.

In our analysis it makes a lot of sense that those two camps of people came together. There is a wealth extraction plan that they are pushing forward and the tool to do it is the racist hate language. Blaming the problems of the economy onto Black and Latino, brown folks and whoever else they can blame. It makes perfect sense that those two things are together and it is a really important calling for us to focus on race as a central piece of the work that we are doing. Because, if we don’t, it can be used as a tool against us.

SB: I would add that one of the original sins of the Democratic party going into the 2016 election was the failure of the last administration and the supermajorities in Congress to actually offer meaningful relief to struggling families in the aftermath of the financial crisis. The focus was on “How do we make sure that we can keep the financial system afloat?” and they left working families, struggling families behind.

One of the things that really is important about that is that one of the ways in which Wall Street ensured that they were able to push through their agenda was by racializing the issue. It was that the home owners who were facing foreclosure, they are irresponsible Black and Latino families who got into loans they couldn’t afford and so they didn’t deserve help. The reality is, we know, that Black and Latino families were actually targeted with predatory mortgages.

But, the other side of that, though, is that while it is true that Black and Latino families are disproportionately the people who impacted by the foreclosure crisis, in raw numbers it was a lot more poor white folks who were foreclosed on because there are a lot more poor white folks in the country than there are poor Black and Latino families.

The “white working class,” they very much were impacted by the same pro-Wall Street policies that were justified by scapegoating people of color. What is interesting now, of course, you had Donald Trump who really appealed to a lot of folks who felt left behind by the Democratic Party by saying the system is rigged. He wasn’t wrong that “The system is rigged.” It was rigged. Of course, it was rigged by the very people that he has put in his cabinet. So, it is this vicious cycle. As Maurice said, this is the perfect example of how race and class and racial and economic analysis go hand in hand and come together to give us the moment that we are in now.

Up at Truthout.

Up at In These Times.

Up at The Progressive.

Up at Moyers & Company.

Interviews for Resistance is a syndicated series of interviews with organizers, agitators and troublemakers, available twice weekly as text and podcast. You can now subscribe on iTunes! Previous interviews here.

 

News

“We will use our non-cooperation,” with Gloribell Mota


May 1, 2006 was the famous “Day Without an Immigrant,” harking back to May Day’s radical immigrant labor history in the U.S. and successfully stopping a vicious anti-immigrant bill in Congress. Today, as an administration that rode anti-immigrant fervor into the White House cracks down on communities, people across the country are joining a one-day general strike for justice and equity. Movimiento Cosecha has been at the heart of the organizing for the strike, and has held several actions in the lead-up to today’s actions. Gloribell Mota of Cosecha Boston tells us about it.

Cosecha movement is a non-violent movement that is looking to the respect and dignity and getting permanent protection for eleven million undocumented in this country. Since the beginning of this year, we have been asking for a strike for May 1st. We are really asking for a one week strike if that needs be to show our economic power. During these months we have been trying to illustrate our message, what we are asking for, what we are asking for May 1st, and what we saw February 16th organically come up from the community. Basically, that they are ready and that we have to follow their lead and provide that support.

A lot of allies, organizers, clergy members, youth, individuals, former undocumented came together for this Monday action to stand against what we feel is not moral and as well to make sure that those that are detained and those that are practicing their first right and speaking up against anti-immigrant rhetoric, that we stand with them and that we are resisting any deportations, detention, and unjust proceedings that we also saw in Lawrence where people were going to their court hearings and automatically were not even allowed to do the process and were detained. Something that was not a practice [previously]. I think this action that we just did was to go to the detention center and particularly ask Suffolk County that represents Boston and Chelsea, both cities that the mayor and the local body has said are sanctuary to no longer serve as a detention center for the state.

Up at The Baffler.

Up at Truthout.

Up at In These Times.

Up at The Progressive.

Interviews for Resistance is a syndicated series of interviews with organizers, agitators and troublemakers, available twice weekly as text and podcast. You can now subscribe on iTunes! Previous interviews here.

News

Thinking in systems, with Maria Poblet


Maria Poblet has spent eighteen years organizing in the Bay Area with community group Causa Justa Just Cause, and the political moment we’re in now, she says, is different than anything she’s ever seen. The threats are bigger, but the opportunities for talking about deep change, systemic change, are greater than they have ever been. The question, she notes, is what do we do with this moment? We talk about building organizations that express the whole of one’s political commitment, and much more.

I think there is a danger when you have been in community organizing in grassroots communities that have been marginalized for a long time to say to everybody else, “Well, where have you been all this time?” That is a completely understandable emotional response, but politically…politically, it is a huge opportunity to say, “These are problems that you never even knew were problems. We have been fighting to resolve these problems for twenty years, thirty years, forty years. Come along. Let’s tell you what we have learned so far. You tell us what you have to contribute.” It is a different posture of leadership which our movements need to take on at this point. It is a time of polarization. Neither of the established parties are really going to offer anything to everyday people. It is a time for social movements to lead.
A lot of people and organizations who sort of believe that things were generally working turned around in this moment and said, “Wait a minute. It doesn’t seem like things are working and you guys have been saying this this whole time. So, what should I do?” It is a very interesting moment. Part of what we did in response was to, with a lot of other organizations, help start Bay Resistance which is—I think now we are fifty organizations building a network of individuals who aren’t part of our base. They aren’t service workers in SEIU. They aren’t Black and Latino families fighting displacement at Causa Justa. They aren’t Asians fighting pollution in Richmond that are in the Asian Pacific Environmental Network. They are people that haven’t joined organizations before and they want to take action now.

Up at Truthout.

Up at In These Times.

Up at The Progressive.

Interviews for Resistance is a syndicated series of interviews with organizers, agitators and troublemakers, available twice weekly as text and podcast. You can now subscribe on iTunes! Previous interviews here.

News

Striking against fear, with Alejandra Valles


As we count down to May 1st and communities plan for a general strike, immigrant workers and their allies are also reaching out and making connections across state and even national borders. The Caravan Against Fear/Caravana contral el miedo, organized by a coalition of labor and community organizations in the U.S. and Mexico, has been crisscrossing the Southwest, joining actions in each city and town it visits. Alejandra Valles of the Service Employees International Union–United Service Workers West is one of the organizers of that caravan, and she spoke with me about the trip, the work of fighting fear, and why May Day might even be bigger than the Women’s March.

I think it is incredibly important for all of the labor movement to be involved in this fight. We have seen a fight around issues of class and wages and benefits for workers, but the issues of racial justice of BlackLivesMatter or immigration justice of environmental justice are really at the forefront of our members’ lives every single day. Before they are a worker, they are an immigrant. Before they are a worker, they are a black human being. Before they are a worker, they are a mom and dad and friend and a sister and a daughter. We just decided that we needed to take this on. The caravan itself is incredibly diverse. It is built of people, of African Americans who have been criminalized for decades and know what it is like to be discriminated against and killed and disproportionately impacted because of the color of their skin, but it is also built of a lot of immigrant women who also know what it is like to be marginalized and to be discriminated against and exploited because of their immigration status and because they don’t speak English in this country.

We really felt strongly that we need to resist at every level. Our employers need to resist when ICE comes knocking at their doors. Our community needs to resist and rise up the way we have in other moments, like 2006. Our congressmen and assemblywomen and men have to resist, as well. We said, “We have to break through this paralysis of fear that Trump is using to try to keep us from doing anything and to try to keep us scared of our own shadows and living in this underground economy.” But, at the same time, we have also seen him targeting people of color, starting to publish lists, and really criminalizing us in a lot of different ways. That is what we are out here doing. We are telling all the community, we are telling young kids, “There is nothing wrong with us. We are hardworking people. We help make this economy work and we are going to stand up for our rights” and hoping that the rest of the country and the world will follow.

Up at In These Times.

Up at The Baffler.

Up at Truthout.

Up at Moyers & Company.

Interviews for Resistance is a syndicated series of interviews with organizers, agitators and troublemakers, available twice weekly as text and podcast. You can now subscribe on iTunes! Previous interviews here.

News

Beating “Government Sachs” and the plutocrats, with Renata Pumarol


As a recent article by David Dayen noted, “President Bannon is dead, long live President Cohn.” In other words, Gary Cohn of Goldman Sachs is now steering the leaky ship that is the Trump administration, and that means one thing: capital is in charge. The folks at New York Communities for Change have been driving home the point for a while, though, that “Government Sachs” has been in charge of both parties for quite some time, and what might seem to be a shift for Trump has always been more or less inevitable. Renata Pumarol of NYCC joined me to talk about their latest action at Goldman’s NY headquarters, its connection to the Tax March last weekend, and looking ahead to May Day.

We haven’t, personally, heard of [more people who voted for Trump and turned on him.]
To me, that is our main goal. I hope that we continue to hear from them as we continue to organize with MH Action, which is an organization doing amazing work organizing mobile home communities that are predominately white working class. I do hope that they continue to see the sham populism that was sold to them by Donald Trump. That really is the main objective of going after Goldman Sachs and going more on the offense, because we do see this as a weak point in the Trump administration. He ran under this fake populism promising to get rid of Goldman and the 1% while doing the complete opposite. Not only do we now have Goldman with tremendous power, but they have more power than ever.
I think this is going to be neoliberalism on steroids. They are starting very quickly to implement this, to run an economy that is going to give massive tax breaks to corporations. Goldman, as you can see, immediately after Trump was inaugurated, their stock doubled. It is doing tremendously well. This is what you are going to see. The top people, the most powerful, the richest people doing very well, while they continue to cut services, slash services to the most vulnerable.

Up at In These Times.
Up at Truthout.

Interviews for Resistance is a syndicated series of interviews with organizers, agitators and troublemakers, available twice weekly as text and podcast. You can now subscribe on iTunes! Previous interviews here.