Workers should never have to choose between their health or the health of their family and economic security. In the last two years, the Center for Popular Democracy and our partners have been instrumental in the passage of paid sick days legislation in both New York and New Jersey, and we’re now thrilled to report on a big state-level victory involving our partner organizations in Vermont!
For more than a decade, a coalition of community and labor organizations has worked on passing a statewide policy for paid sick days. In the spring of 2013, the Vermont Workers' Center (VWC), a partner of the Center for Popular Democracy, was part of an expanded effort with the coalition’s anchor organization, Voices for Vermont's Children (VVC), to demonstrate broad support, collecting stories from men and women facing the challenges of working without paid time, and sharing these stories with the press and with policymakers. Despite the broad public support, the bill only made it out of one committee before dying in the House of Representatives in the spring of 2014.
In 2015, James Haslam, who led the VWC for 15 years, joined a broad range of progressive leaders to found Rights & Democracy (RAD), a newly expanded grassroots organizing effort operating in both Vermont and New Hampshire. RAD was launched in partnership with CPD and the Working Families Party to lead efforts at mass organizing to win legislative fights like paid sick days and other issues to advance economic, social, and environmental justice. In 2015 a new paid sick day bill was introduced and RAD began leading the effort to win, along with VWC and a new Vermont chapter of the Main Street Alliance, which conducted major outreach to bring many new small businesses into the fold as supporters of reform.
RAD organizers and members knocked on thousands of doors all over the state inviting people to sign cards, share stories, and take photos to add their support to the cause. Within a matter of months, the collective work paid off: the Vermont House passed the bill in spring 2015, the Senate passed the bill in February 2016, and Governor Shumlin signed the bill on March 9. Effective January 1, 2017, employers must offer at least three paid sick days for full-time workers.
The VWC is continuing to organize and educate workers to ensure that basic workplace standards are enforced. And looking to build on the momentum of this hard-won victory for Vermont workers, RAD recently launched Raise Up Vermont, a new campaign to raise working standards through legislative reform.
On December 16, Center for Popular Democracy (CPD) allies and partners launched NY Renews, an unprecedented statewide effort to fight for climate policies grounded in equity and justice for working people and their communities. With a kickoff event in New York City gathering over 700 people and a coordinated event in Buffalo attracting hundreds more, the launch received wide press coverage and represented a major step in efforts to push the state into a national leadership role on climate and equity.
The coalition is led by Alliance for a Greater New York (ALIGN), the Center for Working Families, the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance, CPD partners Make the Road New York and New York Communities for Change (NYCC), and dozens of other allies throughout the state.
Together the coalition is advocating for an ambitious climate-justice agenda, which includes: establishing binding state commitments on pollution reduction, clean energy, and energy efficiency; creating clean-energy jobs; focusing existing resources towards vulnerable, impacted, historically disadvantaged, and frontline communities; and ensuring government accountability and action.
NY Renews is rooted in a powerful cross-section of allies, tapping the collective wisdom of the environmental justice and sustainability movements, faith leaders, labor organizers, and other civic organizations. One such leader is NYCC member Rachel Rivera, a Superstorm Sandy survivor. “I lost everything during Sandy and I cannot afford to lose it again, nor can thousands of working families who are just starting to recover,” she said at the launch. “If we do not want another Sandy, New York needs to commit to reducing emissions and set a path to clean energy.”
With an aim to win a statewide, legally enforceable mandate for 100 percent clean energy grounded in equitable policy, the NY Renews campaign presents a major opportunity to work toward collaborative solutions crucial to addressing the climate crisis, while simultaneously building a more just and equitable society.
The New York State Progressive Electeds Network (NSPEN) is a newly formed group of 100 progressive elected officials in New York State committed to equitable policy and transformative legislature. NSPEN is the inaugural state affiliate of the national network Local Progress, and is jointly staffed by New York Working Families, Local Progress, and the Center for Popular Democracy (CPD).
In late February, the network convened for an official launch weekend in Albany, bringing together 80 progressive elected officials. Launch highlights included keynote addresses from Thomas P. DiNapoli, New York State Comptroller; Kathy Sheehan, Mayor of Albany; and congressional candidate Zephyr Teachout. Over the weekend, convention attendants discussed a ten-point policy plan central to their “Vision for New York in 2016,” holding substantive policy discussions within eight breakout sessions on issues including “Reimagining Police and Criminal Justice Systems,” “Preserving and Developing Affordable Housing,” “Empowering and Including Immigrant Communities,” and “Progressive Strategies for Budgeting and Taxation.
Workshops such as “Developing the Next Generation of Progressive Leaders” reflect the group’s emphasis on running a strong, inclusive, and sustainable movement that builds on intergenerational talents and energy. NYSPEN members brainstormed over recruitment strategy for getting activists and organizers into elected office and building up more formal and informal support networks among progressive officials. Within and beyond these goals, the group emphasized a crucial and “deep collaboration with strategic institutions that share common values and are accountable to the communities that they serve."
NYSPEN’s progressive leadership spans the political landscape of New York State—visible in its organizing committee membership, which is made up of: Albany Councilmember Dorcey Applyrs, Westchester County Legislator Catherine Borgia, Brookhaven Councilmember Valerie Cartright, Poughkeepsie Councilmember Tracy Hermann, Freeport Village Trustee Carmen Piñeyro, Croton Village Trustee Brian Pugh, and Rochester Councilmember Molly Clifford.
The Center for Popular Democracy is excited to play a role in this formidable network for change. You can get updates by visiting our website and signing up for the latest alerts on our campaigns.
Read more about NYSPEN and Local Progress.
The Center for Popular Democracy (CPD) and its core partners are moving forward on an ambitious campaign to advocate for large-scale investment in childcare and early education. This agenda has twin goals: providing access, affordability, and quality care to working parents, while ensuring stable, living-wage jobs for workers.
Rooted in state and municipal campaigns, and linked together at the national level with the Center for Community Change, Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the campaigns seek to create a steady drum beat while organizing bases of parents, workers, and providers pushing for greater investment in childcare across the nation.
Childcare has emerged as a core issue within the fight for economic justice, reflecting the urgency of the issue for both working parents and workers in the industry. As wages stagnate, low-wage sectors boom and workers’ schedules shift unpredictably. Low-wage workers face stark challenges: poverty wages, poor conditions, little or no benefits, and a lack of job security. Of the approximately 1.3 million workers in the childcare workforce, 95 percent are women and 34 percent are people of color. Childcare workers, including those in informal settings, make poverty wages—approximately $9.38 per hour, or $19,510 per year.
One model for change was born from the work of CPD core partner Organizing in the Land of Enchantment who, together with AFT, have built a broad coalition of parents, workers, and providers under the banner “People for the Kids (P4K).” On February 10, P4K organized the 1,000 Kid March and mobilized educators, parents, community organizers, union leaders, and legislators in New Mexico to pressure Governor Susana Martinez and the legislature to fund an expansion of the childcare system. The state currently ranks 49th in the nation in child well-being, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s annual Kids Count report.
To learn more about our workers rights campaigns and other economic justice initiatives, visit the Issues page of our website.
The movement for a Fair Workweek is growing! Center for Popular Democracy (CPD) partners, allies, and workers-rights leaders across the country are advocating for policies that provide hardworking moms, dads, and students with schedules they can count on to pay the bills week after week. In February, we launched two exciting campaigns in Seattle, WA, and San Jose, CA.
Working Partnerships USA, a CPD partner, along with core partner AFL-CIO, the South Bay Labor Council, and the Silicon Valley Rising coalition, filed the Opportunity to Work ballot initiative in late January. This groundbreaking initiative targeting the crisis of underemployment in San Jose would guarantee the city’s 64,000 part-time workers the choice to work more hours at their current job if they become available. The rate of part-time workers desiring full-time work in San Jose has risen at least 30 percent from the pre-recession period. Sign up for updates on the Opportunity to Work initiative here, and check out some press coverage on this important work.
Meanwhile, CPD's dynamic partner organization Working Washington, and workers from fast-food chains and businesses like Starbucks, launched their Secure Scheduling campaign, calling on the Seattle City Council to confront the crisis of underemployment, erratic hours, and unhealthy schedules too many Seattle workers must face.
Read more: Workers ask city leaders to help with unstable schedules
In Flint, Michigan, residents pay the highest water rates in the country (an average $140/month) for lead-tainted water unsafe for human consumption. How did this happen? Decades of systemic disinvestment and a law that disenfranchised low-income residents of color, imposing austerity measures with no regard for its impact on the health and welfare of its community members. In Flint– a poor, majority black city–children were poisoned to save money.
Residents are uniting to fight for their community. The Center for Popular Democracy's Director of Training and Leadership Development Art Reyes grew up in Flint. As the crisis unfolded, he returned home to help build Flint Rising, a coalition of community groups working to empower Flint’s struggling communities to take back their city. With the goal of enlisting directly impacted residents to lead the work, volunteers knocked on over 8,000 doors in February. They found community leaders and collected powerful stories along the way that highlighted the desperate needs of marginalized communities.
Many of these recruited leaders traveled to D.C. to attend the House Oversight Committee’s hearing on the crisis. Others raised their voices at the Michigan State Capitol, demanding Governor Snyder fix what he broke. Residents of Flint have also met with presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, relaying their stories and bringing Flint’s water crisis to the forefront of the presidential race. And Flint Rising successfully petitioned Surgeon General Vivek Murthy to meet directly with impacted families, visiting their homes and seeing the impact of this crisis firsthand.
Flint, a city that has been in economic distress for decades, now faces a public health crisis born of shocking negligence and abuse by elected officials. Dealt this further blow, there is nothing else to do but plan for a stronger tomorrow: unite and fight for justice.
If you’d like to donate to Flint Rising, you can contribute here.
The February release of our new report, Community Schools: Transforming Struggling Schools into Thriving Schools, jointly authored by the Center for Popular Democracy (CPD) with the Coalition for Community Schools and Southern Education Foundation, is quickly driving momentum as our partners and education-justice coalitions move the needle on expanding community schools nationwide.
The day after the report’s release, Baltimore City Delegate Mary Washington led a press conference featuring the report alongside her new state community schools bill. Partner organizations Maryland Communities United and CASA, along with the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools (AROS), worked with the delegate on the language of the bill—the first in the country to embed funding specifically for community school planning, site coordinators, and after-school programming into state funding.
A week later, upwards of 40,000 people across 33 cities participated in school walk-ins, an action organized by AROS to demand the “Schools Our Children Deserve.”
After being pushed by Action United to make 25 new community schools a central promise of his campaign last year, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney unveiled ambitious plans to open a community schools office within the city government to make good on this promise. Action United, with Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools (PCAPS), are in meetings with the new director and her staff to review the cornerstone six-pillar community schools strategy of the CPD report, advocating for restorative justice, authentic parent engagement, and a student-centered curriculum.
In Los Angeles, Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) used this new report to buttress their argument that teachers and parents working together in neighborhood community public schools are the solution to what ails children in our poorest communities, not corporate moguls who want to turn LA’s schools over to unaccountable charter operators. The report spotlights a model community school in San Fernando Valley, a fact reported by the Oakland-based Ed Source, who wrote a summary of the report’s findings and recommendations.
Read the full report here
This month in Maryland we won a hard-fought victory to restore the vote for ex-offenders reintegrating into their communities.
The Maryland General Assembly successfully overrode Maryland Governor Larry Hogan’s veto and restored the voting rights of over 40,000 Maryland citizens, previously barred from voting because they are on probation or parole. The law will go into effect on March 10, and ex-offenders will be able to register and vote in Maryland’s local, state, and federal primaries in April.
The Center for Popular Democracy (CPD) and partner organization Maryland Communities United, organized a diverse coalition of grassroots organizations, reentry organizations, labor, progressive government groups, faith leaders, and other allies to help pass the legislation during the last legislative session. When Governor Hogan vetoed the legislation, the coalition organized to override the decision.
It took grassroots mobilization, citizen lobbying, savvy press and digital outreach strategies, and the pressure of state and national partners to persuade the Maryland General Assembly to bring the override vote and to eventually get the 29 votes in the Senate and 85 votes in the House to win an override.
While this was a huge victory for democracy, our work isn’t done. Now we go to work to engage, register, and turn out the vote of our newly enfranchised sisters and brothers in Baltimore and around the state of Maryland.
This is just the beginning of the long fight to expand our democracy. With nearly six million Americans locked out of the democratic process because of a prior criminal conviction, CPD will be working with state partners across the country to follow Maryland’s lead and restore their right to vote.
The Fed Up coalition, organized by the Center for Democracy (CPD) and made up of over 70 community-based organizations, nonprofits, and unions advocating for a strong economy, brought the campaign to the nation’s capital earlier this month, transforming a series of Congressional hearings dominated by right-wing critiques of the Fed into a conversation about race and inequality in America.
The coalition brought 80 representatives to the House and Senate’s “Humphrey-Hawkins” hearings, where 12 House representatives and four senators publicly commended the coalition and pressed Fed Chair Janet Yellen to answer for the continued lack of economic recovery in Black and Latino communities as well as the Fed’s failure to adequately represent the public interest. (You can read our compilation of their questions and comments here.)
These 16 members of Congress were enlisted by the directed efforts of Fed Up coalition leaders, a strategy that paid off. That day the Washington Post reported on the “confrontational” nature of the queries: “Republicans have long fought to rein in the Fed’s powers, but even Democrats proved combative Wednesday, with several accusing the central bank of ignoring the plight of minority workers. ‘We have got to get the Fed to get off the dime and put the issue of African-American unemployment on the front burner,’ said Rep. David Scott (D-Ga.).”
CPD was joined by a broad array of Fed Up coalition partners, including Communities Creating Opportunity (MO), SPACEs DC (a new CPD core partner that joined the campaign this year), and CPD core partners Make the Road New York, New York Communities for Change, Action United (PA), Neighborhoods Organizing for Change (MN), RiseUp Georgia, Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment, and Sunflower Community Action (KS).
Earlier in February, CPD released a report with Fed Up coalition partners outlining how the Federal Reserve’s leadership structure is skewed in favor of major corporate and financial interests. This profoundly undemocratic system delivers economic policy that privileges the concerns of the wealthy over the welfare of low-income communities, historically and disproportionately affecting people of color. The findings of the report,“To Represent the Public”: The Federal Reserve’s Continued Failure to Represent the American People, were featured in a major Wall Street Journal article and summarized in CPD’s op-ed in The Hill.
“To Represent the Public” shows that the Fed’s December decision to raise interest rates—which reduces aggregate demand, slows job creation, undercuts workers’ bargaining power, and leads to lower wages—was the result of leadership dominated by bank executives who profit from higher interest rates and corporate executives who profit from lower labor costs.
Today in Maryland we won a hard-fought victory to restore the vote for ex-offenders reintegrating into their communities.
This morning, the Maryland General Assembly successfully overrode Maryland Governor Larry Hogan’s veto and restored the voting rights of over 40,000 Maryland citizens previously barred from voting because they are on probation or parole. The law will go into effect on March 10, 2016 and ex-offenders will be able to register and vote in Maryland’s local, state and federal primaries in April.
The Center for Popular Democracy and our partner, Maryland Communities United, organized a diverse coalition of grassroots organizations, reentry organizations, labor, good government groups, faith leaders and others to help pass the legislation last session. Then, when Governor Hogan vetoed the legislation, the coalition organized the support to override his veto.
It took grassroots mobilization, citizen lobbying, smart press and digital strategies, and the pressure of state and national partners to persuade the Maryland General Assembly to bring the override vote and to get the 29 votes in the Senate and 85 votes in the House to win an override.
While today is a huge victory for democracy, our work isn’t done. Now we go to work to engage, register and turn out the vote of our newly enfranchised sisters and brothers in Baltimore and around the state of Maryland.
This is just the beginning of the long fight to expand our democracy. With nearly 5.8 million Americans locked out of the democratic process because of a prior criminal conviction, CPD will be working with state partners across the country to follow Maryland’s lead and restore the right to vote in their communities.
Thank you for standing with us in our pursuit of a more popular democracy.