News

Beyond the Clean Power Plan to real power, with Jordan Estevao

Donald Trump wants to destroy the planet–that’s often how it feels, but never more than when he’s dismantling protections against the ravages of climate change. On Tuesday Trump’s latest executive order dropped, opting out of the Clean Power Plan and removing other regulations designed to mitigate against climate crisis. Trump did so with a group of coal miners at his back, but his plan actually will do little to help those coal miners. I spoke with Jordan Estevao of People’s Action, a network of community organizations with a climate justice program that comes out of its organizing in directly-affected communities.

There are multiple states that had no plans to comply anyway. Actually, since last summer it has kind of been in limbo, the regulation, because as Antonin Scalia’s final act as a Supreme Court Justice he and the Court issued a stay on the order, which has left the states that wanted to keep on complying on track and some states waiting to see what happens. But, there is still lots of potential to win good policies. Our Illinois affiliates, Illinois People’s Action and Fair Economy Illinois, just recently passed the Illinois Future Energy Jobs Act which is going to double Illinois’ renewable energy production. It is going to invest between $500 and $750 million in low income communities for energy efficiency, renewable energy, job training, so that low-income people can get into that kind of work, and so on.

I think what a lot of folks on the right and in the Trump administration are missing is that the transition to clean energy, to energy efficiency actually could be a huge economic driver and a way to revitalize our economy, especially since the coal industry is already going under. It is already being undercut by fracking and low oil prices. Coal companies have been going bankrupt at a really high clip with no end in sight. He is not going to bring those jobs back. There is no bringing them back. What we do need to do is figure out where we can invest so that we can start to rebuild an economy that actually puts people to work and also is good for our environment and slows climate change.

Up at In These Times.

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

Running the movement for office, with khalid kamau


In the wake of the massive political shake-up that was the 2016 election, khalid kamau, a Bernie Sanders supporter and local movement activist, makes the argument that change has to come from below, not from the election of one leader to the top office. Accordingly, he’s running for local office, in the newly-incorporated city of South Fulton, Georgia, part of the greater Atlanta metropolitan area. A member of Democratic Socialists of America, a union activist, and an early part of BlackLivesMatter Atlanta, kamau argues for bringing the message of democratic socialism to a Southern, majority-African-American city.

I think the thing that is most powerful about this race, or even my campaign, is that I love Bernie, but I think where his campaign failed – I don’t think this is a personal failure of Bernie, but perhaps of the people that were around him and advising that campaign – is that there wasn’t enough attention paid to people of color. I am not sure that people of color who were in that campaign were listened to the way they should have been. Bernie didn’t make—he made a very excellent class argument. I think it is implied that people of color are more disproportionately affected by class disparities than whites. I think there was an assumption that people of color would understand that and would understand that the arguments that he was making about class and equality were implicitly also arguments about racial inequality.

I think that, frankly, because Bernie was an old white man, black folks, people of color, did not implicitly get that he was speaking to them. I did think he was speaking to them, but I am not sure everyone else did. One of the things that the progressive movement is going to have to do is find leaders of color and candidates of color to carry this message. When I speak about it, rightly or wrongly, when I am talking about income equality and when I am talking about working class families, the black and brown audiences that I speak to do implicitly get that I am speaking to them and that I am speaking for them and that I am speaking about them. I don’t necessarily go around making a lot of racial arguments. I think that my bona fides of BlackLivesMatter speak volumes about my own racial politics and that I can make these arguments of class and people of color get, because this city is 89% African-American and because I am African-American, people know that I am talking about them.

Up at Truthout.

Up at The Baffler.

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

Rich man’s war, poor man’s fight, with Rory Fanning

Donald Trump’s budget slashes social programs while inflating an already-massive military budget, meaning that for many people in already-underserved and underemployed communities, the military will be the closest thing to a welfare state they have. Rory Fanning is a veteran and conscientious objector, author of the book Worth Fighting For: An Army Ranger’s Journey Out of the Military and Across America, and his work centers on opposing U.S. militarism at home. He is also the co-author, with Craig Hodges, of the new book Long Shot: The Triumphs and Struggles of an NBA Freedom Fighter. We spoke about opposing Trump’s military buildup, the roles that veterans and athletes can play in movements for change, and the long tradition of imperialism in the U.S.

Recognize that people do the best with the information they have access to and most people think that the U.S. is fighting for freedom and democracy around the world and they sign up with very good intentions. I think a lot of people are disillusioned by what they actually see when they are overseas. One of the things I say when I actually do have a chance to talk to high school students here in Chicago, because it is very difficult, is just, “Thank you for allowing me to do it.” There is very little space for veterans to come back and tell their stories. There is a lot of patting on the back at sporting events and concerts and whatnot, but as far as actual space to hear the realities of war, there are next to none. Unless you have a very positive take on the last fifteen years, people don’t ask you to talk.

Up at The Baffler.

Up at Truthout.

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

Beating Trump’s budget, with Mark Price


When Donald Trump’s first partial budget proposal dropped, the Internet let out a collective howl at the size of the cuts and changes to beloved social programs. One of the results of Trump’s election has been new interest in the workings of government normally ignored by people who aren’t elected members of Congress, and so to help with that process, labor economist Mark Price joins us to talk about the budgeting process and where ordinary people have the power to disrupt it.

Basically, the president puts forward his initial budget and it now falls to Congress to hold hearings in the various committees on the president’s priorities and then form its own budget resolution. I think that points to where people can have an impact, because it is ultimately going to be the decisions that our Congressional representatives and Senators make in that next step of the budget process. They are going to be heavily influential in teasing out how much of the president’s priorities in each of these areas end up becoming law.
The president has put forward his initial proposal. As the name of the budget implies, it is skinny and both deep cuts to non-discretionary spending, but also he didn’t do a big chunk of his job which is essentially talking about the other parts of the budget. Perhaps those will be coming forward, but we have until April for Congress to step forward and put forward its own budget resolution, its own priorities and spending in each of the areas that the president had proposed.
One of the things that I am seeing, at least, is a lot of energy. People are energized particularly around healthcare. They are trying to reach out to their representatives. I live in a relatively small rural community and people are showing up at town hall meetings and giving their representatives an earful on these various priorities, like heating assistance for low income folks, Meals on Wheels. If people were to show up at town hall meetings to reach out to their members of Congress and let them know that they care about these programs, that will probably go a long way. That would probably have a great effect, certainly more than in past years.

Up at Truthout.

Up at In These Times.

Up at The Baffler.

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

Native Nations Rising with Kandi Mossett


Last Friday, March 10 was the Native Nations Rising march and gathering in Washington, D.C., a coming together of water protectors and indigenous leaders and organizers from around the country. They gathered to remind the Trump administration that they were not going away and that the struggle to stop the pipelines, the “black snake,” would continue. But, says Kandi Mossett of the Indigenous Environmental Network, the gathering also allowed people to come together to refresh connections and to plan for the next steps.

I feel like it was a great success and it led people to work on all the other pipeline sites, because we do have Keystone XL back on because of Donald Trump. There are already camps. There is a camp in South Dakota already near the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. They are fighting, again, the same way they did before because the Dakota Access Pipeline encampment, all of that was a result of the success we had with Keystone XL. Now, all the people are going back to Keystone XL to continue to fight that. But there are people going to the Two Rivers Camp in Texas to fight against the Trans Pecos Pipeline which is the same company, Energy Transfer Partners. To continue to the Dakota Access Pipeline fight, a lot of people are going to Louisiana where a camp is being set up against the Bayou Bridge Pipeline. The Bayou Bridge Pipeline is the one that will connect to the Dakota Access Pipeline in Illinois so that the oil can continue to go down to Port Arthur, Texas where it will be refined and then shipped to foreign markets. It is all part of the same project. A lot of people didn’t understand that until they went to D.C. and saw the different information and made that connection that we need to continue to fight.
It is so much bigger than Standing Rock and one pipeline. In addition to that, we are arranging toxic tours and having people come to North Dakota to see the Bakken and the shale oil formation so that they can see where the oil is coming from and to help push more bans and moratoriums on fracking.

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. Previous interviews here.

News

Feminist organizing in Pence country, with Megha Anwer & Melissa Gruver

Lafayette, Indiana organizers are used to struggling with a repressive administration–they’ve dealt with successive governors who want to crack down on labor rights and women’s rights. Mike Pence, they note, was behind in the polls for re-election because of the work they had done to defeat him when he was swept up into the Trump campaign and ultimately the vice-presidency. Now “Pence country is spreading” and their organizing is getting correspondingly broader. The March 8 Women’s Strike offered them an opportunity to connect to a growing national movement.

Melissa Gruver: Our letter mentions that we are striking to reflect on the work that women have done throughout history to labor for us all. Then, to reflect on: What is our next move going forward? I think a lot of those conversations will happen here, even as we are kind of tugging away. Hearing people talk about the Affordable Care Act and sharing their own stories with that. I believe in the power of storytelling and counter-storytelling where people can connect with one another over that and raise their consciousness.

But also, for Younger Women’s Task Force, this is a really good opportunity to continue to build our base and to continue to have conversations about our own campaigns moving forward; which, right now, we have been focusing a lot on reproductive justice and sexual violence against women with an anti-racist framework. Younger Women’s Task Force is really thinking right now about strategic ways to continue to build our organization as it relates to working class women. For us, this was a really great way to connect with some people that maybe we have seen a couple of different times before–you are always thinking, “Hey, we will see you at the next meeting.”

We know that every time we do a public action like this, we gain more folks. Then, with more folks, we can strategize our organizing in the future. We are really focused on our work with Indiana Reproductive Justice Coalition right now, but we really want to make sure we are thinking about and looking to see where working class women are affected in our own local communities and our state.

Up at Truthout.

Up at In These Times.

Up at The Baffler.

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. Previous interviews here.

News

Fighting for healthcare under proto-Trump, with Cait Vaughan


The GOP dropped its “healthcare” plan this week, which seems to have pleased neither the right nor, obviously, the left. But organizers on the ground have been seeing the holes in the Affordable Care Act for years, as Cait Vaughan of the Southern Maine Workers Center notes. To move forward, simply defending the ACA won’t be enough, without understanding the human need (particularly in the time of the opioid crisis) and the ways in which the system has left many out.

The single payer movement has been around for a long, long time. There have always been people calling for a universal health program in this country. What the Healthcare is a Human Right campaign does differently, by using a human rights framework and by using not just a legislative strategy or even a ballot initiative strategy, we are trying to do true base-building that actually engages people around “What are your rights? Do you know them? Do you claim them?” Then, “Do you demand a different life based on knowing that you have human rights?”
Some single payer folks are really scared of that model. We have gotten pushback saying, “That is too bold a model. That is going to alienate the average person.” What they mean by the “average person” is probably a conservative white person who maybe doesn’t have a lot of money and maybe doesn’t have a lot of education. They are afraid that it alienates those people by saying “human rights.” What I have found is it is the opposite. For me, if I go up to someone and I just shove a policy solution at them and say, “Sign onto this” they are a lot more likely to be like, “No. Why are you talking to me like that?” You are just talking at somebody.
What we have done is engage people on values and talk to them about what they think human rights are and what it means to their lives. The response that I have gotten is that whether people have a good or negative reaction to it, they have a reaction that causes them to engage. And making such a bold claim – which is sad that it is such a bold claim, but whatever – actually gives us room to nudge people’s analysis forward.

Up at The Baffler.

Up at In These Times.

Up at Truthout.

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. Previous interviews here.

News

Taking on the power behind Trump, with Stephen Lerner

Stephen Lerner has been taking on wealthy capitalists for his whole career, as a labor organizer and strategist and an architect of campaigns from Justice for Janitors to the Committee for Better Banks. He tells us how to map power and figure out who is backing bad policies, bad politicians, and offers some ideas for how to take on the big money power.

We are doing a lot of work on mapping the different Trump worlds. There are the people, like Mnuchin and the Goldman Sachs folks that are directly in the administration and we map all the benefits that their companies will reap from that. Then, there are the Steve Schwarzmans and the Carl Icahns and this other set of players that run committees for him. So, they can essentially create government policies that will further enrich their companies. Then, there is a third set of people like John Paulson, who made all his money in the housing crisis, who may not be directly working for Trump, but who supported him and is now going to reap the benefits. For example, he is heavily invested in Puerto Rico.
What we have been looking at is, how do you identify the corporate collaborators with Trump, and then look at ways to start putting pressure on them so that they pay a price for the fact that they are in bed with Trump?
….
One of the ways we can hurt them is cutting off tax breaks and cutting off investment. I think there is a sweet irony of their greed in getting in bed with Trump may make them much more susceptible to cutting off their capital.
Another thing was really illustrated on the CWA Momentive Strike which was a long strike in upstate New York. When people realized that Blackstone’s Steve Schwarzman had been involved in investing in the company and focused on him, it changed the nature of the strike. Instead of it being an isolated battle, it was Trump’s job czar is actually involved in cutting wages, benefits, and outsourcing work. This is one of the pieces that I think is the most critical, which is showing that the people that Trump has put in charge, like Wilbur Ross, are actually job destroyers. We want to completely change the story by putting the spotlight on them by saying, “These are actually the people that got rich destroying good jobs. It is not evil foreigners or immigrants. It is these guys.” That lets you raise a whole set of issues in terms of showing who they are and then, all the different ways that they gamed the system to enrich themselves at the expense of workers.

Up at In These Times.

Up at Truthout.

Up at The Baffler.

Up at Moyers & Company.

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. Previous interviews here.

News

Beyond “good immigrants,” with Aly Wane


The use of the “good immigrant vs. bad immigrant” narrative has led us to this point; we need to do better, says Aly Wane, an undocumented organizer with the Syracuse Peace Council, the Black Alliance for Just Immigration, and the Undocumented and Black Network. Trump’s obsessive focus on “criminal immigrants” belies the fact that almost any immigrant can be painted as a criminal, and ICE and border patrol have been loosed on everyone.

Democrats have kind of been terrible on this issue for a long time. As an undocumented organizer, I have always felt that there are the interests of the Republican Party, there are the interests of the Democratic Party, and then there are the interests of the undocumented community. There has been attention within the movement for years around migrants’ rights, with some folks collaborating a lot more with the Democratic Party, as far as the many compromises in terms of legislation. Those of us who have been at the grassroots for a long time have actually been the Cassandras, saying, “This is very worrying if you allow for the criminalization of some of our folks. If we feed the narrative of ‘the good immigrant vs the criminal alien’ eventually, someone is going to rise to power who is going to criminalize us all.”

The reality is that in order to get “compromises” going, the Democratic Party has really ramped up levels of enforcement for many, many years. I will give you one specific example. Chuck Schumer right now is painting himself as this champion of immigrants and saying “How could this possibly happen?” Well, Chuck Schumer, as part of the Gang of Eight, voted for a border wall that would be so militarized that John McCain actually said that it would put the Berlin Wall to shame. That was the Senate compromise. That was the “liberal” version of immigration reform.

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. Previous interviews here.

News

Feminism for the 99 percent, with Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor


Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor is the author of From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation and one of the organizers behind the call for a Women’s Strike on March 8, International Women’s Day, in solidarity with feminist organizers around the globe. The call for women to strike, she says, is a call for feminism to get in touch with its radical, working-class roots.

At a very basic level, there is an understanding that the problems experienced by women in our societies today are rooted in an economic system that privileges the 1 percent over the 99 percent and that sometimes we think of women’s issues unto themselves, but really these are issues that arise out of an inherently unequal economic arrangement in this country. The fact that women make less, that women don’t have access to childcare provisions, that women don’t have access to reproductive healthcare. They are not just economic questions, but they are related to an economic arrangement that relies on the free labor of women to, in fact, reproduce itself as a political system.

In some ways, as this economic inequality, people have really been talking about with greater specificity and focus since the eruption of the Occupy movement in 2011, that within that context, those unequal economic relationships have disproportionate effect in the lives of women. I think that in this past election where you literally have a billionaire who has made his money through exploiting loopholes in the system and who has sort of ascended to the political top through his abusing women and his visceral sexism and hatred of women—it is not surprising given the centrality of sexism in Donald Trump’s campaign that the very first protests have been organized by women, mostly attended by women, that have become a focal point of the resistance movement.

Up at In These Times.

Up at The Baffler.

Up at Truthout.

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. Previous interviews here.