How a Group of Pittsburgh Strangers Became a Team of Dedicated Activists Against the Corbett Agenda

Wish our Pittsburgh Community Action Team a happy belated first birthday! In December 2011, Working America members from throughout Western Pennsylvania came together at our Pittsburgh office to meet one another and to develop community awareness-raising skills.

Being Working America members, the folks around the meeting table were united in their support for economic fairness for working families and “the 99%.” They were team players who wanted to stand up for that mission.

Since its formation, our Pittsburgh Community Action Team has accomplished a tremendous amount to help our communities, our state, and our country become more economically just.

Last year, in support of a decent state budget that adequately funds education and social services by requiring corporate accountability, the team:

  • Developed a strategy, set goals, and received trainings;
  • Met with 6 elected officials’ offices, presenting personal statements highlighting personal connections to education, social services, and corporate accountability to speak up for a decent state budget;
  • Gathered dozens of post cards;
  • Held a press conference and post card delivery outside of Gov. Corbett’s office;
  • Had 5 letters to the editor published in local papers;
  • Got some friends and family to take action; and
  • Even earned a few TV and print media clips.

Thanks to their work and the work of innumerable Pennsylvanians across the state, our state legislature restored over $500 million to higher education, basic education, and social services in our current state budget.

Once we had completed our fight for a decent state budget last year, we began our civil rights mission: helping our communities understand Pennsylvania’s recently-altered and very convoluted voting laws.

Again, we developed a thoughtful strategy, set goals, and thought about how we could each effectively and feasibly contribute. Through person-to-person conversations, flyering, tabling, writing letters to the editor, calling into a local talk show, and being featured as guest speakers about voter suppression on the Chris Moore Show, Working America members educated approximately 642,038 people across the state on their voting rights.

Our work was critical, especially at a time when folks didn’t know that their rights had changed, or didn’t realize what was actually behind the new law and the misleading ads that promoted it. We motivated folks to vote and kept them updated on what they had to do in order to ensure that their votes would count.

At the close of 2012, as education and social services faced the looming possibility of national gutting, and as Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security were vulnerable to the ax of “Grand Bargainers,” the Pittsburgh Community Action Team got involved. We rallied and held press conferences outside of our Senator Bob Casey’s district office, calling on him to take the lead in the fight to protect education, retirement security and healthcare programs by demanding that the Bush Tax Cuts for the top 2 percent are allowed to expire.

Although that fight isn’t quite over, education, social services, health programs, and retirement security programs were spared from the so-called “Fiscal Cliff,” and the unjust Bush Tax Cuts expired on many of the nation’s top earners.

Currently, the team is applying the skills and experience they’ve been cultivating to this year’s fight for a decent state budget.

Over the course of the team’s first 14 months, new folks have joined, members have developed an array of skills, and folks have learned tremendously from one another. The team members have found kindred spirits in one another, formed friendships, and developed a sense of belonging.

Working America teams like the Pittsburgh Community Action Team are getting together and taking action for economic justice all across the country. Become a part of a refreshing, dynamic group of thoughtful, committed citizens: get involved with your local Working America Community Action Team!

(Or to get involved right here in the Pittsburgh area, email me at cbalsamo@workingamerica.org.)