This is the core value of Working America, a community affiliate of the AFL-CIO. In every sense of the word.
Working America seeks to put hard-working Americans—often victims of a
system that provides pecuniary rewards for venal CEOs for shipping jobs abroad,
slashing health care plans and blowing up respected firms while pocketing obscene amounts of cash—back to work (and improve conditions for many others), while making this a country work for most Americans once again, as it did from the 1930s-1980s.
As we know, with the Little Prince in power, and his heartless legions willing to sink any bill—whether it is making gazillionaires pay more taxes than their servants or providing health care for kids—this is no easy task. But they are accomplishing nothing short of miracles on a grassroots level. And I had an experience last Friday which proved this.
I went over to my local Working America office, which is located in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio accounts for one third of Working America’s members, as well as its offices (700,000 of 2.1 million members and 5 of 15 offices in states from Oregon to Minnesota). Obviously, as a part of the Rust Belt, we’ve been hit hard by neoconservative, napkin-drawn economic theories (see Laffer, Arthur) that have crippled our manufacturing base. People need to know how they can improve things for themselves and their community.
So I met up with their Central Ohio Canvass Director, Scott Sneddon, who runs a tight and enthusiastic ship. We had lunch after a daily briefing for canvassers, and then I joined two particularly talented ones, Tanesha Powell and Jon Middleton, as we headed to a downscale neighborhood in Northern Columbus.
The results, judging from my past experiences doing canvassing work, were nothing short of amazing. Let me back up for a second and explain the theory behind Working America. It is that people care most about economic issues that affect their lives, but need to be reached where they live and breathe, as most of us who don’t obsess over politics don’t always know all of our rights and the possibilities that lay in front of us.
Therefore, Working America seeks DPMs, or Dues Paying Members, the dues being a-not-so-overwhelming $5 per year, as well as the chance to let all working Americans know how they can positively impact their own economic situation. Whether it is shady trade deals, the health care crisis or keeping up wages, those who are not members of unions often do not know how important their voice can be in righting our economic wrongs.
The key part of what they do is providing a community to those unable to join unions because of corporate shenanigans or because they are retired or out of work. Working America serves as their union. And a powerful one indeed.
In the time I was with my two hosts, they easily signed up two dozen new members (some offering dues up front, others an interest joining and providing information), and this was on only two blocks at 4PM, while many were still at work. Powell and Middleton were a picture of professionalism, with a passion to better these United States. Sneddon could not be more perfectly suited for his job, a guy who had the feel of an inspirational football coach on a mission, yet one who also could right away become your best friend.
With the reptilian Roves of the world running Republican fear campaigns, and the weakening of unions over the years by corporate stooges masquerading as public servants, we need Working America today more than ever. They educate people about the issues. They create a sum greater than its parts. Hell, they produce progressives.
In any case, that was my experience and I felt duty-bound to share it. I am honored to be aligned with such an organization. And can’t wait to see their impact in November 2008 and beyond.
Cliff Schecter is a Senior Fellow at Working America. On May 1 his first book, The Real McCain: Why Conservatives Don’t Trust Him And Why Independents Shouldn’t, will be released by PoliPoint Press.