Making America work again

CLIFF SCHECTER—OHIO

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.

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Results in: Health Care for America Survey

Over a period of just seven weeks, from Jan. 14 to March 3, a total of 26,419 people took the online 2008 Health Care for America Survey sponsored by the AFL-CIO and Working America. Most are insured and employed. Most are college graduates. More than half are union members.

These are the people, it would seem, most likely to have positive experiences with America’s health care system. Instead, their responses tell a sobering story about the breadth of the problems with health care in America. They say our system has fundamental problems that must be fixed.

The people who took the survey also submitted 7,489 heart-wrenching stories about the effects of this broken health care system on them and their families. You’ll see some of their stories throughout the report.

See the report here. You can also download a PDF version.

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Working America is at your door


Richard Freeman, Harvard University professor and Herbert Ascherman Chair in Economics goes in-depth about our history and success at the AFL-CIO website’s Point of View.

The story of Working America is the one of the greatest success in reaching workers outside of collective bargaining since the Knights of Labor in the 1880s. Its primary mode of enlisting members is through community canvassing, where bright young activists go door to door in potentially union-friendly neighborhoods. At the same time, Working America’s strong online program has resulted in 60,000 new members signing up through its website….

Get the full scoop here.

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Working America in-depth at Firedoglake

Richard Freeman, who holds the Herbert Ascherman Chair in economics at Harvard University, serves as faculty director of the Labor and Worklife Program at the Harvard Law School and is senior research fellow in Labour Markets at the London School of Economics’ Centre for Economic Performance, recently contributed a post about Working America to the popular blog Firedoglake. Here, Freeman talks about how our outreach is making a big difference in boosting the strength of the union movement. Read the post here.

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Member mentioned in BusinessWeek

Deborah El, Working America member and 64 year old mother of a disabled daughter struggling with recent unemployment was mentioned in this article in Business Week. See the article at:
http://www.businessweek.com/ap/financialnews/D8UJ0KK00.htm

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