“One Threat” — Progressive Power Unifying In Democracy Initiative

Union and environmental leaders arrested together over immigration? What’s up? Here is what’s up: Corporate-funded conservatives … “view us as one threat, and fundamentally we are acting like that now, as one threat.”

Corporate-Conservative War On Democracy

For decades corporate-funded conservatives have gone after all branches of progressive thinking and even potential progressive thinking. Environmentalists, unions, civil rights advocates, public school supporters, Social Security supporters, consumer-rights advocates, professors, scientists, women’s-rights advocates, students, immigrants, minorities, health and nutrition advocates, good-government advocates, you name it, they have been and are being attacked by the conservative movement. You don’t even have to identify yourself as progressive-aligned to be attacked as part of the socialist/communist/terrorist/anti-American/anti-God/whatever conspiracy. You do not even have to think of yourself as progressive-aligned to suffer an attack.

These groups and individuals typically responded on their own, often staying in “silos” of their own issue-group, and always under-resourced… practically defenseless and wide open to further attacks and eventual defeat. Really, why would a consumer-rights organization — already strapped for funds and trying desperately to get our a message about credit-card fraud or whatever — spend time and scarce resources going to bat for a group that is trying to save an old-growth redwood grove? That’s not what they do.

Now all of these groups are realizing they are progressive-aligned because they are seen as the same threat by the corporate-funded conservative movement. It has become clear that the corporate-funded conservative movement is fighting a war against democracy, and every group or person that might be in a position to defend democracy is their target.

So they are doing something about it.

Union and environmental leaders were among 41 arrested together last Thursday at a sit-in outside the US Capitol, fighting for action from Congress on immigration. The arrests signify a new phase in the fight against the corporate/conservative takeover of democracy.

Among those arrested were labor leaders — including Eliseo Medina, secretary treasurer of the Service Employees International Union; Arlene Holt Baker, a vice president of the A.F.L.-C.I.O.; and Larry Cohen, president of the Communications Workers of America — as well as Deepak Bhargava, Angélica Salas, Gustavo Torres, Petra Falcón and other immigrants’ rights advocates from around the country.

“Democracy Blocks”

On a call last week with Phil Radford, Executive Director of Greenpeace, and Larry Cohen, President of the Communications Workers of America (CWA), Radford explained why labor and environmental and other leaders were arrested together fighting for the rights of immigrants. Radford said, “Our enemies like the Kochs view the civil rights movement, view the labor movement and view the environmental movement as one threat, and fundamentally we are acting like that now, as one threat.” (Click to play a recording of the call.)

Once again: “Our enemies like the Kochs view the civil rights movement, view the labor movement and view the environmental movement as one threat, and fundamentally we are acting like that now, as one threat.”

Radford talked about how bigotry, voter-ID and other voter-suppression laws, big money in politics, judges who let corporations use money as “speech” and blocking the President from hiring and appointing parts of the government that protect workers and the environment have all worked to keep democracy from having its way. Radford said there are three fundamental “Democracy Blocks”:

  • Broken senate rules including Senate filibuster abuse,
  • Big money in politics and
  • Voter suppression and related attacks on voting rights.

Democracy Initiative

Then Larry Cohen of CWA talked about a new Democracy Initiative that will be “building structure” around breaking down “silos” — which is where different organization pursue only their own narrow interests — and linking together the three starting points for about 80 groups working together so far. He said their effort will accelerate. This joint work is fueled by the confirmation of 10 of the President’s nominees after the Fix the Filibuster fight, especially to the NLRB.

Cohen pointed out that the Chamber of Commerce and major corporate law firms had said openly that there will never be more than 2 Democrats and 2 Republicans on the NLRB so that nothing will change, but now we have 3 Democrats and 2 Republicans so things will change.

ONE Threat

So this new Democracy Initiative involves progressive-aligned groups finally starting to act as ONE unified threat to the corporate/conservative machine instead of dozens of ineffective, isolated annoyances; labor unions, environmentalists, immigrant rights organizations, civil rights groups, civil liberties groups, progressive groups, civil justice groups and many, many others.

Check These Out

Phil Radford of Greenpeace recently posted If You Want to Breathe Clean Air, Senate Reform and Democracy Matter over at HuffPo,

So what can we do about all of this? For one, we can start seeing ourselves as we are seen by the forces that are hell bent on fighting the promise of American democracy — as one movement with a shared vision of inclusion, of every voice counting, and of a government working for all of the American people.

United by this vision, a new force — The Democracy Initiative — was born, committed to getting big money out of politics, voters in (universal voter registration and an end to voter suppression), and reforming the Senate rules to get the government working again. Groups such as Greenpeace, the Communication Workers of America, the NAACP, Sierra Club, Public Campaign, Common Cause, People for the American Way, National People’s Action and dozens of others representing tens of millions of people are determined to win back what we’ve lost in the past four decades.

Bill Moyers interviewed CWA’s Larry Cohen on this and other topics, (click through to see the video)

Acting on his belief that unions must work together with like-minded civil society organizations in order to advance economic justice, Cohen has put together broad coalitions to encourage change. In 1987, he founded Jobs with Justice, a network of local coalitions in 46 cities and 24 states throughout the country. Jobs with Justice members come from faith groups, student groups, community organizations, and labor unions to address issues including heath care, immigrant rights, and labor law reform.

Toward the end of the 111th Congress in 2010, Mr. Cohen and the CWA became active participants in Fix the Senate Now, a coalition of progressive organizations including the Brennan Center, Common Cause, the Sierra Club, and the United Auto Workers of America, calling for reforms in Senate procedure. More recently, Cohen has led the formation of the Democracy Initiative, a group of some 50 progressive organizations aiming to get big money out of politics, expand voter registration, and curb abuse of the filibuster.

Click here to watch the Netroots Nation panel, Three Keys to Reclaiming Democracy:


The Democracy Initiative website:

The Democracy Initiative, launched in 2013, seeks to restore the core principle of political equality. Labor, civil rights, voting rights, environmental, good government and other like-minded organizations with broad memberships commit to build a movement to halt the corrupting influence of corporate money in politics, prevent the systemic manipulation and suppression of voters, and address other obstacles to significant reform, including the abuse of U.S. Senate rules that allow a small minority to obstruct deliberation and block action on legislation drafted to address the critical challenges facing our nation.