UPDATE: WEDNESDAY JAN 29, 2 P.M. EST:
Building on the Duluth forum mentioned in the original text (below) Minneapolis will play host to another forum on “Building Progressive Political Power” on February 15. More info can be found on the event’s Facebook page, here.
The New Progressive Alliance is dedicated to awakening American voters to their unwitting complicity in the unprecedented expansion of the security state, poverty, war, and environmental degradation.
We believe – and the facts support it – that the continuing disenfranchisement of the working class is exactly what the two major parties are working to achieve, in concert with their corporate donors. We contend “the majors” are not ideologically opposed, as their campaign rhetoric would have us believe. Indeed, their “official” acts prove they are owned by profiteers from the defense, finance, and energy industries.
The Democratic Party in particular – so often portrayed as “the friend of the working class” – takes deception to the extreme, promising us meaningful social reforms if we put them in power, but not delivering after we have. Despite enjoying majorities in both the House and Senate during his first term, Barack Obama failed to:
- enact a state-run health care system
- support working people’s right to organize by passing the Employee Free Choice Act
- stop American meddling in the affairs of other countries, or
- promote/enact a living wage
The effects of that last item on working men and women are, for anyone trying to make it in America, especially devastating.
Democrats made a big deal in 2009 of increasing the federal minimum wage from $6.55 to $7.25. But that number is still exponentially below what both the Census Bureau and Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) say it must be ($15, and $22 – $26, respectively) for working people to meet basic needs.
The Democrats are expert at promising voters major social change, getting elected to large (sometimes “super”) majorities, and then making excuses for their “inability” to make good on their promises.
The Republicans, meanwhile, preach their “Christian” message of hard work and pulling oneself up by one’s bootstraps, oblivious (more likely, uncaring) that people earning the minimum wage must work two or three jobs just to survive. The math is simple: Three 20-hour jobs at $7.25 equals an effective hourly rate of $21.75. That’s right in the meaty part of the rates espoused by the BLS. But these workers are barely surviving, because there are, quite literally, not enough hours in the week. Though they work 60 (often more), that $21.75 applies only to 20 hours – half the number considered “full time.”
By refusing to mandate a real living wage, one regularly subject to cost-of-living adjustments, the corporate parties are creating poverty – not jobs. And that’s just what their donors want: Workers so afraid of losing their jobs that they will accept whatever is offered them. Does that sound like something true unionists should support? Of course not. Yet Big Labor keeps herding its members onto the Democratic Party reservation.
Meanwhile, those on the Christian (self-)Right(eous) blissfully ignore one of the Bible’s key admonitions, preferring to line the pockets of their corporate benefactors over eliminating poverty: “Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered. (Proverbs 21:13).”
Some, however, are telling it like it is.
NPA member Alan Maki, who is a co-founder of Minnesotans for Peace and Social Justice (MPSJ) and a former MyFDL diarist, was one of many speakers at recent forum in Duluth. On a frigid January Saturday (the only kind of January Saturday they have in Duluth!) 140 people came out to discuss “Building Progressive Political Power.” (The event program is here.) Before they adjourned, attendees adopted this open letter, calling out Minnesota’s corporate-owned, Democratic governor and legislature for peddling poverty wages:
TO: Governor Mark Dayton and the Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor Party Legislative Caucus.
FROM: Your Constituents
Enough! We are not waiting any longer!
As DFL candidates, you campaigned on a promise to enact legislation that provides low-wage workers a real, living wage — not just a “minimum” wage.
Your campaign language explicitly called for “workers being entitled to living wages!” It promised a Living Wage Act, but no progress was made in your first super-majority session.
All it would take, you said, was for Minnesotans to give the DFL a super-majority. Well, we voters delivered it to you! You have it! But now, instead of advancing Living Wage legislation, the DFL is floating another “minimum wage” bill that will just perpetuate poverty wages for many Minnesota workers!
For years, the DFL leadership has claimed Republicans were the lone obstacle to establishing a Living Wage in our state. That obstacle has been removed. You are now in the driver’s seat!
We, the workers of Minnesota, gave you the legislative votes to enact the Living Wage legislation you promised us.
We expect you now to do so. You could call it “The Minnesota Living Wage Act of 2014.”
Most importantly, we need to begin with a realistic dollar amount. Living Wages need to be calculated based on realistic levels of cost-of-living. U.S. Census data suggests at least $15 per hour; while, based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), hourly wages of $22 and $26 at 40 hrs/week are needed to cover basic necessities. When making decisions on determining basic needs for a dignified life, the testimony from low-income Minnesotans should also be taken into consideration.
A Living Wage must also be subject to regular cost-of-living adjustments. The Consumer Price Index is our best indicator, and it should be used to adjust a new Minnesota Living Wage level quarterly or at least semi-annually.
If you should fail to enact such legislation, we will assume that you were just baiting us with nice-sounding campaign rhetoric, and that you are pulling a switch on us by simply advancing more employer-friendly “minimum wage” legislation, that does nothing to alleviate the hardships of Minnesota’s working poor.
Perhaps you think any increase is better than nothing. We don’t!
Minnesota has long been considered a progressive bellwether. Do something significant now for her working men and women. It is what everybody morally deserves — the prospect of a dignified life.
Be courageous. Lead our state — and our nation — in securing the right of every worker to earn a decent living.
It can begin with the Minnesota Living Wage Act of 2014.
You can make it happen!
Your fellow Minnesotans
Meanwhile, in Seattle, Occupier and newly elected Socialist city councilor Kshama Sawant is pushing for a $15 city-wide minimum wage. Supported by Socialist Alternative, Sawant defeated three-term Democrat incumbent Richard Conlin last November, riding her “15now” campaign to victory.
Wikipedia reports Sawant’s thoughts on the two corporate parties:
“[S]he rejects working within the Democratic and Republican two-party system, and says socialists should campaign as a third party:
‘The job of socialists is to point the way forward, and we are not shy about it. We invite people to debate with us on ideas of socialism. But we are not shy and we have been proven, resoundingly correct, that we should not be shy, because there is no excuse for being shy or reticent when you are talking about such serious issues as fighting against the enormous misery that capitalism unleashes on us, all over the world. So let’s be clear about it, let’s not be shy. This is not a time for modesty; this is a time for boldness and courage.’
Sawant has encouraged other left-wing groups, including Greens and trade unions, to use her campaign as a model to inspire a much broader movement in 2014:
‘We need a movement to break the undemocratic power of big business and build a society that works for working people, not corporate profits – a democratic socialist society.’”
What YOU Can Do
As these examples demonstrate, people are waking up to the deceptions played on them by the corporate parties. They are realizing that a nation which spies on its people, keeps workers poor, is constantly poised for war, and degrades the environment cannot survive.
The NPA urges local activists to take matters into their own hands:
- Join our “De-Corporatize Congress” campaign. Recruit a candidate for U.S. House THIS YEAR from your district – or run yourself! This opportunity comes every two years, and Progressives have ignored the potential it holds for far too long.
- Start an online newspaper to challenge local power brokers, stand for transparency, and force the local (usually corporate-owned) media to do its job.
- Form a group like MPSJ in your own state to stand for workers like no union has, for more than 40 years. Collect signatures on a letter like the one above and deliver it to your state legislators, DEMANDING they enact a real living wage.
Neither corporate party cares a whit what happens to us. Only WE can effectively stand up for privacy, for workers, for peace, for the environment – in short, for the real, fundamental shift we all know is crucial to creating a world that puts people before profits.