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    LEFT STRATEGIES FROM THE GRASSROOTS Marisa Franco, Willie Baptist, Gihan Perera, Ai-Jen Poo, Steve Williams, Harmony Goldberg July 1, 2009

    This roundtable is adapted from the “Left Strategy from the Grassroots” panel that took place at the Left Forum in New York City in April 2009. The panel was designed to advance the voices of grassroots organizers at this conference which has historically focused on the academic sector of the Left, but this conversation—about how left organizers and activists need to adapt our work to step up to the demands of our rapidly changing historic moment—is also sorely needed among radicals and leftists who are rooted in social movements.

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    Turning Left Harmony Goldberg March 11, 2011

    The last decade has been a period of profound struggle and realignment for the Left in the United States. We entered the decade with a disorientation shaped by the exhilaration of the 1999 Seattle protests and the world-changing events of September 11, 2001. Ten years later, that disorientation has started to shift, and a new level of clarity is emerging.

    We are, however, far behind the clock in terms of preparing ourselves to play the kind of political leadership role that history is going to demand as a number of intersecting crises unfold in the coming decades. To try to capture the development of our work over the last decade, I’m offering a few “snapshots” describing how we entered the last decade, how we are leaving it and how we need to approach the next ten years.

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    EFCA: An Essential Step in Rebuilding the Labor Movement Bill Fletcher Jr. July 1, 2009

    The battle started before the legislation actually got to Capitol Hill. As soon as corporate America sensed that organized labor was going to push for labor law reform, they unleashed the dogs of war. Warning of a threat to the rights of workers, corporate America has alleged that the proposed Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) will be damaging to workers and to the economy. To add insult to injury, opponents of EFCA have even enlisted the likes of former Senator George McGovern and the Reverend Al Sharpton in their ranks to challenge the legislation.EFCAEFCA

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    Dissent in Big Purple: Democratizing SEIU Peter Brogan, Andrew Cornell November 1, 2008

    Although the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) has led the Change to Win labor federation since 2005, many of its members now claim the union itself needs to change substantially if it is to continue winning improvements in the lives of working people. Representing approximately 1.9 million workers in the low-wage healthcare, service, and building maintenance industries, SEIU is one of the most dynamic unions in the US labor movement. As organized labor has continued its downward spiral—only 12.4 percent of the US workforce is unionized—“Big Purple” has brought nearly 800,000 new members into its ranks in recent years.

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    Rattling the System from Seattle to Quebec Bilal El-Amine June 1, 2001

    I’m in my late 40s. I’ve worked inside government. I’ve worked in the trade union movement. It’s easy to become cynical. But this, this is real. This is a rejection of, I guess, capitalism.

    —Carol Phillips, Director of the International Department of the Canadian Auto Workers

    A rising tide

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    Engaging the Crisis: Organizing Against Budget Cuts, Building Community Power in Philadelphia Kristin Campbell April 1, 2010

    On November 6, 2008, just days after Philadelphians poured onto the streets to celebrate the Phillies winning the World Series championship and Barack Obama the US presidency, Mayor Michael Nutter announced a drastic plan to deal with the city’s $108 million budget gap. Severe budget cuts were announced, including the closure of eleven public libraries, sixty-two public swimming pools, three public ice skating rinks, and eliminating several fire engines. Nutter also stated that 220 city workers would be laid off and 600 unfilled positions would be eliminated entirely, amounting to the loss of nearly 1,000 precious city jobs.

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    Towards a National Take Back the Land Movement Kamau Franklin April 1, 2010

    At the height of the financial crises in 2008 Max Rameau, a community organizer in Miami for the past ten years, began to see a quiet devastation taking hold in community after community: foreclosure signs, houses for sale, unrented properties, the downward slide of home values as people worried about increased mortgage payments, soaring levels of unemployment, and a gathering storm of homelessness unparalleled since the Great Depression. Max notes, “All around me people seemed to be at the brink of disaster. The government was not doing much so we stepped in and tried to do something dramatic and worthwhile.

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    The Grassroots Hustle: Fundraising Strategies for the Rest of Us Max Uhlenbeck April 1, 2010

    Raising money. Whether you’re part of a small collective, a local community-based nonprofit or a national network or organization, it’s a skill that we all need, but rarely talk about as we work to build a stronger and more vibrant left culture and movement here in the US. Following the financial crisis of 2008 and subsequent economic depression since then, many organizations with small to midrange budgets have had to scale down their organizing activities significantly, sometimes even closing up shop altogether.

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    How It Would Feel to be Free: A Review of Transformative Organizing Max Uhlenbeck December 1, 2010

    BY ERIC MANN, 2010


    If there is anything we have learned from the political struggles of the 20th-century United States, it has been the great importance of grassroots and mass-based organizing. From the IWW to the CIO, the early Communist Party to the rise of the civil rights movement, the question of how to organize and refine best practices has always remained central.

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    Breaking Barriers to Employment: Criminal Record Reform in Massachusetts Aaron Tanaka December 1, 2010

    This summer, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed a landmark law reforming the state’s criminal background check system. Aimed at improving acc ess to jobs, housing and other vital services for residents with arrest records, overhauling the Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) has been a target for Massachusetts community activists for over a decade. The successful passage of CORI reform marked a notable break from War on Drugs crime policies that have driven the rapid expansion of police and prisons since the early 1970s. Massachusetts’ precedent-setting laws frontline a growing national movement to reverse the systemic economic barriers faced by formerly convicted people. 

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