Using scale and reach to battle inequality

Across the country, it’s become increasingly evident that problems stemming from inequality have reached a level that can only be characterized as a crisis.  With the wealth gap between the top .01 percent of households and the rest of us greater than it was in 1928 before the onset of the Great Depression, opportunities for too many Americans are disappearing. 

At her confirmation hearing last week to become the next chair of the Federal Reserve, Janet Yellen characterized income inequality as an “extremely difficult and to my mind very worrisome problem.”  And while the recent race for Mayor in New York City focused plenty on the wealth gap, it remains to be seen how far a local politician can go to implement the type of policies the nation’s largest city desperately needs. 

ADVERTISEMENT
Of course, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to restore our democracy to a system that truly gives everyone a chance to thrive.  But a large part of the solution will come from dedicated community members partnering with organizations with policy expertise, strategy insights, and coalition coordination experience to achieve meaningful reforms.  That’s why this week, the Center for Popular Democracy and the Leadership Center for the Common Good announced a plan to merge on Jan. 1, 2014.

The new organization will be called The Center for Popular Democracy with a sister c4 organization called Action for the Common Good.  Together, we will work at the center of emerging new politics, working to build the capacity and resilience of rooted, democratic community organizing institutions.  We will share organizing models and strategies with a vast partner network to replicate campaigns and tactics that work to confront racial and economic inequality.

Already,we’ve seen examples of the types of changes motivated, coordinated community efforts can produce.  And as new partnerships and increased collaboration online help movement leaders to share best practices – there’s plenty of reason to believe communities can implement changes that make a difference.

In New York, coalitions of community groups, progressive unions, and faith networks cametogether this year to secure a raft of impressive victories, from a raise in the state’s minimum wage, to the adoption of paid sick days’ legislation in New York City to the passage of pro-immigrant language access initiatives in both Nassau and Suffolk Counties on Long Island. And, in the face of fierce opposition from outgoing Mayor Bloomberg, the Center for Popular Democracy and our allies secured passage of new laws to stop the discriminatory policing tactics of the NYPD’s “Stop and Frisk.”

With real roots in the African-American, Latino and immigrant communities, and connections across faith and labor organizations, the Center for Popular Democracy is poised to provide expanded reach and scale on issues from education policy to immigrant and racial justice, voting rights and homeownership.

As AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka recently said, The new CPD fills animportant void - aggressively innovating and replicating public policies that expand rights and opportunities for workers, for immigrants, and for people of color."  That’s part of our belief that just as our communities are stronger together, so are organizers.  It’s time to put our strength, scale and reach to work.

Archila is the co-executive director of the new Center for Popular Democracy.