Fortified Activism!

I recently read an editorial about the current grim economic and political picture confronting Seattleites. It only gets grimmer as one’s field of vision expands to include the entire nation.

Case in point: In 2009, while United Healthcare’s CEO was earning $102 million, Americans were dying at the rate of one every 12 minutes due to lack of health insurance (according to a 2009 Harvard Medical School study). And while the recent Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act is encouraging, the Act will leave approximately 27 million Americans uninsured – through 2016 and beyond, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Case in point: In 2010, Walmart’s CEO paid its associates an average annual salary of $13,650, about what he made per hour. Per. Hour. And yet, GOP Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney has expressed opposition to raising the minimum wage.

It’s enough to make you sick. But you can’t afford it.
Here’s what each of us can afford to do: Take a cue from the Occupy movement. Call attention to economic and other injustices; participate in organizations demanding change; and make your issues and demands impossible to deny or ignore. 
Whatever you think of Occupy, it’s hard to deny that its bold, persistent demands for change caused our political leaders to focus less on how to reduce the national debt and more on how to reduce income inequality.
It is that level of assertive, insistent activism that is needed to attract and involve enough unemployed, underemployed, overworked, underpaid, uninsured, and underinsured people to kick-start a movement of, by and for the 99%, and to sustain it for the long haul.

Suppose a state representative supports a bill that cuts food stamps, despite a local campaign waged by food stamp advocates to oppose it. The opponents’ strategy includes blitzing the representative’s office with calls before an upcoming committee hearing on the bill and testifying at the hearing; they want to fortify their message. There are many ways they can do so. Picture this:

The bill’s opponents recruit 100 people to go to the state capitol on Hearing Day. At noon, they gather in front of the entrance to the cafeteria where legislators, press, et. al go for lunch. They hold signs saying, “$1.50/meal in food stamps doesn’t cut it!” and “Can’t finish lunch? I’ll take your leftovers!” and “Thanks for the suggestion, but I already have a job!” They hand to-go containers (bearing food stamp information) to legislators and reporters entering the cafeteria. Shortly before the 2 p.m. hearing, they re-position themselves right outside the hearing room, so that committee members will see them.

Food stamp advocates hold a bake sale to raise money for the local food bank. They hold it outside of the representative’s office (capitol or in-district), or close to the House Chamber right before a vote. Or they hold it in front of the exclusive hotel where the representative will speak at a $1000/plate dinner-fundraiser for his re-election campaign; they sell their goods to the event’s guests as they arrive at the hotel.

Each member of the food stamp advocacy group asks 25 people to pledge $1 - to support the advocates’ work - for each time in a given week the representative is in the news, pushing his cuts. The group creates a web page that features a “Gruel Gauge” (which tracks the number of times the representative has promoted food stamp cuts, total funds raised to-date, etc.) and allows supporters to register to join the pledge drive.

Picture grassroots activism. Color it bold.