Children at the Border: This is what Progressive Leadership Looks Like

23 Jul

The situation at the border is horrific. Thousands of unaccompanied minors are arriving to the United States and turning themselves in to Border patrol agents. I have no doubt that if these images we’re seeing from the border came from an other place in the world, we’d be calling it what it is, a refugee crisis. The Beltway reaction has been largely political and cowardly. Anti-immigrant politicians have tried to seize the opportunity to reframe the immigration debate around border security after losing so much ground since the 2012 elections, when the Latino vote walloped the GOP for being anti-immigrant and obstructionist on the question of immigration reform.

The debate has opened rifts in the GOP, exposing e party’s problem with expanding its base. Discussing the issue, Bill Kristol said to Latina Republican Ana Navarro, “You’re not as Republican as me” (psst, Ana… He means you’re brown).

But Democrats haven’t fared much better. The president quickly called for quick processing and deportation of minors. As did Secretary Clinton, who heartlessly said the children “should be sent back.”
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The White House played dirty with Maryland Governor O’Malley when he stated, “It is contrary to everything we stand for to try to summarily send children back to death.” They leaked a conversation the governor had with White House senior adviser Cecilia Muñoz, suggesting that the a Governor had hypocritically told them he didn’t want the border children sent to Maryland. If you read the Politico article this story was leaked to, however, it is clear that is not at all what the governor said. He was advising them not to send children to a specific facility in Maryland, an area that is extremely conservative and where children are likely to receive the same harassing welcome they’ve seen in some parts of Texas and California. Days after the call with Muñoz, that facility was hilariously sprayed with misspelled graffiti: “No illeagels here. No undocumented Democrats.”

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O’Malley 1, White House 0.

The other bright light in all of this: Deval Patrick, Governor of Massachusetts. Announcing that his state would welcome a group of unaccompanied minors and fighting back tears, he said, “My faith teaches me that if a stranger dwells with you in your land, you shall not mistreat him but rather love him as yourself.” See his entire emotional speech at Mother Jones.

What Patrick and O’Malley are showing is leadership. I’ve heard that some in DC have seen polling showing that the border security frame is making American reactions to the crisis less than humanitarian. Leadership means looking at polls like these, understanding what’s right and what’s wrong about an issue, and deciding to do your best to change that popular opinion. By leading.

Aren’t Dinosaurs Just Jesus Ponies?

21 Jul

logo smallThat was the question of the week on the Wrong About Everything podcast, asked by Denise Cardinal when talking about crazy Minnesota House candidate Bob Frey‘s even crazier theories about evolution and the coexistence of humans (to the present!). If you haven’t followed the story, get your patoot over to Bluestem Prairie.  The blogger who runs that site insists she’s a crabby old hag, but we think she should at least add “researcher extraordinaire” to that title somewhere. She has all kinds of good stuff up about not just Frey’s crazy theories about evolution and the origin of AIDS but also how he screwed over homeowners for a living. What a guy!

MNGOP House Candidate with his Jesus Pony femur

MNGOP House Candidate with his Jesus Pony femur

Also on the podcast, we talk about Hillary’s book tour, Elizabeth Warren at Netroots, the Republican boys blather on about coal (ie., they explain why they hate the Earth), and we do a Know Your Government segment that uncovers the deep dark secrets of the Met Council (GOP panelist Brian McDaniel is a former black-booted thug appointee to the unelected SuperGovernment Council under Governor Pawlenty).

Wrong About Everything, Episode 7

14 Jul

20140702-085531-32131345.jpgIn this week’s episode, we get serious about the border crisis and then very unserious about the Ghost of Sexting Presidents Past, Minnesota Republican Candidates Gone Wilde & much more.

Download the latest edition of Wrong About Everthing here.

Interview with Chipsterlife

13 Jul
Chipsterlife

Chipsterlife

Chipsterlife – which, by the way, is the best name for a Latino podcast, ever – interviewed me this week. Filiberto is another recovering academic doing social justice work, and his podcast is pretty cool. You can listen to the podcast here.  His synopsis:

Based in Minneapolis, SEIU Local 26 under the leadership of Javier Morillo-Alicea has been at the center of the fight to defend low wage workers against increasing wage disparities in our economy and society. Most recently Mr. Morillo-Alicea was arrested at the Minneapolis Airport,

“13 people, including leaders in the disability rights community, community activists, and SEIU Local 26 President Javier Morillo-Alicea were arrested today at the Minneapolis-St. Paul  (MSP) International Airport in an act of peaceful civil disobedience. The arrestees were highlighting the poor conditions facing passengers with disabilities and elderly travelers, a consequence of the poverty wages and lack of resources provided to the workers sub-contracted by Delta Airlines to provide wheelchair and electric cart service.”

http://seiumn.org/2014/06/16/disability-rights-advocates-among-13-arrested-in-civil-disobedience-at-msp-airport/

Our conversation was a wide ranging one discussing Mr. Morillo-Alicea’s vision for change and the relationship between SEIU and low wage worker center CTUL and the role in general of worker centers in the fight for a better economy. We also discuss his flooded office, as Mr Morillo Alicea describes in his own words, “The river has flooded into the basement at Local 26. Bring your bathing suits everyone!”


He also participates in a podcast, “Wrong About Everything is a fun, irreverent and bipartisan podcast focused on Minnesota politics. “

 

Wrong About Everything is now on iTunes

8 Jul

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We either made it, or their standards are really really low.  Who cares ?  We’re on iTunes!  You can download it there.

Talking is easier than writing… Or I have a podcast!

2 Jul 20140702-085531-32131345.jpg

20140702-084444-31484150.jpg“Wrong About Everything,” a fun, irreverent and bipartisan look at Minnesota politics, launched a few weeks ago. It features two progressives (me and Denise Cardinal, the founding Executive Director of the Alliance for a Better Minnesota. She crushes Republicans for a living. The two Republicans are Brian McDaniel , a bear Republican lobbyist with a potty mouth and Mike Franklin, a GOP political operative who we settled for when we couldn’t find a funny Republican woman.

In our most recent episode, we talk about President Obama’s visit to Minnesota, the Pew Institute’s poll on political polarization in the country, GOP candidates’ hair, and the group gangs up on me with hateful musical selections.

Comment there or on our Facebook page . Tell is what you think and what topics you’d like us to cover. We have some exciting announcements coming up about the podcast, so stay tuned!

Minimum Wage & Movement Politics: On the Fight For Indexing

22 Mar

This past Thursday the four locals of SEIU in Minnesota held our annual lobby day at the Capitol. The top lobbying priority for SEIU members talked to their elected representatives about is raising the state’s minimum wage and indexing that increase to inflation.  I emceed a rally that capped off our day in Saint Paul and quickly learned it is not easy to come up with a union chant that rhymes with “Index.”  I settled for probably the weirdest and wonkiest chant heard at the Capitol in a while: “What do we want? MINIMUM WAGE! How do we want it? INDEXED!”

On the surface, the fight for indexing the minimum wage —  ensuring that the increase that is passed becomes a base and that future increases match inflation–might seem a bit in the weeds. I have heard suggestions that “most people don’t understand it, so what’s the harm in just passing the $9.50 alone?”

After the rally, I was asked by someone pretty high up in state government if indexing was a line in the sand for the coalition. The person asked, “Can we take a victory and live to fight another day?”  This is actually a really good question.  I am one who often argues that, when it comes to politics, let’s not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

Raise the Wage - INDEXEDSo why is the fight for indexing so important that the Raise the Wage Coalition has kept the charge going?  To answer this, it would be helpful to remind ourselves what it is we talk about when we talk about the minimum wage.

No one can dispute that, even if we raise the wage to $9.50, that does not get a full-time worker supporting a family out of poverty according to the federal government’s own definition of poverty.   What we are arguing about, friends, is a floor.

Now think about the effort that has been put together to convince a DFL legislature to pass a bill.  Last year the Senate passed a bill for with a $7.75 an hour wage, which would have put us barely past conforming with the federal minimum wage (right now, Minnesota’s minimum wage is significantly lower than the federal minimum wage). To get them to move to $9.50 Minnesotans across the state mobilized to make their voices heard.  Oh, and the president and governor of the same party as the Senate’s majority set the bar even higher than $9.50.

Some of the best organizing and policy minds in the state are intensely focused right now on passing this minimum wage bill.  The Raise the Wage Coalition has been impressively co-chaired by Shar Knutson of the AFL-CIO, Peggy Flanagan of the Minnesota Children’s Defense Fund (CDF), and Brian Rusche of the Joint Religious Legislative Coalition (JRLC). The people moving phone banks, working at the Capitol and on weekends in districts, generating emails and calls to legislators — these are leaders of some of the most important social justice organizations in the state — non-profits like CDF, the Wilder Foundation, and many more; clergy and faith groups like the JRLC, which unites Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and Muslim entities, as well as ISAIAH’s coalition of over 100 churches; community organizations like Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, Take Action Minnesta and many more; unions like Education Minnesota, AFSCME, SEIU, the AFL-CIO’S state and regional federations, and many more.

The best organizers of the social justice movement in Minnesota are working tirelessly for this minimum wage increase, as we must. It is an impressive operation, but we cannot forget what it is we talk about the minimum wage.  The best minds of the social justice movement in Minnesota are immersed in a debate about the floor. Our best organizers, leaders and policy thinkers are debating essentially how poor we as a society are willing to let workers live.

This is not the visionary work a movement for social justice.  Again, this work is essential and we should all be proud of the collective effort, but let’s not kid ourselves about what we are doing here.  The heavy lift everyone is undertaking is to debate a freaking floor.  A Minimum. Can you imagine if all of that effort were directed at rebuilding the wealth of communities that was extracted as a result of the financial crisis?  Can you imagine if we as a movement were focused not on debating minimum wages but instead asking what we are going to do as a society about those making maximum wages, the CEOs whose salaries are so out of whack in this country?  What if we were all focused on offense, on fights that take head-on the growing gap between the richest in the country and the rest of us?  What if we were debating how we bring more prosperity instead of how low we can go?

Now that would be a movement.

Dorkiest Chant Ever. "What do We Want? MINIMUM WAGE! How do we want it? INDEXED!"

Dorkiest Chant Ever. “What do We Want? MINIMUM WAGE! How do we want it? INDEXED!”

THIS IS WHY WE NEED INDEXING. 

So the working poor do not have to see the power of their dollar diminish year after year

So we do not have to keep fighting this battle every few years.

And, for God’s sakes, so our most talented organizers and thousands of grassroots activists don’t have to move heaven and earth to accomplish small vision wins and can instead focus on the transformational victories working people in this country long for and desperately need.

We Can Do This.  We Will Do This.

There are encouraging signs.  We know the grassroots mobilization has had an impact.  We hear it from legislative aides exhausted from taking calls and answering emails.  We hear it from legislators themselves, some of whom are thrilled and some of whom are annoyed and say things like “you’re only hurting yourselves” (pro tip: a sign you’re winning).

The legislature just passed and the governor signed a tax bill that, in addition to reducing taxes on many middle and working class folks, also happens to reduce the amount the very wealthy in our state pay in gift and estate taxes.  The tax bill passed with a lot of urgency and fanfare.

Let’s apply the same urgency to getting this done so we can focus on transformational work.

I know we’re going to win this.  The people who mobilized are going to win this.  Let’s get this done and then harness that energy and move on to truly transformational work.

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