In the wake of the midterm elections, with conservatives and the Tea Party wielding new power in Washington, we have entered a tough period in our politics. But history helps us understand that dark periods come and go, and they can be overcome if—and it’s the critical if—we all do our part.
The late, great Studs Terkel, a true friend of The Nation, believed that hope was rooted in the conviction that there is always good worth working for. Action engenders hope, Studs told us.
Looking forward to 2011, there are many ideas, organizing efforts and causes worth fighting for—many which should engender hope as we work together to make this a more just and decent nation.
Below are five that I believe are valuable in these times.
1) CIW Takes on the Supermarkets
The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) enjoyed a remarkable 2010, successfully obtaining penny per pound pay raises and code of conduct agreements for farmworkers from the three largest food service companies and the growers who had blocked checks buyers cut directly to the workers so that millions of dollars languished in escrow. These agreements stand to increase workers’ annual earnings from about $10,000 to as much as $17,000. The State Department also recognized Laura Germino, CIW’s antislavery campaign coordinator, as an “anti-Trafficking Hero” for her work helping the US Department of Justice prosecute seven slavery operations in Florida over the last fifteen years, resulting in the liberation of over 1,000 farmworkers.
Now, the CIW’s Campaign for Fair Food—think human rights in the food industry—takes on the $550 billion supermarket industry and this kind of backward thinking: “We don’t have any plans to sit down with the CIW,” said Publix Media and Community Relations Manager Dwaine Stevens. “If there are some atrocities going on, it’s not our business.”
Actually, the supply chains used by corporations to turn a profit—and how workers who give us the food we eat are treated—are absolutely the business of corporations and consumers. Publix, Ahold (parent company of Giant and Stop & Shop), Kroger, Trader Joe’s—all would be wise to either get on board or brace themselves. You can begin to educate yourself and get involved here. This is a fight we all need to be a part of in 2011.
2) Democracy Reform
In the wake of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision which opened the floodgates for corporate money in the 2010 midterms, people understand in their gut that our electoral system is in trouble and desperately needs reform. Even with a Republican-controlled House, it’s going to be important to continue two vital efforts to get money out of politics and restore power to the hands of the people—a public campaign financing system and a constitutional amendment granting Congress the authority to regulate corporate campaign expenditures.