If you don't know much about the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), you should. With 50-plus members, it's the single largest caucus in the House, and according to a study by Chris Bowers of MyDD, by far the most loyal to core Democratic values.
At a time in which too many Dems have lost their way (read: spine), CPC members--from co-chairs Barbara Lee (CA) and Lynn Woolsey (CA) to outspoken figures like founder (and Senate hopeful) Bernie Sanders (VT), Dennis Kucinich (OH), Jan Schakowsky (IL), John Conyers (MI), Maurice Hinchey (NY) and Barney Frank (MA)--continue to fight for working Americans, stand against the war, and discuss honorable ways out of Iraq. This week, Lee and Woolsey took a significant step towards strengthening the CPC, hiring grassroots organizer, former AFL-CIO staffer, and Capitol Hill veteran Bill Goold as its first full-time staffer. "There are a growing number of people who are getting involved with politics because they are drawn to the basic principles of fairness and justice that the Progressive Caucus has long represented in Congress," said Lee. "Adding a staff member of Bill's experience will allow the Progressive Caucus to more effectively continue our commitment to these principles."
Goold's arrival should ensure that the CPC builds on its great work to date. Here are some of highlights of the CPC's decade-long struggle for justice (thanks to Karen Dolan of the Institute for Policy Studies):
**The Annual Alternative State of the Union Address and the Alternative Budget, done jointly with the Congressional Black Caucus each year.
**The Preservation of Civil Rights Protections Act of 2001. This bill would protect workers' rights to a trial for alleged violations of their statutory and constitutional rights.
**Pushing the House Democratic caucus to adopt three key reforms improving unemployment insurance: increasing benefits by 25 percent or $65 per week, whichever is greater; broadening elgibility criteria to include part-time workers; and extending unemployment insurance benefits up to 52 weeks in case of long recessions.
**The "American People's Dividend" of 2001, a progressive alternative to Bush tax cuts when the federal budget was in surplus.
**The Economic Human Rights Bus Tour, in which Caucus members travel across the nation with grassroots organizations highlighting the adverse affects of budget priorities on rural and inner-city populations and people of color.
With Goold on board and several other unfolding plans to ramp up the CPC, expect this list to grow significantly in the coming months.
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Co-written by Sam Graham-Felsen, a freelance journalist, documentary filmmaker and blogger (www.boldprint.net) living in Brooklyn.