When we originally conceived “Sweet Victories” as a feature on our website, Bush had just been re-elected, and the progressive community was deeply deflated. The idea was to chronicle progressive triumphs–electoral victories, successful organizing efforts, protests and boycotts, the launching of new ideas, new organizations and initiatives. We hoped these stories would bring attention to what is too often off the mainstream media radar screen, and also maintain a sense of hope and inspiration in a dark time. A year later, much has changed: The attempt to destroy Social Security has been blocked, the movement for withdrawal from Iraq has growing public support and many local, statewide and national victories have been won. Here is a look back at some of the year’s sweetest victories.
, became the first city in the country to approve full public financing of elections.
passed the strongest campaign finance reform bill in the United States, banning contributions from lobbyists and state contractors. In addition, the legislation created a publicly funded election system encompassing statewide races, including House and Senate seats.
Civil Rights and Civil Liberties
became the sixth and final New England state to outlaw discrimination against homosexuals in employment, housing, credit, public accommodations and education.
, rejected Fred “God Hates Fags” Phelps’s attempt to overturn an ordinance banning discrimination against gays in municipal hiring. And in the City Council primary, Phelps’s granddaughter and fellow antigay activist, Jael Phelps, lost big to Topeka’s first openly gay council member, Tiffany Muller.
Massachusetts General Hospital
announced the creation of the Disparities Solution Center–the first institution specifically dedicated to bridging the racial gap in healthcare service.
Governor Tom Vilsack restored voting rights to thousands of Iowans, reversing an unjust state law that ordained lifetime disenfranchisement for anyone convicted of a felony. Of those affected by the disenfranchisement law, 25 percent were African-Americans. In March
also overturned its lifetime disenfranchisement law for convicted felons. Currently only four states–Alabama, Florida, Kentucky and Virginia–continue to uphold this absurdly punitive law.
became the seventh state to officially condemn the Patriot Act, joining
(not to mention more than 375 local communities).
Environment and Health
‘s Safe Cosmetics bill was signed into law. The first of its kind in America, the law requires manufacturers to disclose to the state Department of Health Services any product ingredients linked to cancer, mutations or birth defects.
Six new Democratic governors–Rod Blagojevich (
), Jim Doyle (
), Christine Gregoire
, Ted Kulongoski
, Janet Napolitano
and Brian Schweitzer (
)–joined an earlier three–Jennifer Granholm (
), Ed Rendell (
) and Bill Richardson (
)–in embracing the Apollo Alliance’s goal of achieving sustainable US energy independence within a decade.
Colorado passed the Renewable Energy Initiative, a precedent-setting victory for renewable energy; it requires the state’s largest electric companies to increase their use of sources such as wind, solar, biomass and geothermal from less than 2 percent today to 10 percent by 2015. Amendment 37 is expected to save Coloradans $236 million by 2025, create 2,000 jobs and significantly reduce gas prices in the state.
New York City
agreed to issue taxi medallions to hybrid cars, the latest in a string of victories for the “Green Fleets” movement. Earlier, legislators in
Charlotte, North Carolina
, had also made strides in converting their fleets to green.
Labor and Economic Rights
raised their state minimum wage. In
an Alameda County superior court judge ordered the giant uniform manufacturer Cintas Corporation to pay 219 workers nearly $1 million in back wages. Paul Sonn of NYU’s Brennan Center for Justice called it “the first large-scale enforcement effort involving a large group of workers in a class action.”
Students at Georgetown University in
, and Washington University in
staged protests and convinced administrators to provide a living wage for university employees. After the Coalition of Immokalee Workers organized a three-year boycott of Taco Bell, Yum! Brands, one of the world’s largest fast-food corporations and the chain’s parent company, agreed to improve working conditions for its tomato pickers in
and to pay an extra penny per pound of tomatoes picked.
passed the Fair Share Health Care Act, requiring Wal-Mart and other large companies to provide health benefits for employees (although the act was vetoed by the governor, an override seems likely). Throughout the year, Wal-Mart Watch and Wake Up Wal-Mart waged a tireless campaign to reform Wal-Mart, forcing the retail behemoth into PR crisis mode.
‘s City Council voted 29 to 9 to become the largest US city to pass the Bring Them Home Now resolution. The city joins
and more than fifty other municipalities that have called for withdrawal.
The United Methodist Church
Union for Reform Judaism
passed resolutions calling for withdrawal.
As we celebrate these victories and the efforts of so many people behind them, we realize that this is no time to pause. Much important work remains to be done and many critical battles loom. Starting with this issue, “Sweet Victories” will appear as a regular feature in the magazine, as well as on the Nation website. If you have a sweet victory you’d like to share, please send it to [email protected]