The sobering new data on poverty has given new impetus to the One Nation Working Together movement, a coalition of union members, community activists, students, entertainers, civil and human rights leaders and progressive politicians coming together on October 2 to demand jobs, justice and education.
The figures recently released by the US Census Bureau show that one in seven Americans – that’s 45.6 million people – lives in poverty in the United States. This is the third consecutive year of increases. African-Americans saw an increase from 24.7 percent to 25.8 percent, while poor Hispanics jumped from 23.2 percent to 25.3 percent. Shockingly, the number of Americans living fifty percent below poverty level is at an all-time high of 6.3 percent of the country. That’s a total of 19 million people trying to get by on $10,977 annual income for a family of four.
It’s a full-fledged crisis and groups on the left are making every effort to marshall sufficient grassroots pressure to force the administration to rise to the occasion. Organizers are hoping the events on October 2 will herald the emergence of a new political force that can fill the void in representing the growing needs of larger and larger segments of the populace and wrest the fake populist mantle away from the Tea Partiers and Glenn Beck.
These words from Campus Progress’ Sara Haile-Mariam eloquently explain what the October 2 march represents.
And this video with AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Arlene Holt Baker lucidly details the goals of the new movement.
Initiated largely by the AFL-CIO and the NAACP, One Nation has scores of sponsoring organizations including La Raza, numerous union affiliates, all the major environmental groups, the feminist peace group Code Pink, even ANSWER, the longtime sectarian scourge of the mainstream antiwar movement. The challenge is to keep a march as diverse as this from degenerating into a laundry list of slogans that diffuse the coalition’s core message of economic equality.
Fortunately, organizers have laid out some concrete policy goals including extension of the federal unemployment program, COBRA, mortgage assistance, and other targeted initiatives to those currently unemployed; legislation to ensure that all workers earn a living family wage; the expansion of anti-discrimination law; the reform of bankruptcy laws to the benefit of families, working people, seniors, and students; the completion of the promise of universal healthcare, and increased federal support to institutions of higher education that provide opportunities for underserved communities, including community colleges and Historically Black Colleges.
The spirit of the march was well embodied by New Haven NAACP President James Rawlings at a recent rally in Connecticut:
"This is called One Nation Working Together, not Our Nation, and that’s significant because across America we’re hearing groups talk about, ‘Let’s take back ‘our country, our nation.’ The significance of this march can’t be underestimated based on the challenges we have in America today. We’re all marching for jobs, which as you know, has disproportionally impacted the poor in America and particularly minorities. We are marching for educational support and reform, because what we see today is a retrenchment of segregated schools in America and children left behind relative to America’s dream.”
The DC march is expected to draw hundreds of thousands of Americans from across the country, who will gather at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC at the same time as hundreds of smaller, local events are staged coast to coast.
In recent weeks, local coalitions from Boston to the Bay Area have been hosting events and mobilizing residents to pledge support for One Nation Working Together. Examples include a blog mobile departing California on September 24 for a drive across the country to the march, staffed by citizen bloggers who will capture stories of real people they meet on the way, jobs fairs in Texas that attracted thousands of people, affordable housing rallies, a Wall Street march, numerous parades, and dozens of news conferences, tailgate and house parties, prayer breakfasts and voter registration drives, to name a few.
If you can’t make it to the nation’s capital, you can still watch the proceedings live on Free Speech TV (FSTV) with hosts Thom Hartmann and Laura Flanders. The TV broadcast will feature main stage speeches, interviews with organizers and analysts and reporting from the crowd. The special program will air nationally from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm Eastern Time on DISH Network channel 9415, DIRECTV channel 348 and numerous cable stations across the country.