Feeling a bit bleak about our side’s chances? The Nation’s got two stories that together paint a picture of what winning might look like.
Jane McAlevey has an interesting piece on NYC’s Make the Road, a 12,000 person immigrant workers organization that
is a unique amalgam of worker center, legal clinic, citizenship school, mutual aid society, policy shop, protest factory and church. Its four offices in Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and Long Island are an egalitarian oasis for members, who gather there for conversation and classes. According to Javier Valdés, one of three co–executive directors, “We have created a physical space where people feel dignified and at home—because outside the four walls of our offices, the world can feel really crappy. When people walk through our doors, we want everyone to feel respected and comfortable. In our experience, organizing from anger alone is not enough; part of why people stay involved and active at Make the Road is because we have built a community based on love alongside our highly agitational campaigns.”Over time it’s also begun running union organizing campaigns, starting with carwash workers, and impressively
Make the Road isn’t just fusing culture with organizing; it is fusing workplace and community issues that are of equal concern to its members. This multi-issue approach stands in contrast to that of traditional worker centers, unions and community-based organizations… as it weaves together issues like stop-and-frisk racial profiling, affordable housing, environmental and civil rights, and workplace justice. Perhaps most surprising, given its base among Catholic Latino immigrants, is its campaign for tolerance and against the discrimination directed at lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and queer people.
in less than one year, workers at six different carwashes have voted yes to forming a union in National Labor Relations Board elections.What unites all of their efforts is
a commitment to building a high-participation organization. What it calls its “high touch” model, with dozens of weekly meetings, creates points of entry and opportunities for leadership development for Make the Road’s thousands of members. At committee meetings, where the dinner is often cooked by members at the office and served by teams carrying army-size pots of beans and rice, members discuss recent actions and plan for new ones. In addition, the group makes many of its services—from legal help with bad landlords or bad bosses, to ESL classes, citizenship classes and more—conditional on members’ participating in at least two activities per month, creating a sustained participation level where activism constitutes a kind of dues.Meanwhile, in Oregon third term governor John Kitzhaber has been pushing forward an ambitious coordinated campaign to improve both the health and education of poor and middle class families even during a time of austerity — part of what Kitzhaber jokingly refers to as his Unified Theory of Everything.
The pathway to the American Dream,” he argues, in an e-mail he sends me shortly after we meet, “revolves around a job for which the individual is paid a living wage—enough to meet their basic needs—and an opportunity for upward income mobility. To create that pathway our public institutions (government) and our economy must be aligned around the same goal: to ensure an equal opportunity for all Americans to achieve their shared aspirations.” For Kitzhaber, poverty and ill health are too often the result of inadequate education; fixing these problems is what he calls the “left side” of his unified theory. On the right side, he talks about the need to invest in clean technologies and renewables, to open routes to prosperity that neither denude the environment nor leave millions unemployed.In education, his goal is to create a “0-20″ system that starts with
prenatal counseling, and involves better nutrition programs, parenting classes and medical clinics in school settings. He wants to prepare all kids for kindergarten, have them reading at grade level by third grade, and get middle school kids ready for high school. He wants high school kids taking community college and university classes. Kitzhaber’s integrated model continues all the way through graduate school.Unlike most education reform, this one isn’t designed as mostly stick.
Schools that meet those standards are labeled “model” schools, and are essentially given the funds and space to pursue their specialized projects. Those with poor success rates are categorized as “focus” or “priority” schools; the state assigns them “coaches”—retired administrators and other education specialists—who work with the principal and teachers to improve administration and classroom methods.Part of what makes this approach unique is a series of integrated centers that are embedded in the public schools. Take the
Gladstone Center for Children and Families (GCCF), half an hour’s drive south of Portland, [where] the early-childhood pieces of the puzzle, on which all these other hopes rest, are already falling into place. There, in a converted 1960s Thriftway supermarket bought by the school district at a hefty discount back in 2005, more than 180 kids are concentrated in a stand-alone, full-day kindergarten, whose capacious windows look out onto fields and evergreen groves. Eighty local preschoolers also show up for Head Start sessions. And local families regularly attend afternoon and evening story times. Young adults attend parenting classes, and Clackamas Community College runs GED classes for Spanish speakers.How does he hope to pay for all of this? In part from a new approach to healthcare that is
The classrooms, ranged along a central hallway, are spacious, with kids seated around six-sided wooden tables, their art lining the walls. Outside is a playground centered around a large red, yellow and blue climbing structure. Off to its side is a garden, which kindergartners plant in the spring, leaving the harvest to next fall’s incoming class. At the far end of the campus, a medical clinic offers pediatric services, adult medical checkups, shots and mental health referrals. There are two dental clinics in the area, to which campus doctors refer patients. And in a nearby building, WIC vouchers are provided as a part of the hub of onsite services offered through the GCCF.
moving more than 90 percent of the state’s Medicaid patients—about 600,000 people—into Coordinated Care Organizations, where primary care, wellness clinics, mental health centers, opticians and other services are either concentrated in one place or coordinated among the practitioners, allowing greater convenience for patients….Imagine if progressives took both of these approaches to building new institutions — a “high-touch,” multi-pronged democratic approach to building low-wage worker power and a blended health care/ education approach — and did them together. Then imagine we were fighting these fights in several states at the same time. It wouldn’t solve all our problems, but it’d let us help a lot of folks build a slightly better life and start building the movement power we’d need to take it to the next level. All we’d have to do is stop focusing mostly on DC and start focusing on states and cities.
One goal is that clinicians will catch problems before they escalate into expensive crises. CCOs are paid not by the number of tests they do or the number of hospital admissions they preside over, but by the number of patients they have and their health outcomes….
The governor talks of how a coordinated-care model would identify congestive heart failure patients at risk of catastrophic illness during heat waves and install air-conditioning units in their homes rather than wait, as the current system does, for them to get so sick they have to be admitted to a hospital ICU, at enormous cost. “The best hospital bed,” explains [health director]Goldberg, “should be an empty bed. That should be the goal of our healthcare system. Ultimately, our goal should be to keep people out of the hospital—fewer hospital beds and a healthier population.”