11/09/2010 04:17 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Building a Values-Based Movement

Last Tuesday, although Democrats maintained control of the Senate, Republicans reclaimed the House of Representatives by a margin not seen since 1948. Some of the day's winners were supported by fringe Tea Party affiliates. Many more were backed by millions in corporate dollars, much of it given in secret. The labor movement, the biggest progressive independent political operation, was outspent by corporations 20 to 1. Much of that corporate money was spent trying to distort working people's legitimate fears of losing their jobs, homes, and a declining standard of living into fear of other workers, of immigrants, of the LBGT community, or of "poor people." It's the same old story: divide and conquer in order to advance the corporate agenda of union-busting, deregulation, and destruction of public services to facilitate record-high corporate profits. Now more than ever, our entire economic system is set up to protect the powerful. The question for all of us is: how are we building ties with the silent majority, focusing all of our anger and frustration on the battle between Main Street and Wall Street instead of turning on each other? The corporations will always have more money -- and they have demonstrated that they will stop at nothing to give themselves more power and flexibility to engage politically (eg. Citizens United vs FEC). But money isn't everything. It took the small network of fringe groups affiliated with the Tea Party both organization and an influx of millions in corporate funding to scrape out victories for their extreme right-wing candidates. It required a disproportionate effort for them to win against labor-backed candidates. Why? Because a majority of people share our values. There are those who say that we live in a conservative country, but we know that is not true.
  • A majority of people believe that we need to end the wars
  • A majority of people believe that workers should have a say in their working conditions, job security, and benefits
  • A majority of people believe that we need fully-funded public schools
  • A majority of people believe that we need universal health care
  • A majority of people believe that we need affordable and accessible higher education
  • A majority of people support Social Security, Medicare, and Head Start (government-run programs)
  • A majority of people still look to the government to solve the housing crisis
  • A majority of people believe that the rich should be taxed
  • the list goes on....
Labor and its allies in the progressive movement must do more than simply "touch" unorganized workers during election cycles. We have to build lasting organization in every crevice of the country around the values that unite us in the struggle for quality jobs, fair housing and education, and the understanding that the role of government is to provide and protect these things first. Moving forward, the only way to win long-lasting change for working people is to creatively build coalitions, clubs, and associations within our communities on a massive scale. We need to build a movement that is based not on the thousands of individual causes and issues we fight for, but rather based on our values and our vision for a country that prioritizes people and our work over Wall Street's "bottom line". For the last 23 years, Jobs with Justice has been building coalitions that take action for working people everywhere. Our network of local coalitions brings together labor unions, faith groups, community organizations, and student activists to fight for working people. We need to continue building these bridges between communities. The only we can win is if we stand together.

In the coming year, we know we're going to be taking on major corporations as they attempt to roll back workers' rights. We'll continue to fight for the right to organize and collectively bargain. We'll defend immigrant workers under attack, fight foreclosures, and demand education funding. We'll continue the national fight to create jobs and extend unemployment insurance, defend Medicare and Social Security, and to build an economy that is environmentally sustainable. We will stand up to the corporate "free trade" agenda and the effort to extend tax cuts for the rich.

Will you join the fight and be there with us?