Thursday, November 30, 2006

Making it happen at the state level

I haven’t surfed over to Nathan Newman’s site in awhile, but after reading a slew of anti-union comments at Wal-Mart Watch, I decided to check out one of my favorite pro-labor blogs. I’m glad that I did.

As regular readers probably have noticed, I’ve backed off writing (ranting) about national political issues, choosing to focus on more local, or grassroots causes of late. Probably part of this has to do with my new job, which has me focused on issues that are community-based and pertain to the geographic area that I’m involved in (a remarkably diverse five county region in Central/Western Maine). I also think that I’ve recognized the futility of one person trying to topple a system driven by corporate power.

One thing I’ve come to recognize over the past few months is that there are some very real opportunities to make substantive change at the local and at least in Maine, the state level. I don’t want to give anyone the false idea that state government functions efficiently, or that bureaucracy isn’t an issue—both are very real problems here in my home state and I’m sure, elsewhere. However, I’m impressed with the quality and commitment of so many local businesspeople, community leaders and others that I come into contact with regularly. Over the past four months, I’ve begun to believe that we the people do have the power to move Maine forward in a way that benefits everyone.

Back to Newman. He has a post about an organization called The Progressive States Network. Recognizing that conservatives have effectively run amok in many states, carrying forth their agenda in state legislatures across the country, this organization is building coalitions across the country, with a goal of taking back the power in key areas in each state.

With an agenda that is focused on increasing democracy, not limiting it, as conservatives want, growing local economies, building sustainability, bringing dignity and rewards back into the mix when it comes to work, as well as valuing families in a tangible way, not merely with lip service and campaign rhetoric, this organization is worth looking into further as a way to make some very proactive changes, state-by-state.

Newman’s site links to PSN’s legislative agenda for 2007. Here are the main areas of focus for this grassroots organization, as it seeks to build coalitions, one state at a time.

  • Wage Standards and Workplace Freedom— assuring that American workers receive a decent wage and the freedom of speech in the workplace to stand up for their own interests.
  • Balancing Work and Family- helping create a more family-friendly workplace and society through better family leave policies, sick days, support for child care, and access to contraception.
  • Health Care for All- extending health care coverage to all Americans, while helping cut costs for those currently receiving health coverage.
  • Smart Growth and Clean Jobs- promoting energy independence and job growth through new transit options, smart development to strengthen our communities, and new energy technologies.
  • Tax and Budget Reform- creating more equity and accountability in state tax systems, economic development subsidies and public contracts.
  • Clean and Fair Elections- reforming lobbying corruption, establishing public financing for elections, protecting voting rights, and election reforms like vote by mail to improve the voting process.

This is a great set of core items that people who care about people and place, like I do, can get behind and support—better yet, actually have a hand in moving this pro-people agenda forward.

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