This is the kind of issue that so clearly articulates the mission of Social Policy that it makes us all proud to put our shoulder to this wheel. From one article to the next, you will find passion, argument, analysis, policy, and advocacy. Tell me that’s not exactly what we are all hoping for when we crack the cover of a new issue!
The lead piece by Brian Johns and Ellen Ryan of Virginia Organizing stands up for community organizing in the best sense and calls out, ok, maybe even shames, the codependency that has now mutated the relationships between idealistic organizations and their funders and general contractors among unions and D.C. based nonprofits into work that at its narrowest is now becoming transactional, rather than transformative. With any luck organizers are going to be discussing among themselves and debating the themes raised in this essay and speaking truth to power, as Virginia Organizing was willing to do, to their funders and handlers. And what is the water in Virginia these days, because we are fortunate to have a look as well at why Virginia is such a battleground politically, in a piece by veteran organizer Jon Liss and his co-author, Steve McClure.
Rand Wilson is also experienced in the labor world and offers the challenging argument that we need a coalition of the willing – and able – to go after state legislators in order to attack frontally employment “at will” and win workers real job security as a matter of statute, not just from the good fortune of stumbling into a job with a union contract. It will be interesting to see who answers the call. Similarly, David Bacon in an excerpt from his most recent book turns some of the arguments made by opponents of immigration reform upside down by making the case that the economic policies of the United States are forcing immigration here, and that people want the right to stay and work at home.
While we are looking at policies that are at crosscurrents, Bowdoin Professor Emeritus Daniel Rossides, whom we have come to rely on for an annual piece, goes chapter and verse through arguments of America’s “exceptionalism,” punching holes in each, systematically and vigorously. Perhaps more quietly, but as devastatingly, Morgan State’s Banigo and Wilson offer a cold, crisp analysis of the Multi-Ethnic Placement Act (MEPA) affecting adoptions, and mince no words in making the case that the years have not been kind, it has not worked, and it needs amendment, which they offer as well.
Drummond Pike opens with an overview of the economic situation in the country and the role of the dominant militarily controlled super-companies, and the odd silence still about their operations. Mike Orders, a veteran of the Thai-Burma border area where he has long represented his union, BCGEU, looks at the rapidly fluctuating political scene. Jay Hessey, an ACORN and SEIU veteran, is now living and working on the border and shares how these changes are also impacting the longstanding camps. Scott Nunn looks at community organizing, and shares our hopes that the Myanmar Institute for Democracy (MID), may be the most encouraging sign of growing strength at the grassroots level for social change and empowerment. Joie Warnock with an assist from Orell Fitzsimmons shares the hope and Catch 22 nature of the current changes in labor law which are fueling organizing from a number of exciting local unions and federations we were able to meet in the industrial area of Yangon. William Dowdell reflects on our visit with almost 100 women workers in the textile industries on a Sunday, their one day off work, as they sought to learn everything they could to build their union and their future. Finally, Antoinette Eyth gives a comprehensive report on one of the bigger surprises we discovered, the story of the Chin people in the northern part of Burma and their many decades of struggle based on their poverty and their Christianity, both of which set them apart in the country. The photographs taken by Chaco Rathke tell their own story and give us all the feeling we were there together in the rapidly evolving Myanmar!
Changing gears, our old friend and faithful correspondent Mike Miller interviews Fred Hirsh and vividly gives us all some lessons “from the horse’s mouth” on what it means to make change from the bottom and be the backbone of a local union. Indeed, as one of those interviewed says, we all need Fred Hirshs in our union! Phil Mattera’s column looks at Walmart and its ability to squeeze every dime out of the public purse as well as the public. Noorin Ladhani shares a novel social media event involving the well-known Canadian environmentalist David Suzuki. John Anderson in his Northern Light column could not resist taking a look at Rob Ford, who as mayor of Toronto is almost single-handedly changing everyone’s perception of the city, and argues that Ford is actually teaching more lessons to progressives about politics in the metropolitan city than he is offering hard-partying tips. Finally, I wonder why progressives are still not willing to learn the lessons of our polarized politics and “gotcha” media sources, prepare for James O’Keefe and his acolytes, and beat them at their own game.
You’re going to love closing out 2013 with this issue from Social Policy, so here’s to a great New Year!