Tapped: The Prospect Group Blog

Trump’s Budget Would Eliminate Agency Tasked with Ending Homelessness

Included in President Donald Trump’s proposed $6 billion cut to the Department of Housing and Urban Development is the elimination of a small but vital program that has been a crucial force in driving down the U.S. homeless population.

The United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) has a scheduled sunset date of October 2017 and, for the first time since the Clinton administration, it may not be reauthorized.

First created in 1987, USICH’s 19 government member agencies coordinate 23 federal programs to combat homelessness. With an operating budget of $3.5 million a year, the program collaborates with both federal and local government and the private sector to help provide the nation’s homeless with food, shelter, health care, and jobs.

In 2010, the program launched “Opening Doors,” a comprehensive plan that focuses on leadership, collaboration, and civic engagement; access to stable and affordable housing; economic security; health and stability; and the homelessness crisis response system.

Five years after the plan was launched, nationwide homelessness had decreased by 14 percent, or 87,000 individuals (some 550,000 people in the United States do not have a home as of 2016). Homelessness among veterans decreased by 47 percent, chronic homelessness by 27 percent, and family homelessness by 23 percent.

The Urban Institute interviewed more than 50 national and local homelessness advocates, most of whom attributed the progress to USICH. Urban Institute research associate Sarah Gillespie told the Prospect that referred to USICH’s Opening Doors plan as a “leader” in the fight to end homelessness.

“It can be hard coordinating with 19 federal agencies,” Gillespie says. “USICH helps the federal government speak as one voice, navigate as a bureaucracy, ... marshall resources together, and make sure that everyone is on the same page.”

Before Opening Doors, there was little understanding of how many veterans were homeless because the Department of Veteran Affairs only counted veterans who used VA services. Opening Doors worked with the VA and HUD to create a more accurate count, and worked with federal partners to develop a set of benchmark criteria for ending veteran homelessness. Today, 47 cities and counties and three states have announced they have met those criteria. 

Advocates also credit USICH with changing federal homelessness policy to a focus on housing first, Gillespie says. Previously, the federal government provided sobering services, and required similar preconditions before providing housing.

“Even though people will try to keep working to end homelessness,” Gillespie says,” no one could fill the role that USICH plays.”

Making Student Homelessness a Visible Issue

Saturday, July 22 marks the 30-year anniversary of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, the federal government’s first major legislative response to homelessness. One important—and controversial—section of the law requires states to remove educational barriers experienced by homeless children and youth, out of recognition that many homeless children cannot enroll in school for a host of bureaucratic and logistical reasons.

Three decades later, there are 1.3 million homeless students in U.S. schools, an increase of 160 percent since 1987. And there are hundreds of thousands more homeless children who have already dropped out, or are still too young to be enrolled in school.

A new policy brief published by Liz Cohen of the Institute for Children, Poverty, and Homelessness and Barbara Duffield, of the SchoolHouse Connection, looks at where progress has been made at addressing the intersections of homelessness and education, and where work—lots of it—remains to be done.

The authors give the McKinney-Vento Act real credit, not only for providing financial resources to school districts to help homeless students, but also for the “statistical insights mandated by the Act.” They acknowledge that many homeless students would have never enrolled in any school without the law’s protections.

They also note, however, that many students are never properly identified as homeless, so there may be large numbers of children who never have access to services they are entitled to.

In an interview with the Prospect, Cohen expressed frustration that homeless students have not been treated as a distinct subgroup of underserved, vulnerable students.

“The majority of the education reform movement has focused on low-income kids, minority kids, children with disabilities or English-language learners, but homeless children have never really been recognized as anything but low-income students,” she says. “Obviously homeless students are low-income, but there are some important differences in educational outcomes and experiences for children who are currently or formerly experiencing housing instability than for poor students who haven’t.”

Though there’s a great deal of work to do, Cohen says she’s optimistic about the future—pointing to the Every Students Succeeds Act which passed in 2015. This new federal education law requires—for the first time—that schools specifically report the graduation rates of homeless students. Prior to the law’s passage only five states reported the graduation rates for homeless students.

As Cohen and Duffield write at the conclusion of their report:

We can’t say whether we will have ended family and youth homelessness in the next thirty years. Sadly, the rights and services provided by the McKinney-Vento Act may well still be needed at that time. But the wisdom we’ve gleaned from the past thirty years could propel us to make much more progress in the decades to come. What we can and must achieve, however, is to put homeless students on the map. … Our nation and communities must provide adequate resources to boost academic achievement, as well as for mental and physical health needs. Homeless students must know that they are safe in school, and have adults who can and will advocate for them. Their hopes and dreams must guide us, with urgency, as we learn from the past and step into the future.

Voting-Rights Activists Rally Against Kobach Commission

(Photo: Berkley/Esuoso/Richards)

 

As President Donald Trump’s so-called Election Integrity commission met near the White House for the first time on Wednesday morning, roughly 150 protesters gathered outside to voice their opposition to what many criticize as a thinly veiled attempt at voter suppression.

The rally, organized by the nonprofit Hip Hop Caucus’s Respect My Vote! campaign, included American Civil Liberties Union, Common Cause, the Democracy Initiative, and the NAACP Legal Education Defense Fund, which along with other organizations in attendance has filed a lawsuit against what policy director Todd Cox describes as the “Commission on Election Suppression.”

The commission, led by Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, was created to address Trump’s unsubstantiated claims that millions of people voted illegally in the 2016 presidential election. The commission has already requested information including voters’ Social Security numbers, driver's license numbers, dates of birth, and email addresses from individual states, leading to fears of widespread deregistration because of privacy concerns. Forty-four states have expressed opposition to the commission’s work, though 17 plan to hand over publicly available records. On Wednesday, Democratic lawmakers requested Kobach’s removal from the commission, citing Kobach’s past unsubstantiated fraud claims and conflicts of interest.

The “election integrity” commission’s purpose, says Cox, is to “lay the groundwork for a nationwide voter-intimidation campaign that will disenfranchise African American and Latino voters.”

“We are watching, we are organizing, and we’re here to make sure every eligible American can vote, and has their ballot count as it was cast,” Common Cause President Karen Hobert Flynn, who was at the protest, told the Prospect.

Protesters first assembled on Pennsylvania Avenue before officers in Secret Service vests ordered the group to move into Lafayette Square. Officers then instructed protesters to clear the park and move to the sidewalk, leading the president of the Hip Hop Caucus, Reverend Lennox Yearwood, to express his disappointment to protesters: “We have a permitted rally and were actually kicked out of the park with guns. That’s disheartening, because this is the people’s house, the place where people can come to this country and protest in a peaceful way.” (The Secret Service said they had not removed protesters and directed comment to the Park Police. A Park Police spokesman said the department’s officers were not involved, referring questions back to the Secret Service, which did not provide details by press time.)

Wendy Fields, protest speaker and executive director of the Democracy Initiative, told the Prospect that the commission should be looking for ways to achieve 100 percent eligible-voter participation, and not hiding behind the “guise of voter fraud.”

“It’s not just about elections,” Fields says. “Voting is about our ability to influence the policies that are being debated all across the country. It’s about making sure that people are participating in basic civil engagement.”

Q&A: Virginia’s Danica Roem Aims to Fix Infrastructure -- and Make History

If elected to the Virginia House of Delegates, Danica Roem would be the first openly transgender state representative in the United States. The 32-year-old Manassas native won a four-way Democratic primary on a platform of transportation, economic development, education, and inclusion, and is now running for Virginia’s 13th District against 11-term Republican incumbent Delegate Bob Marshall, who is known for having proposed earlier this year a bill to restrict transgender people’s public bathroom use.

The Prospect spoke to Roem over the phone about her campaign. The conversation has been edited and condensed.

Ira Berkley: What are you most focused on in your campaign?

Danica Roem: We have to focus on fixing our existing infrastructure first. [Delegate Marshall] is more concerned with how I as a transgender person go to the bathroom versus how his constituents get to work. Transgender people actually have public policy ideas that are applicable, that make sense, that would make good public policy, just like anyone else. If you have good public policy ideas, you have a right as an American to bring those ideas to the table. I’m out to prove that yes, transgender people are just as capable of fully funding transportation, taking care of land use issues, taking care of education, taking care of economic development as anyone else. I’m going to be focused on transportation, economic development, education, health care, quality-of-life stuff, while not being afraid to champion nondiscrimination policies.

What was it like growing up in Manassas, Virginia, and what shaped your politics?

I knew I was transgender from the time I was in fifth grade. So, growing up as a closet case in the 1990s was not easy. I came out to one person before college, and only said I was bi. I used sexuality as a stepping stone to get to gender identity, because the homophobic slurs that would be thrown around from my childhood on were severe, and I know what it's like to be singled out for the perception of being gay, let alone the reality of being transgender. Any chance I had for feminine expression I had to do in the privacy of my own room because I was too afraid to step out of my house.

In the 2004 presidential campaign, George W. Bush was floating the idea of supporting a constitutional amendment to ban marriage equality. That was a pivotal moment for me, because by that point I was in my sophomore year of college, I had come out to a lot of my female friends in regards to sexuality, and to some in regards to [being] transgender. But to see the president use the Constitution as a wedge to divide LGBTQ people from their neighbors spurred my interest in politics.

[Barack Obama’s] presidency was absolutely transformative in every sense of the word. He is the first president in my life who looked at LGBTQ people and said, “You are equal and contributing members of society and no one should discriminate against you.” He was the first president who was completely affirming of transgender people. Compare his demeanor to the demeanor of President Trump—it’s night and day. We have someone who has demonstrated that he’s not fit to lead. To me, all Trump’s election showed me is that there is literally nothing in my background to disqualify me for office.

How did Marshall’s history of anti-LGBT remarks and policies factor into your decision to run? How do you feel about the distinction of being, if elected, the first openly transgender state legislator in the United States?

All it means [is] that a transgender person would have the opportunity to finally fix [state] Route 28! But I also understand it from a much broader sense. I’ve talked to a lot of LGBTQ constituents within the district who very actively support my campaign and who see someone willing to champion things that they believe in.

I was deeply unsatisfied with [Marshall’s] constituent service and the fact that he has singled out and stigmatized his own constituents over and over again. After 25 years of being his constituent, I was fed up, and it was time to do something about it. The Trump campaign cemented it. Either we just complain on our computers, or we stand up and do something.

Colorado Voters Flee Electoral Rolls Ahead of Advancing Trump Commission

In one of a handful of states vowing to comply with President Trump’s “voter fraud” commission, voters have begun preemptively withdrawing their registration en masse.

In cities across Colorado, hundreds of individuals have asked to be withdrawn from voter rolls following the administration’s June 28 request for personal voter data from each state. In Denver, where almost 200 people took themselves out of the franchise on July 6 alone, Director of Elections Amber McReynolds told The Colorado Independent that “confusion [and] hysteria” are rampant.

While more than a dozen states have refused to work with the administration, Colorado has welcomed the investigation. Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams, a Republican, has promised to share publicly available data, including voters’ full names, addresses, and voting history since 2006. Although Williams will not comply with the administration’s request for confidential information, such as Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers, full dates of birth, or email addresses, many Colorado voters are worried and have already begun removing themselves from voter rolls.

Exact registration tallies are handled at the local level, but numerous counties—notably, heavily Democratic Boulder, Denver, and Arapahoe—have all seen voters canceling their registrations, though some plan to re-register after the state hands over data to Trump’s commission on July 14. Colorado’s 2017 statistics show 3,305,245 voters registered. Roughly 1,000 are known to have deregistered so far, while many others have opted for confidential voter status, which carries a fee and removes most of a voter’s information from publicly available records.

The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity was formed by Trump to investigate what the president believes was widespread voter fraud in the 2016 election. His claims of voter fraud—which he says handed his opponent a popular vote victory—have not been supported by independent analysis. The commission is also seeking voters’ dates of birth, political party registration, felony convictions, registration information from other states, military status, and information on overseas residence. Some of this information is publicly available, but much of it is not, though individual states’ laws vary.

Williams’s actions are not as unique as they may seem. Although 44 states have expressed opposition to the electoral commission’s work, some will still hand over their public records, as Williams plans to, while registering their distaste at so doing. Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos, for instance, has said he is “bound by law” to turn over public records, though he has stated he will seek advice from the state’s attorney general on whether he can deny Trump’s request outright.

Williams’s relative enthusiasm may be the sticking point for some Coloradans. While many secretaries of state emphasized that they would not be turning over confidential data, Williams’s office put out a press release that praised the commission’s work and expressed its cooperation. “We are very glad they are asking for information before making decisions,” Williams said.

Although many news outlets have reported that 44 states—not including Colorado—oppose the request, fully 17 have announced they will hand over publicly available information, although Wisconsin has requested payment for doing so. Colorado’s largest newspaper, The Denver Post, editorialized in favor of providing public records to the commission but only advocated doing so for an appropriate fee. 

Seismic Blasting in Whales’ Backyard

The North Atlantic’s marine life may soon be treated to near-constant seismic blasts as energy companies hunt for new oil and gas drilling sites.

A proposal from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), published last month, lays out a plan to allow five companies to use seismic air guns to conduct geological surveys in area ranging roughly from Florida to New Jersey. The companies, which provide geological information to larger drilling firms, claim that after roughly 30 years without comprehensive mapping, they might find new locations for offshore oil and gas wells.

The mapping itself is conducted by ships firing 180-decibel cannon blasts 24 hours a day, and proponents of the practice say adverse impacts are negligible. But environmental groups, fishing industry advocates, and residents of impacted areas are not convinced. The noises from the air guns—like a continual firework display, but at 1,000 times the volume—can wreak havoc on marine ecosystems by killing zooplankton. Most larger creatures, particularly marine mammals that rely on echolocation, would also experience harmful effects, according to scientists.

President Barack Obama had considered seismic blasting as a way to jump-start East Coast fossil fuel extraction, but ultimately bent to environmental, business, and community pressure and ordered a five-year moratorium on it in the final days of his presidency. The military also strongly opposed blasting, saying it threatened key training areas, and a bipartisan group of 103 U.S. House members signed a letter against it. But President Donald Trump put blasting back on the agenda in April, saying that overruling the ban was part of an “America-First Offshore Energy Strategy” and ordering Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to consider granting new permits to companies conducting blasting.

During the public comment period for NOAA’s proposal, set to expire on July 15, industry voices, community leaders, and politicians all spoke out against blasting. The fishing community cites data showing that fish catches could decline by as much as 70 percent due to blasting, while the Business Alliance for Protecting the Atlantic Coast—which represents 41,000 businesses and 500,000 commercial fishermen—claims falling tourism and fishing revenue would devastate business.

Major oil companies are not scrambling for blasting, either. Most have shifted their attention away from offshore projects in recent years, motivated by the doubling of American crude oil production in the past decade and deterred by the dangers of offshore drilling. Royal Dutch Shell suspended its Arctic Ocean drilling in 2015, and ConocoPhillips will end deep-water exploration this year.  

Following the close of NOAA’s public comment period, permits could be issued almost immediately. Seismic blasting in the Atlantic would then be possibly as soon as this autumn. 

FEMA Loophole Leaves Communities at Risk

A disaster-relief program of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) promises greater flexibility in rebuilding damaged towns and cities, but instead often allows for the diversion of resources from those communities.

FEMA’s Public Assistance Alternative Procedures pilot program, created by the 2013 Sandy Recovery Improvement Act, is designed to provide “substantially greater flexibility in use of federal funds,” with “far less administrative burden.” But a loophole allows essential public buildings to be rebuilt far from impacted areas, or abandoned entirely.

The first beneficiary of Alternative Procedures was Vermont’s state government, which utilized FEMA funding to rebuild offices for state employees outside a flood plain. But in Long Island and West Virginia, some residents claim that the misallocation of FEMA funds has jeopardized their communities’ livelihood and health.

In 2014, in Long Beach, New York, the South Nassau Communities Hospital acquired the Long Beach Medical Center for less than $12 million after the medical center filed for bankruptcy following its destruction in Hurricane Sandy. SNCH received $154 million from FEMA to rebuild the center and restore health services in the Long Beach area. Instead, SNCH put almost all the money into restoring its own facilities, five miles away from Long Beach. Long Beach residents have filed suit in federal court, claiming their equal protection rights were violated.

This past year, following massive flooding in West Virginia, the Nicholas County school board voted to consolidate the damaged middle and high schools of Richwood with schools in Summersville and Craigsville, a plan costing $130 million in FEMA funding. Some students from the three towns, which have a combined population of less than 8,000, would have to commute for almost an hour on twisting mountain roads to a new, centralized facility.

Many Richwood residents were angered by secret negotiations between the school board and FEMA that led to the decision to consolidate rather than rebuild local schools: Richwood High School, considered one of the best in West Virginia, is noted for its marching band and high graduation rate. “The whole town is hung on these schools,” says Mayor Bob Henry Baber.

“I think the flood and the fight for the schools has been such an intense struggle that it has … superseded any other political affiliations,” Baber adds, noting that Democratic Governor Jim Justice favors rebuilding the schools. In June, the West Virginia Board of Education sided with Richwood residents, rejecting the consolidation plan and ordering the county to consider alternatives. The Nicholas County school board promptly sued the state.

While some communities have sought Alternative Procedures funding because of its perceived flexibility, the reality for towns like Richwood and Long Beach can be a loss of local control—and essential funds.

Kansas Redux: Illinois Legislature Overrides Governor’s Austerity Politics

It’s becoming increasingly clear that conservative governors trying to push trickle-down tax cuts for the rich and austerity for everyone else will, eventually, face a political backlash.

Once again, a bipartisan coalition of fed-up legislators has overridden their intransigent governor’s veto to keep their state from driving off the cliff. On Thursday, Illinois Republicans joined with the Democratic majority in the legislature to override Governor Bruce Rauner’s veto of a $36 billion budget that raises much-needed revenue with income and corporate tax rate increases and brings an end to the longest running budget crisis in the country.

Rauner, a Republican and multimillionaire, has tried to impose his agenda of spending cuts and attacks on labor unions but has long faced staunch resistance in Springfield, which took the form of a more than two-year political standoff over the budget. The financially troubled state has not had an operating budget since Rauner took office in 2015, leading to $15 billion in missed payments and a series of credit downgrades that brought Illinois’s bond rating to the verge of “junk” status.

While Rauner had for years managed to keep Republican legislators under his thumb, ultimately the state’s worsening fiscal disaster and the governor’s obstinacy provoked 11 Republicans to join with Democrats to override his veto.

The end of the Illinois impasse comes just weeks after a similar scenario in which the Kansas’s Republican-controlled legislature, with the help of Democrats, overrode Governor Sam Brownback’s disastrous tax experiment. As I reported for the Prospect’s summer issue, in a matter of five years, Brownback’s radical tax cuts succeeded in throwing the state into fiscal chaos by blowing a massive whole in the state budget and completely failed to generate Brownback’s promised “shot of adrenaline” to the Kansas economy.

And while sanity ultimately prevailed in Kansas and Illinois, it will take both states several years to dig out from underneath the fiscal rubble left by both governors.

Trickle-down tragedies have a long tail. 

Tax Cuts for the rich. Deregulation for the powerful. Wage suppression for everyone else. These are the tenets of trickle-down economics, the conservatives’ age-old strategy for advantaging the interests of the rich and powerful over those of the middle class and poor. The articles in Trickle-Downers are devoted, first, to exposing and refuting these lies, but equally, to reminding Americans that these claims aren’t made because they are true. Rather, they are made because they are the most effective way elites have found to bully, confuse and intimidate middle- and working-class voters. Trickle-down claims are not real economics. They are negotiating strategies. Here at the Prospect, we hope to help you win that negotiation.

With Air Quality Rules at Risk, Black Seniors May Suffer Most

As the Trump administration moves to dismantle clean air regulations, a landmark study in The New England Journal of Medicine suggests that existing air quality rules do not go far enough.

The nationwide investigation, published last week, finds that long-term exposure to fine particulate matter and ozone, even at levels deemed safe by federal rules, can lead to early mortality. Among the groups most at risk, researchers singled out men, people eligible for Medicaid, and especially African Americans. “Do we really want to breathe air that kills?” Jeffrey M. Drazen, the Journal’s editor-in-chief, wrote in an editorial outlining the paper.   

The results of the study are backed by a 12-year data set that examines health outcomes of more than 60 million Medicare beneficiaries from 2000 to 2012. It found that fine particulate matter (any combination of dust, dirt, soot, or smoke) at levels the National Ambient Air Quality Standard deems permissible increases poor health outcomes and the likelihood of premature death—particularly among marginalized communities. Currently, that federal standard deems levels below 12 micrograms per cubic meter and ozone concentrations at 50 parts per billion to be safe.

This report adds to an emerging body of climate research that considers vectors such as race, age, class, and income and how each separately—and also all at once—reduce one’s quality of life. In an article published in The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, the authors note higher cancer and other health risks linked to “ambient exposure to industrial and on-road mobile source emissions of air toxics” in racially and ethnically diverse areas. The researchers also note that black men and women have a much higher perception of risk than their white and Hispanic counterparts of both sexes. The analysis stresses that black people are not only at greater risk of dying due to air pollution exposure, but black people are also the most aware that they are dying due to exposure.

“I think any place where brown people and poor people are in high concentration, you’re not going to get clean air,” says Olinka Green, a Dallas resident and community clean air advocate. Structural racism has long played a direct role in how climate change affects different groups and communities. In particular, the construction of coal-fire power plants and other toxic facilities in minority neighborhoods across the country has a direct impact on health outcomes for nonwhite residents. A 2016 analysis from the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club cites that 97 premature deaths, mostly those of children, the elderly, and outdoor workers, could be avoided each year if the largest coal mines in the Dallas and Fort Worth areas reduced their carbon emissions by implementing “common sense” safeguards.

In his editorial outlining the air quality study, Drazen outlines two urgent actions: first, the need to lower the annual National Ambient Air Quality Standard, and second, to raise awareness of an attack upon one of life’s most basic necessities—air. The Trump administration’s neglect of environmental problems represents a “headlong” move in the “opposite direction,” Drazen warns. As of late, we have seen Trump share his enthusiasm for reviving the coal industry by withdrawing from the Paris Agreement and eliminating Obama-era environmental regulations despite market indicators suggesting that such policy is not in our best economic interest.

Will this report, and its recommendations, go unnoticed by the Trump administration’s efforts to disregard facts? As more black people die from inhaling toxic air, only time will tell.

New Initiative Takes on Fight for Women’s Leadership in the Labor Movement

Women are set to overtake men in union membership in less than a decade, but their representation in the labor movement’s leadership lags far behind. Georgetown and Rutgers are joining forces in a new project to help bridge the leadership gap.

Women already make up nearly half of union membership, and the Center for Economic Policy Research estimates they will comprise the majority by 2023. But only about 20 percent of the AFL-CIO’s executive council are women, as is just a quarter of the International Vice Presidents of AFSCME.

The Women Innovating Labor Leadership (WILL) Empower project launched in June, when the Berger-Marks Foundation (dedicated to Edna Berger, the Newspaper Guild-CWA’s first female lead organizer) closed its doors and announced it was passing $1.5 million in assets to the program, a legacy project to continue and expand the foundation’s work in supporting female leadership in both union and non-union organizations. The project brings together Georgetown’s Kalmanovitz Initiative (KI) and Rutgers’s Center for Innovation in Worker Organization (CIWO). Windham of KI and Sheri Davis-Faulkner of CIWO lead the project with decades of experience in worker’s rights and women’s rights as organizers, leaders and scholars.

“The project is coming at a very crucial moment for the labor movement, especially for women who are more likely to be affected by recent economic transformations,” says Joseph McCartin, the director of KI.

The 1970s represented a “moment of working-class promise,” says Lane Windham, co-director of WILL Empower, as new laws brought more women and people of color into the work force. The union participation rate for all African American women rose to about 25 percent, and 30 percent for all women. Organizing jobs opened up in unions and women took on jobs as organizers and elected leaders. But when the 1980s saw greater employer resistance lead to a downturn in union activity, women were disproportionately affected.

“On one hand, I knew I had to work twice as hard to show that a woman could lead the biggest department in the AFL-CIO,” says CIWO Director Marilyn Sneiderman, who was the union’s first female national field director from 1995 to 2003. “But on the other hand, I needed to create space for more women to be involved in those roles. WILL Empower is a continuation of my passion in life to support emerging women leaders and help create space for them to lead.”

WILL Empower, scheduled to open its doors in September, will use a multilevel approach to support women in the workforce and the rise of women in leadership positions. According to Windham, the project will offer fellowships to people who want to step away from day-to-day work to build the workers’ movement, and an interactive educational project to students. Georgetown and Rutgers will also run cross-organizational leadership cohorts for women in executive leadership positions.

“There is nothing in the labor movement that helps women who are going to be taking over as regional directors and presidents,” Sneiderman says. “But people can learn so much from each other on how to build the most effective organization they can.”

According to McCartin, WILL Empower’s grassroots collaboration is the key to changing the labor movement.

“We can’t wait for action from Washington or the passage of legislation,” McCartin says. “Change has to happen from the bottom up.”

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