Democracy Initiative Update 06.19.20

Friday, June 19, 2020
Our highlighted issues and actions from the democracy movement in this moment of crisis—please share widely.

TAKE ACTION: JUNE 20 MORAL MARCH ON WASHINGTON

Across the country, in every state, people are rising up to demand justice and transformation in the wake of the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and countless others. Now, with the intersection of police brutality, systemic racism, the COVID-19 pandemic, and economic devastation, it is clear that we are in the midst of a moment of national reckoning.

Today is Juneteenth, and we know this weekend will see historic demonstrations of collective action. Since June 19, 1865, the date of emancipation of the last Black slaves in Texas two years after it was officially enacted, Juneteenth has been celebrated as a day marking end of slavery and the fight for freedom for Black Americans. Democracy Initiative is proud to affirm in words and in action on Juneteenth and every day that Black Lives Matter, and that the fight for a truly representative, inclusive, and equitable democracy requires full participation and justice for all Black people.

In honor of Juneteenth, we encourage all Democracy Initiative partners and allies to invite their members, families and friends to join us at the Mass Poor People’s Assembly and Moral March on Washington, a digital justice gathering on June 20. On Tuesday, June 16, Poor People’s Campaign Co-Chairs Rev. Dr. William Barber II and Rev. Liz Theoharis and DI Executive Director Wendy Fields joined with Common Cause President Karen Hobert Flynn, AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre, NAACP President & CEO Derrick Johnson, Friends of the Earth President Erich Pica, CASA Executive Director Gustavo Torres, Demos President K. Sabeel Rahman, League of Women Voters of the United States President & CEO Virginia Kase, and Secretary-Treasurer of United Auto Workers Ray Curry to invite all DI partners to join us at Saturday’s event.

Many of our partners are also supporting mobilizations across the country all weekend to stand together and #DefendBlackLives; to find an event near you this weekend, click here. We strongly encourage all participating in public or semi-public actions to practice social distancing to the greatest degree possible, stay safe, and wear a mask.

As you know, the Poor People’s Campaign has been organizing poor and low-wealth people over the last two years around the interlocking injustices of systemic racism, poverty, militarism and the war economy, ecological devastation, and the distorted narrative of religious nationalism. Core to the Campaign is the belief that poor and dispossessed people, and all those at the receiving end of injustice, can be agents of social change, not just subjects of a cruel history. The aim is to build moral fusion—organizing across the lines that divide us—to shift the narrative about what is possible and necessary, register poor and low-wealth people for a movement that votes, and build long-term power for our communities.

In the midst of these explosive times, the conditions are ripe to move transformative change, but that is only possible when we take action together in new and bold ways.

We encourage all DI partners to sign up with this Partners Form. You can further amplify the event by:

  1. Send an email to your supporters and network promoting June 20th event which will be broadcast on Saturday, June 20th at 10am EST, 6pm EST and Sunday June 21st at 6pm EST.
  2. Promote the event on social media and cross-post the livestream using this digital toolkit.

If you have any questions about getting involved, please direct them to Noam Sandweiss-Back, noam@poorpeoplescampaign.org.

THE WINDS OF CHANGE ARE BLOWING

BLACK VOTES MATTER
On June 14, DI Executive Director Wendy Fields’ Letter to the Editor “Black Votes Matter” was published in the Washington Post:

“E.J. Dionne Jr. was right: Unless we step up our game, the 2020 election could be a disaster for our increasingly fragile democracy [“The last thing we need is a disastrous Election Day,” op-ed, June 8]. That’s why the $3.6 billion included in the House-passed Heroes Act is essential. These funds are desperately needed to expand voting by mail and provide state and local officials with updated technology and resources. We cannot afford an election in which the results are disputed because members of disadvantaged communities were turned away at the polls or did not have their votes properly counted.

Many corporations are using ads and social media to denounce racism. In the coming weeks, we will challenge these companies to use their power and influence to protect our right to vote. Black Lives Matter — and black votes also matter.”

As the fight to secure essential and urgent funding for fair and equitable elections ramps up, we must place pressure on corporations rushing out to affirm the worth of Black lives to back that up with money and advocacy for adequate election funding. It has never been more important. We encourage our partners to use Wendy’s LTE and recent statement as the foundation for a framework oriented toward making those demands.

Retweet the op-ed here.

VOTE FOR OUR LIVES TOWNHALL
Last Tuesday, June 9, DI Executive Director Wendy Fields spoke during the Declaration for American Democracy and Leadership Conference on Civil and Human RightsVote For Our Lives virtual rally.

Wendy spoke alongside:

Wendy’s remarks focused on the need for a massive push for a transformative 75% voter participation and holding corporations accountable by pressuring them to match their words with action. You can find a recording of the rally here. Wendy’s remarks begin at 1:01:30.

LGBTQ WORKERS RIGHTS AFFIRMED BY SCOTUS
The Supreme Court of the United States issued on Monday, June 15 an historic ruling in protection of LGBTQ workers rights. The decision protects gay and transgender workers from being fired because of their sexual orientation or gender identity; prior to Monday, this form of workplace discrimination was legal in more than half of all states. The 6-3 ruling is a landmark ruling that finally enshrines long overdue protections for millions of workers across the country.

DI Executive Director Wendy Fields issued the following statement:

“We’re overjoyed to celebrate today with LGBTQ people and all Americans. Validating the tireless efforts of advocates and activists, the Supreme Court has ruled that no one can be fired because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Period.

“The right to secure employment is a bedrock civil right. At a time when our country is often divided, today’s sweeping 6-to-3 decision expands American democracy. Liberals and conservatives on the Court agree: LGBTQ people are included in our nation’s civil rights laws and have the same right to earn a living as anyone else.

“Sadly, Donald Zarda and Aimee Stephens, two of the plaintiffs in the cases decided today, are no longer alive to see the result of their courage and hard work. Their legacy will live on, along with the work of plaintiff Gerald Bostock. Our thanks go to all of them, for taking a stand and making our country a better place.”

Retweet our statement here.

DI partner National LGBTQ Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey released this statement following the Title VII Supreme Court decision:

“At this most challenging time for our community, the country and the world, it is heartening to see the Court decision bolstering fairness and equality in this country by affirming that LGBTQ+ people are protected from employment discrimination under federal law. Every person celebrating this ruling has decades of work by Black and Brown trans members of our community, in particular, to thank for the ability to work free from discrimination. And while this is a watershed moment for fairness and equality, our struggle for LGBTQ liberation, we still have work to do.

We must close critical gaps in nondiscrimination protections. For example, it is still legal to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people in federally funded programs, including hospitals, colleges, and adoption agencies, as well as discriminate against LGBTQ+, women, and others in public accommodations, including hotels and restaurants. Congress must join with the Supreme Court and the overwhelming majority of Americans to pass full federal nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people.

As we face so many critical, life-saving issues, this decision indicates that we can indeed come together and protect all in the workplace. Given the challenging health and economic crisis the U.S. is currently experiencing, and the ushering in of a worldwide movement calling for racial justice, it is more important than ever to protect workers—from nurses and doctors to those working in restaurants and hotels.”

Retweet National LGBTQ Task Force’s statement here.

Read more about the decision here.

WE HAVE A DREAM, AND DREAMERS ARE A PART OF IT
In a 5-4 split decision, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday, June 18 against the Trump administration’s attempts to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, a major win for immigrant families across the country and for our communities. The ruling responds to sustained efforts by the Trump administration stretching back over two years to end the program. The majority opinion, written by Chief Justice Roberts and joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan, echoed the findings of lower courts in ruling that the administration did not follow the procedures required by law to end the program.

In response to the Supreme Court’s ruling, DI Executive Director Wendy Fields released the following statement:

“For the second time this week, we’re delighted to celebrate a Supreme Court decision which affirms the rights of vulnerable citizens and expands our democracy.

“We have a dream, and Dreamers are part of it. The United States is a multi-racial, multicultural society, stronger and more secure because people from every corner of the globe contribute their skills, culture and ideas. The Dreamers who grew up here, went to school here, and served in our military belong here.

“Today’s decision turns on specific legal issues, but let’s be clear: The winds of change are stronger than ever. Sixty-one percent of Americans agree that immigrants who came here as children deserve to stay. The courts, Congress and the president must follow this mandate.”

Retweet our statement here.

Read more about the decision here.

TAKE ACTION: JUNE 23 SAVE THE POST OFFICE

On June 23, postal workers and supporters will join collective actions across the country to demand Congress save the Postal Service. Together with allies in the labor movement and other community organizations, a postal workers caravan in Washington, DC will deliver over two million petition signatures of postal customers demanding Congress pass the emergency relief the Postal Service needs. Postal workers union officials are planning events across the country in support of the petition’s demands. You can find more information here or email: ncc@apwu.org.

The USPS is critical infrastructure for democracy, including—but not only—Vote by Mail. We are all depending on the USPS during this pivotal election year to be there as they always have been—carrying voter registration materials, mail ballots, census info, and so much more that undergirds our democracy. DI partners have been rising in strong support of federal relief funding for the United States Post Office. Partners including APWU, AFL-CIO, APALA, Common Cause, Communications Workers of America, Daily Kos, Franciscan Action Network, Free Speech for People, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace League of Women Voters, National Coalition on Black Civic Participation and their affiliates Black Youth Vote, Black Women’s Roundtable, Move-On, NALC have recruited more than 314,000 individuals to communicate their support for the USPS. Let’s collectively get that to 600,000—one for every postal worker!

If you haven’t done so yet, please activate your members by asking them to send an email to their Senators urging them to support the USPS with $25 billion in COVID relief funding included in the House-passed HEROES Act. We’ve created a simple tool to allow your members to quickly send a pre-written letter to their Senators. Only the information necessary to send the letter to the correct Senators is required, and none of your members’ data will be captured for our use. It is especially important for Senators in the following states to be educated on this: AZ, CO, IA, KY, ME, MO, KY, TX WY.

Let us know if your organization has taken action so we can include you in this round up!

PARTNER CORNER

ADVANCEMENT PROJECT VOTE BY MAIL COFFEE CHAT

UNION LEADERS JOIN TOGETHER TO DEMAND RACIAL JUSTICE AND SAFE ELECTIONS
On June 16, DI labor partners and allies joined SEIU in sending a letter on behalf of millions of working people across the country to House and Senate leaders articulating the deep connection between racial justice and democracy, and urging Congress to “act swiftly to pass legislation that ensures every eligible voter is able to participate in the 2020 elections amid COVID-19."

“Voting rights and the fight for racial justice are deeply interconnected. The Labor Movement has long served as a bridge, not just between Black, Brown, White, and AAPI communities but among fair access to the ballot box and equal justice for all...

The U.S. Congress has the opportunity to stand with the American people in this time of great unrest and uncertainty by immediately passing legislation that would provide states with the resources to administer the 2020 elections in a safe, fair, and accessible manner during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is imperative that states are able to offer voters a range of options through which to submit completed ballots, in order to have equal access to the ballot box and the promise of a government that reflects and addresses the needs of all people.”

The letter was signed by:

  • A. Philip Randolph Institute;
  • American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE);
  • American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME);
  • American Federation of Teachers (AFT);
  • Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, AFL-CIO (APALA);
  • Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU);
  • Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW);
  • Communication Workers of America (CWA);
  • International Assoc. of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM);
  • International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT);
  • International Federation of Professional & Technical Engineers (IFPTE);
  • Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA);
  • Metal Trades Department, AFL-CIO;
  • National Association of Government Employees, SEIU (NAGE);
  • National Education Association (NEA);
  • National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE);
  • Pride at Work; SEIU;
  • Transport Workers Union of America (TWU);
  • UAW;
  • United Food and Commercial Workers International Labor Union (UFCW); and
  • United Steelworkers (USW)

Read the full letter here.

HISTORIC HOUSE VOTE ON DC STATEHOOD ANNOUNCED FOR JUNE 26
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) recently announced that the House will hold a vote for the first time in decades on DC Statehood next Friday, June 26. We currently expect an overwhelming majority of Democrats to pass the bill, which would mark the first time in our nation’s history that a bill on DC Statehood passed a chamber of Congress.

The recent mobilization and occupation of federally controlled military and law-enforcement personnel in response to peaceful protests over George Floyd’s death has made need for full statehood and autonomy all the clearer. On June 15, DI joined our partner DC Vote and nearly 100 partners and allies, representing millions of members across the country, in calling for congressional support of the DC Admissions Act (H.R. 51). We stand with the 700,000 residents of DC denied full representation in Congress and support their right to full participation in our nation’s democratic process.

Read more here.

DEMOCRACY IN THE NEWS: ROUNDUP

ARIZONA
Democratic Party organizations from both the National and State levels are suing state election officials in federal court to ensure Arizona voters who submit a mail ballot without a signature to rectify the error.

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
The city council unanimously passed a suite of police reforms last Tuesday, June 9, including a provision to restore the right to vote to people currently incarcerated for felonies. Incarcerated people serving time in federal Bureau of Prisons facilities would not be included, however.

FLORIDA
On Sunday, June 14, a federal judge refused Governor Ron DeSantis’ request for a stay in implementing the court’s decision to restore voting rights to formerly incarcerated Floridians convicted of felonies. DeSantis is attempting to fast track his appeal process in order to restore the state’s illegal poll tax in time for the 2020 general election.

GEORGIA
Georgia’s recent election proved beyond a doubt that voter suppression is the Republican 2020 strategy, according to a recent op-ed by Rev. Dr. William Barber II and Tom Steyer. Numerous stories that captured the essence of such a strategy emerged from the June 9 primary, but one of the most horrifying remains the fact that the “Christian City” polling location was set in a nursing home. One-third of all coronavirus deaths as of May 11 have occurred in nursing homes.

KENTUCKY
Several voters and a Republican state representative have filed a lawsuit against state election officials, claiming that limiting counties to a single in-person polling location risks disenfranchising thousands of Kentucky voters who live in heavily populated localities.

IOWA
The state’s Senate Judiciary Committee passed a constitutional amendment to end felony disenfranchisement at the beginning of the month. Republicans have recently offered to approve the measure on the condition that they implement a poll tax.

MAINE
Maine Governor Janet Mills issued an executive order at the beginning of the month extending the deadline to register for Vote by Mail by two weeks. The new deadline to register is July 7.

NEW JERSEY
According to a report by NJ Spotlight released Wednesday, June 10, state election officials rejected nearly 1 in 10 mail ballots due to signatures being missing or mismatched with the state’s records. DI partners League of Women Voters of New Jersey and NAACP New Jersey State Conference have filed a lawsuit to prevent the same rate of disenfranchisement occurring in the upcoming July 7 primary.

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