Democracy Initiative Weekly Update 06.27.18

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Supreme Court Rules against Working People, and Democracy


The Supreme Court decision in the case of Janus v. AFSCME Council 31 is not only anti-worker and anti-union; it is part of the coordinated national assault on our democracy. The corporate interests behind the Janus case are part of a dark money web that includes the Koch brothers and the Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation. These same wealthy interests are bankrolling anti-democracy efforts across the country. Their goal is to weaken the bargaining and political power of workers by limiting their ability to collect fees for the representation that they provide, and limiting the political power of ordinary Americans. Attacks on public sector workers disproportionately affect hard-working women and people of color, who provide some of the most important government services that we all rely on.


The right of workers to organize and bargain collectively leads to increased wages and benefits for all workers, whether or not they are union members. When wealthy interests take away workers’ rights to join together and take action, it increases economic inequality in this country, which is itself a threat to our democracy.  

Historically, the labor movement has been the backbone of progressive social movements that expand, protect, and diversify our democracy. By dividing workers and limiting their ability to wield political power, corporate and wealthy interests strengthen their grip on our democratic and economic systems, limit our ability to take collective action, and continue to hold our country hostage.

For all of these reasons, the Democracy Initiative condemns the Janus decision of the Supreme Court. We stand in solidarity with our labor partners. The labor and democracy movements have been assaulted before, and we always come back fighting. We will not allow decades of progress to be lost. No politically motivated judicial decision will stop the work of millions of people standing together for better lives for all Americans, or stop us from reaching our goal of a government of, by, and for the people.  

Statement from DI Executive Director Wendy Fields:


We are asking our friends to do three simple things to amplify our key message that workers are more resolved than ever to stick together and fight back against any attacks that attempt to divide us. That’s because America needs unions now more than ever to fix a democracy and economy rigged in favor of the wealthy and powerful.
1. Amplify our message on social media with a Norma Rae-themed action (see samples below).
2. Issue and share a statement that lifts up the value of unions to our communities, calls on our elected officials and candidates to do everything in their power to make it easier for working people to join together in unions and highlights how this attack on unions is an attack on all working people. (For guidance, please refer to the joint statement from AFSCME, AFT , NEA and SEIU ) and attached message materials).  
3. Continue to stand with us in the days and weeks ahead to help drive policy at all levels that make it easier for working people to join unions.
This case was an attack on unions and an attack on working people & the causes we fight for every day. We stand with our union brothers & sisters. No court case will stop our movement. #Union.
Show your solidarity with working people by tweeting your “union” photo with #Union. [ Click here for image ]
Unions sustain our families and make our communities stronger. Working people will stick together and organize to fight back against any attempt to divide and weaken us. #union
Unions are the best way to unrig our economy and democracy. We’re calling on our elected leaders and candidates to do everything in their power to make it easier for working people to join unions. #Union
#Unions are one of the most effective vehicles to move people into the middle class, especially for women and people of color. We must organize, hold our elected leaders accountable, and fight back against efforts to divide us and weaken the strength in numbers we need to sustain our families and make our communities stronger.
Today, the Supreme Court ruled on a well-funded case attacking workers’ power in unions. Let’s show that America needs unions now more than ever. Share this image or a photo of yourself with a “union” sign using #Union to show we’re sticking together. [ Click here for image ]

Spotlight on DI PRIORITY STATE CAMpaign: Missouri

One of our state campaigns, CleanMissouri, is hard at work getting money out of state politics! We’ve partnered with DI members Common Cause, Sierra Club Missouri, AFL-CIO Missouri, AFSCME, Demos, NAACP, and SEIU, along with other allies, to blunt the influence of moneyed interests on politicians. The Clean Missouri Initiative, on their website, lays out their goals:

1. Legislative records must be open to the public

2. Politicians must wait two years before becoming lobbyists

3. Banning any single lobbying gift more than $5

4. Lowering campaign contribution limits: $2,500 for state senate, and $2,000 for state house

a. Eliminating legislative fundraising on state property

5. Nonpartisan-drawn legislative district maps, reviewed by a citizen commission

a. Protecting the political power of minority communities against voter suppression

As of May, CleanMissouri volunteers turned in 347,000 signatures to the Missouri Secretary of State’s Office, more than twice the number needed for a proposed amendment to appear on the statewide November 6 ballot, collected from all 114 counties and the city of St. Louis.

Report Back From Flint

On June 23rd, the DI successfully launched the first Democracy Champions training of 2018 in Flint, Michigan. Thank you to the organizations who turned out members for participants at the training; Flint Rising, the NAACP, the Sierra Club, the League of Conservation Voters, Michigan Voices, Clean Water Action, the UAW, Promote the Vote, and Voters Not Politicians! And thank you to the the UAW for hosting us! We welcomed community leaders to speak on the issue most impacting the state and local communities.
At the conclusion of the training, Promote the Vote and Voters not Politicians, which are working to expand voting rights and create an independent citizens redistricting commission through ballot initiatives in Michigan, led participants through a mini-briefing of the campaigns. The group then went canvassing in support of the ballot initiatives.

Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission Initiative has gotten on the ballot.

On Wednesday, June 19, the Michigan Board of State Canvassers approved Voters Not Politicians’ initiative, the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission Initiative, for inclusion in the upcoming November 6 ballot in a 3-0 vote. The initiative would alter the state’s constitution to set up an independent redistricting commission in time for the next scheduled redistricting after the 2020 Census is released. Read more here.

(to the right: Nayyirah Shariff of Flint Rising)


Take ACTION To end family detention of migrants

On Friday, June 22, Dallas News reported that “One of the country’s largest operators of private immigration detention facilities has made significant contributions to several Texas members of Congress.” The largest recipient is Houston Republican Representative John Culberson, accepting $32,900 from GEO Group’s PAC. GEO operates many of the private detention centers used by ICE to house immigrant families since implementation of Trump’s “Zero Tolerance” policy. The ACLU has accused GEO of denying detainees food, water, and bathroom access.

The administration needs more room to hold all of the children they have separated from their parents, and are investigating the possibility of creating additional “tent cities” on military land. But according to a press release from DI partner the Sierra Club, the water at several of these potential build sites contains chemicals, effectively poisoning it. Evidence of the contamination was buried for six months by Pruitt’s EPA “for fear of a ‘public relations nightmare,’ according to the New Republic.” The exposure to these chemicals (PFAS) links to kidney/testicular cancer and thyroid disease. Children are particularly vulnerable, and even low levels of exposure can weaken their immune systems.

The depravity with which the Trump administration treats these people becomes more evident with each passing day as a slew of investigations bear fruit. Let us be clear: beyond the continued existence of xenophobia and racism in our country, the situation at the border is a direct consequence of our weakened democracy. So long as people are denied their constitutional rights to vote and govern free from wealthy, corrupt, bigoted politicians, the situation can only grow worse. A reflective, representative democracy is a matter of life and death.

Sign on to DI partner Sierra Club’s petition.

TOMORROW, JUNE 28th, the organizers of the Women's March are hosting a mass civil disobedience in DC to End Family Detention. We are participating and will share reports via social media. Sign up for more information and to join here.

Join the #FamiliesBelongTogether mobilization in Washington, D.C. on June 30th, or find one in your area. Thousands have already signed up to go to the White House on June 30th to tell Trump and Jeff Sessions to end their policies that break apart families. If you can't make it to DC, there will also be local events across the country. To learn more, click here.


Democracy initiative endorses recommendations to reform the Democratic Party


The Democracy Initiative is proud to communicate that we endorse an historic set of democratic reforms for the Democratic Party, recommended by the DNC Unity Reform Commission and supported by Chairman Perez, and Vice Chair Keith Ellison.

These proposed reforms and the internal debate about the Democratic Party rules are coming at an important moment as we face extraordinary challenges. Many of you are hearing clearly the demand for change from your rank and file members, the resistance movement, and activists from black, brown, and working class communities. In 2016, I was joined by many of our leaders in the DI and democracy movement, including Public Citizen,Our Revolution, and Every Voice, to name a few, to testify at the DNC platform committee to ensure that key democracy reforms on Voting Rights, Getting Money out of Politics, andRedistricting Reform must be a high priority on the platform and program.

Now we urge you to share information with your membership and engage in the debates currently happening. The full DNC will vote on the proposal from the Rules and Bylaws Committee, based on the Unity Reform Commission report, on August 25th in Chicago. We call on the members of the DNC to support transparency and increase the influence and power of the grassroots members.  We will share the exact language of the final proposal as soon as it is made public.

You can read the report of the Unity Reform Commission here: (copy and paste the link into a browser)


Tomorrow: Democracy Behind Bars, COMMON CAUSE

DI Partner organization Common Cause is releasing a new report on June 28th entitled Democracy Behind Bars. In prison, on probation, and on parole, 6.7 million people live under court-ordered supervision. The mass criminalization and incarceration of our communities, disenfranchises and disempowers millions of Americans, and undermines the legitimacy of our democracy. The Democracy Behind Bars report represents an effort to build on Common Cause’s longstanding commitment to serve as a watchdog on government, defend and strengthen voting rights, and ensure that the power of ideas rather than that of monied interests counts most in our democracy.

Arab American Institute'S #YallaVote Hotline

DI partner the Arab American Institute has launched the #YallaVote Hotline for the 2018 election season.

The hotline is staffed by legal experts and both Arabic and English speakers who can answer questions and address concerns on voting day. These experts can also provide legal support to address voter suppression or disenfranchisement in your state.

Please spread information about the hotline widely, so that all voters are given the information and support needed to exercise their constitutional right to vote. The #YallaVote Hotline can be reached at 1-844-YALLA-US, or 1-844-925-5287.


Get Engaged - See Latest Updates on the Campaigns Calendar

We are maintaining a DI campaign calendar that will include information on upcoming events and activities. Visit our website to access the calendar. Contact Elsie ( ) if you have questions.

2018 Expanded Mobilizing Meetings

Bi-Weekly on Wednesdays at 3pm EST / Noon PST

Beginning next week, on June 13th, DI’s bi-weekly Mobilizing Committee Meetings (at 3 p.m. every other Wednesday), will shift their focus to state coordination of priority campaigns, beginning with the Promote the Vote and Voters not Politicians ballot initiatives in Michigan. For more information, contact Getachew Kassa at

DI Communications Working Group-- This month's meeting RESCHEDULED for Thursday, July 9th at 1 p.m.

The communications working group is a collaborative space for message refinement using feedback from organizations working on the ground. These monthly meetings also help to resource partner organizations for ongoing local and national campaigns and coordinate messaging and communications as a coalition.


Stay Connected with DI Partners

We invite partners to share a victory, recruit for actions in the fight for democracy, or let us know about a conference. Email Aimée ( to add an action for the next Weekly Update!

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