Press Release

Supreme Court Eliminates Voting Protections for Communities of Color with AZ Decision; Congress Must Act

Sunday, July 4, 2021

For Immediate Release:
Contact:
Amy Shenker, askpr2011@gmail.com

Democracy Supreme Court Eliminates Voting Protections for
Communities of Color with AZ Decision; Congress Must
Act

This statement is from Charly Carter, Executive Director of the Democracy Initiative:

“The decision by the U.S Supreme Court to uphold discriminatory Arizona election laws eliminates the last protections for the voting rights of communities of color.  In doing so, they have also eliminated the fence upon which too many leaders have perched. It's now time for us to choose. You either support a full and inclusive democracy or you do not. There is no middle ground or compromise.

“Congress must pass S.1, the For the People Act and HR 4, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. This will likely require fixing or nixing the filibuster – and it’s about time. Our right to vote is more important than an archaic Senate rule, which itself is a racist remnant of white supremacy.”

The Democracy Initiative is a coalition of 75 organizations with a collective 45 million members fighting for workers, civil rights, social justice and the environment. DI partner organizations are united in their commitment to realizing the promise of American democracy where all people have an equal seat at the governance table.

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Democracy Initiative Congratulates New UAW President Ray Curry

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

For Immediate Release:
Contact:
Amy Shenker, askpr2011@gmail.com

Democracy Initiative Congratulates
New UAW President Ray Curry

Union and civil rights leader, an experienced organizer and coalition builder, served on DI board

Washington DC – The Democracy Initiative (DI) congratulates Ray Curry, elected on June 28 by the UAW International Executive Board to serve as president of the union, effective July 1.

“Ray is a dynamic labor and civil rights leader and experienced coalition builder who has done the hard work of helping Southern manufacturing workers organize strong, effective trade unions,” said Charly Carter, executive director of the Democracy Initiative. “The member organizations of the Democracy Initiative look forward to working with Ray and UAW members to fight racial injustice, secure our right to vote and fix or nix the filibuster that stands in the way of the PRO Act and other transformative policy changes our communities need.”

Curry previously served as a board member of the Democracy Initiative, a unique intersectional coalition with the UAW as an anchor partner. The DI brings together 75 labor, civil rights and environmental organizations representing more than 45 million people. The DI and its member groups are currently active in campaigns to expand voting rights, address climate change, bring fairness to U.S. workplaces, limit the role of big money in politics, and confront the legacy of strategic racism.

The Democracy Initiative is a coalition of 75 organizations with a collective 45 million members fighting for workers, civil rights, social justice and the environment. DI partner organizations are united in their commitment to realizing the promise of American democracy where all people have an equal seat at the governance table.

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Flag-waving on July 4 Will Ring Hollow; Action Coming This Summer to Demand Voting Rights and Fair Elections

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

For Immediate Release:
Contact:
Amy Shenker, askpr2011@gmail.com

Democracy Initiative on Today's Senate Filibuster
Flag-waving on July 4 Will Ring Hollow; Action Coming This
Summer to Demand Voting Rights and Fair Elections

This statement is from Charly Carter, executive director of the Democracy Initiative.

“Last Friday, our country took a big step, celebrating the first national holiday marking the Emancipation of enslaved citizens. Today’s decision by Mitch McConnell and the GOP caucus to block the For the People Act from even being debated by senators shows us how far we still have to go. These are the same senators who recently blocked the bipartisan commission to investigate the January 6 attack on the Capitol.

“The common-sense voting protections, limits on partisan gerrymandering and ethics reforms that are included in the For the People Act enjoy overwhelming and majority support. But Republican senators today used the filibustera racist remnant of white supremacy—to deny Black and Brown and young people their right to vote. In doing so, they deny all Americans the inclusive democracy we deserve. It’s a concrete example of why we must fix the Senate now to end partisan gridlock.

“You can’t wave a flag on July 4th and pretend to ‘celebrate’ freedom and democracy with one hand after voting with your other hand to deny basic democratic rights to millions of people. Senators who used the filibuster to block the For the People Act better get ready, because the Democracy Initiative’s 75 partners with a collective 45 million members will not let up until the Senate can debate, vote on and pass legislation to secure our voting rights and free and fair elections. It’s time to fix or nix the filibuster.”

The Democracy Initiative is a coalition of 75 organizations with a collective 45 million members fighting for workers, civil rights, social justice and the environment. DI partner organizations are united in their commitment to realizing the promise of American democracy where all people have an equal seat at the governance table.

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Proof Positive the Senate is Broken: Paralyzed Congress Can't Even Protect Itself

Thursday, May 27, 2021

For Immediate Release:
Contact:
Amy Shenker, askpr2011@gmail.com

Proof Positive the Senate is Broken:
Paralyzed Congress Can't Even Protect Itself

WASHINGTON DC – Leaders of the Democracy Initiative, with 75 member organizations representing 45 million union members, environmental activists, civil rights advocates and civic leaders, said today that the threat of a filibuster against legislation to authorize a commission to investigate the January 6 violent attack against Congress is “proof positive” that the U.S. Senate is “badly broken.”

“Under current Senate rules, the entire Congress is so paralyzed that it can’t even protect itself, much less the rest of us,” said Charly Carter, executive director of the Democracy Initiative. “It’s way past time to abandon archaic, Jim Crow rules that prevent elected officials from doing their jobs. The threat of a filibuster against a bipartisan commission to investigate the January 6 insurrection is proof positive that the Senate is badly broken.”

“Sadly, this isn’t the only example of the filibuster being used to prevent the defense of our most basic democratic rights,” said Carter. “GOP senators will also try to use the filibuster to kill S1, the For the People Act. This voting rights and election reform bill is urgently needed to counter an onslaught of voter suppression bills in dozens of states, all based on the Big Lie about non-existent voter fraud in the 2020 election. The filibuster must not be allowed to block action on this crucial bill.”

Legislation authorizing a bipartisan commission to investigate the events of January 6 is modeled after the 9/11 Commission. It passed the U.S. House on May 19 by a 252-175 vote, with support from Republicans and Democrats. Action in the Senate is being stalled by threat of a filibuster by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

“It’s hard to imagine a more clear illustration of how broken our Senate has become and why it must be fixed,” said Karen Hobert Flynn, president of Common Cause and co-chair of the Democracy Initiative Board of Directors. “Once a rare event, the filibuster is now a daily danger to our democracy. In this case, a filibuster may prevent us from ever learning a full accounting of the facts and causesthe truthabout a dangerous attempt to overturn a democratic election.”

“The filibuster is an artifact of Jim Crow and a creature of white supremacy,” said Tefere Gebre, executive vice president of the AFL-CIO and also a co-chair of the Democracy Initiative Board of Directors. “The racist, violent riot that took place on January 6 was not just an attack on Congress; it was an attack against all of usall of us who voted and all who believe deeply in the peaceful transition of power as a foundational principle of our democracy.”

“If we allow the minority to obstruct the majority who want a balanced bipartisan investigation of these terrible events, when will it stop?” asked Gebre. “The Senate must actnowto do their job and meet this country’s challenges with deliberation, debate and up or down votes. The people who braved a deadly pandemic to vote in 2020 deserve nothing less.”

The threat of a filibusteror an actual filibusteris blocking progress on urgent issues that affect the daily lives of the constituents of DI member organizations. These include voting rights, DC statehood, workplace rights, the minimum wage, the climate crisis, immigration reform, criminal justice reform and gun violence.

See below for additional comments by DI leaders and member organizations. This list will be updated.

 

Arizona Coalition to End the Filibuster: "It could not be more clear: Senate Republicans have filibustered a bipartisan bill to form a bipartisan commission investigating an attack on their own lives and our democracy. Despite Sen. Krysten Sinema’s failed efforts with Senator Joe Manchin to convince Republicans to work with them to get this done, Sen. McConnell and his caucus once again rejected attempts at bipartisan work and committed themselves to obstruction. The debate is over. Now is the time to eliminate the filibuster as a weapon that a minority of senators can wield to veto popular bills and reforms our country urgently needs. Arizonans voted for immigration reform, protecting voting rights, preventing gun violence, expanding workers rights, raising the minimum wage, creating green jobs and a clean-energy economy, and to end discrimination on the LGBTQ+ communitynot endless gridlock. After witnessing Republicans’ extreme obstruction in action, Sen. Sinema and Sen. Kelly have a choicethey can prop up the Jim Crow filibuster or deliver on critical and popular policies to protect our democracy and build a better America that works for all of us. They won’t be able to do both.”

Karen Hobert Flynn, President, Common Cause: Read statement here.

Fix Our Senate: Read statement here.

Virginia Kase Solomón, CEO, League of Women Voters of the United States: “The January 6 insurrection at the United States Capitol was an attack on our democracy that deeply shook the nation. The American people deserve to know the full truth about the events of that day. We strongly urge the United States Senate to explore this commission no differently than it did for the 9/11 commission. Congress must fully investigate the attack on our Capitol and provide the American people with a clear and complete account of the events of January 6.”

Joseph Geevarghese, Executive Director, Our Revolution: "The GOP filibuster shows how the party is now captive to radical right-wing extremists who pose a clear and present danger to our democracy."

People for the American Way: “Republicans are taking the unconscionable step of closing their eyes and ears to fact-finding around a violent attack on our nation’s Capitol on January 6. They are doing this for the basest and most cynical political reasons, even though they, their colleagues, staff and Capitol Police were threatened with murder on that day. That leaves only one option for responsible lawmakers: do whatever it takes to get an investigatory commission in placeand if that means ending the filibuster, end the filibuster.”

Lisa Gilbert, Executive Vice President, Public Citizen: “Truth and accountability are hallmarks of a functioning democracy. A deep dive investigation into this attack on our government should be neither partisan nor controversialit is exactly what our country needs to protect ourselves from future attacks of this kind. At this point, it’s crystal clear: to save democracy, we have to end the filibuster. The American people deserve a working Senate; a Senate that will safeguard our democracy, can pass common sense legislation like the creation of a commission to investigate an insurrection, and act on the other pressing crises our country faces.”

 

The Democracy Initiative is a coalition of 75 organizations with a collective 45 million members fighting for workers, civil rights, social justice and the environment. DI partner organizations are united in their commitment to realizing the promise of American democracy where all people have an equal seat at the governance table.

Democracy Initiative Announces Charly Carter as New Executive Director

Monday, May 17, 2021

For Immediate Release:
Contact:
Amy Shenker, askpr2011@gmail.com

Democracy Inititiave Announces
Charly Carter as New Executive Director

Veteran policy advocate and campaign strategist to lead broad-based labor, environment and civil rights coalition.

Washington DC – The Board of Directors of the Democracy Initiative (DI) announced that Charly Carter, a woman of color with a track record of successful advocacy and leadership development, will join the organization today as its new executive director. 

The Democracy Initiative is a coalition of 75 labor, civil rights and environmental organizations representing more than 45 million people. The DI and its member groups are currently active in campaigns to expand voting rights, address climate change, bring fairness to U.S. workplaces, limit the role of big money in politics, and confront the legacy of strategic racism.

“After an exhaustive and rigorous national search, we found the ideal candidate to lead the Democracy Initiative at this crucial moment,” said Karen Hobert Flynn, president of Common Cause and co–chair of the DI Board of Directors. “Charly has a proven track record of effective organizing and concrete wins for children and working families. She is a perfect fit to build on the DI’s strong foundation of grass-roots mobilization in defense of our democracy.”

"I am honored to join the Democracy Initiative at such a pivotal time. Never has it been so important for every person to be engaged in the fight for our democracy. I look forward to working with the team and coalition partner to mobilize our 45 million members in the fight for the soul of our nation. Together we will rebuild the infrastructure of our democracy." said Carter.

During a public interest career stretching over three decades, Charly Carter has been an effective force for change in Maryland and a fierce advocate for working families and communities of color across the nation. As Executive Director of Maryland Working Families, she was a leader in the fight to end wage discrimination, expand voting rights, win paid sick leave for 700,000 workers and expand childcare to thousands of low-income families.

As part of ACLU of Maryland, Carter led a successful campaign to win a record $1.2 billion to build 21st Century Schools for schoolchildren in Baltimore City. In 2018, Carter founded Step Up Maryland, an organization dedicated to ending structural racism and transforming the culture of state and local government by turning active citizens into progressive leaders. She launched the nationally-recognized New Leader Boot Camp that trains newly elected legislators to work collaboratively as progressive caucuses.

“We’re very excited that Charly has accepted our offer to lead the DI team,” said Tefere Gebre, executive vice president of the AFL-CIO and also a co-chair of the DI Board of Directors. “She is a battle-tested organizer with a deep commitment to the leadership development we need to build a progressive movement for the long haul. I’m especially looking forward to working with her on DI’s Bayard Rustin Fellowship, which creates a pipeline of talent and a pathway to inclusion for BIPOC and LGBTQ people.”

Carter is a native of New York State, where she attended Cornell University. She later became one of the first graduates of the Graduate School of Political Management (GSPM). Charly calls Baltimore City her “hometown by choice” and is active in the communities that our institutions have left behind.

 

The Democracy Initiative is a coalition of 75 organizations with a collective 45 million members fighting for workers, civil rights, social justice and the environment. DI partner organizations are united in their commitment to realizing the promise of American democracy where all people have an equal seat at the governance table.

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Leaders from 45-million-member social justice coalition call for Senate Action on S. 1; Warn against letting it fall victim to a filibuster

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

For Immediate Release:

Leaders from 45-million-member social justice coalition call
for Senate Action on S. 1;
Warn against letting it fall victim to a filibuster

Jennifer Lamson, Interim Executive Director of the Democracy Initiative:
“Far too many of our citizens think that our democracy is broken. They’re not wrong. In 2021 alone, we have seen the introduction of more than 250 bills in 43 states designed to suppress voter turnout and silence the will of the American people and in particular voters that are Black or Brown. The United States Senate should not be complicit in these actions.

In order to protect our democracy, we need Congress to stop these attempts to disenfranchise voters and subvert the will of the people. The House has acted by passing HR 1, the For the People Act, earlier this month. Now the Senate must act – and not let obstructionist backroom maneuvers like the racist filibuster stand in the way of protecting and revitalizing our democracy.”

Tefere Gebre, Executive Vice President, AFL-CIO and board co-chair of the Democracy Initiative:
“S.1 includes many of the most important reforms necessary to restore the promise of our democracy and the balance of power to working people. Under no circumstances can we allow the filibuster—a procedure rooted in generations of disenfranchisement of citizens of color—to stand in the way of the U.S. government protecting the right of all American citizens to vote in the 21st century.”

Karen Hobert Flynn, President, Common Cause and board co-chair of the Democracy Initiative:
“All Americans deserve to have their voices heard and votes counted, regardless of the size of their wallets or the color of their skin. S. 1, the transformative For the People Act would significantly shift the balance of power and put ‘we the people’ in charge of our democracy. We look forward to overcoming Senator McConnell’s continued blockade and getting the For the People Act across the finish line to President Biden’s desk.”

Derrick Johnson, President and CEO, NAACP and Democracy Initiative board member:
"The US Senate's focus on democracy inclusion through this legislative package is a step in the right direction to advancing racial equity and justice. Our communities are clear that political violence, racially motivated voter suppression and rigging the rules to eliminate community voices are cancers that must be uprooted. We applaud the Senate leadership in moving forward this important policy track alongside the priorities of advancing DC Statehood and strengthening and restoring the Voting Rights Act. These priorities must not fall victim to obstruction and the racist filibuster.”

Erich Pica, President, Friends of the Earth and Democracy Initiative board member:
“For decades, corporations have polluted our politics, suppressed voter voices, and prevented us from critical action to save our planet. Now we face a rapidly closing window to address planetary emergencies such as climate change and ecosystem collapse. The For the People Act may be one of the most important bills Congress takes up to protect not only our democracy but our environment. We call on Senate Majority Leader Schumer to ensure that obstructionist and racist tactics like the filibuster are not used to thwart this critical legislation.”

Gustavo Torres, Executive Director, CASA and Democracy Initiative board member:
“S.1 will help realize the promise of democracy for our Black and Brown communities who have been the target of increasing racist voter suppression. CASA is ready to organize and mobilize our members so that the filibuster does not stand in the way of meeting this moment and finally passing transformative policies that ensure our communities can thrive.”

Virginia Kase, President and CEO, League of Women Voters and Democracy Initiative board member:
“The For the People Act is the most expansive democracy reform legislation we have seen since the Voting Rights Act and the League of Women Voters is proud to support this bill that echoes our mission to empower voters and defend democracy. S. 1 will protect voting rights, eliminate dark money in our elections, restore transparency and accountability in our government, and curb partisan and racial gerrymandering once and for all. Voter suppression at the ballot box and restrictive voting bills in state legislatures continue to threaten our democracy, which is why we need the For the People Act now. The League of Women Voters strongly urge all Senators to embrace this important bill that strengthens our democracy. It is time to pass the For the People Act.” 

Larry Cohen, Chair, Our Revolution and founding board member of the Democracy Initiative:
“This legislation will test the ability of the Senate to discuss, debate, and vote on voting rights and big money in politics. Voters are demanding governance on the core issues confronting our democracy, not a Senate that functions based on unanimous consent like the Senate in ancient Rome.”

Chris Shelton, President, Communication Workers of America and former board member of the Democracy Initiative:
With the introduction of the For the People Act in the U.S. Senate today, we finally have a chance to reform our democracy to make sure the voices of working people are being heard. If we want to have free and fair elections — the most critical component of our democracy — we must pass this bill. Our nation cannot afford to let an antiquated tradition like the filibuster prevent us from taking the most basic actions to protect our elections. If we need to fight for the elimination of the filibuster in order to get the bill passed, CWA members are prepared to do so.”

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The Democracy Initiative is a coalition of 75 organizations with a collective 45 million members fighting for workers, civil rights, social justice and the environment and united in their commitment to realizing the promise of American democracy where all people have an equal seat at the governance table.

Democracy Initiative Applauds Swift House Passage of Crucial Reform Bill; Senate Must Ensure It Doesn't Fall Victim to the Filibuster

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

For Immediate Release:

Democracy Initiative Applauds Swift House Passage of Crucial Reform Bill;
Senate Must Ensure It Doesn't Fall Victim to the Filibuster

This statement is from Jennifer Lamson, Interim Executive Director of the Democracy Initiative:

We applaud House for moving swiftly and passing the For the People Act (HR 1)—a transformative and crucial step toward realizing the promise of American democracy. All eyes now turn to the Senate. It is critical that Senators move with urgency to prioritize passage of this vital legislation. It is unacceptable to allow backroom maneuvers like the filibuster to stand in the way.

For the collective 45 million members of the Democracy Initiative’s partner organizations, HR 1 is not just about democracy as an end in itself; it is a necessary step to achieving racial, social and economic justice and building a better world for us all. The reforms in HR 1 will help pave the way for meaningful progress on racial justice, protecting the climate, workers rights, immigration, healthcare, and more.

The 2020 election and the January 6 insurrection shined a spotlight on critical vulnerabilities in our democracy and how they are rooted in racism and white supremacy. Since then, 43 states have proposed more than 250 bills to restrict or limit voting access, intentionally aiming to drown out the voices of voters, particularly Black and brown voters.

We have a long road ahead of us to change our politics and fulfill the promise of our country’s ideals. This was a good day—progress made possible by tireless activists and grassroots leaders across the country. The reforms in HR 1 will help dismantle the racist and systemic barriers intentionally built to exclude Black and brown voices by bringing together the most effective reforms enacted in states to create national standards that protect our freedom to vote and limit the power of special interests and wealthy donors.

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The Democracy Initiative is a coalition of 75 organizations with a collective 45 million members fighting for workers, civil rights, social justice and the environment and united in their commitment to realizing the promise of American democracy where all people have an equal seat at the governance table.

Democracy Initiative Denounces Failed Insurrection; Says Trump Must Be Removed and Perpetrators Punished

Thursday, January 7, 2021

For Immediate Release:

Democracy Initiative Denounces Failed Insurrection;
Says Trump Must Be Removed and Perpetrators Punished

This statement is from Jennifer Lamson, Interim Executive Director of the Democracy Initiative:

“We strongly condemn yesterday’s violent attack on the Capitol by an armed mob seeking to prevent the orderly transfer of power to the incoming Administration.

“Make no mistake: Donald Trump’s lies about the 2020 elections, refusal to accept the results, and ongoing support for white supremacy are the fuel that sparked this dangerous fire. We agree with those across the political spectrum – from Common Cause to the NAACP to the National Association of Manufacturers – who are calling for Trump to be removed from office immediately, before he can do more damage to our democracy.

“Irresponsible politicians like Senators Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley and far too many others who have enabled Trump’s increasingly unhinged attempt to overturn a legitimate, democratic election must also be held accountable.

“The American people must have a full accounting of why the Capitol Police were not more prepared for this attack. When contrasted with the overwhelming police presence that Black Lives Matter protesters faced after the murder of George Floyd, the failure of police to stop angry, armed white people from swarming the halls of Congress makes it crystal clear that defeating white supremacy is essential to realizing the promise of our democracy.

“The American people voted in record numbers in the 2020 elections, despite a deadly pandemic and orchestrated mass voter suppression. They made it clear that it is time for the Congress and the White House to govern and solve the public health and economic crisis caused by COVID.

“Democracy Initiative partners work on the front lines of the fight for racial, social and economic justice, and know that inclusive democracy and effective governance are essential to achieving these goals. On their behalf, we demand swift and severe consequences for all those who perpetrated, enabled and incited Wednesday’s shameful attack on our nation."

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The Democracy Initiative is a coalition of 75 organizations with a collective 45 million members fighting for workers, civil rights, social justice and the environment and united in their commitment to realizing the promise of American democracy where all people have an equal seat at the governance table.

Democracy Initiative in 2020

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Democracy was on the ballot in 2020—and together, we made a difference. Despite continued mass voter suppression, we achieved the largest and most inclusive election in American history. When all the votes are counted, nearly 160 million people will have cast ballots—the largest number ever.

This achievement reflects years of hard work by the overall democracy movement, and by Democracy Initiative partners and allies across the country. You can and should take credit for these accomplishments. When we all came together at the DI Annual Meeting in November 2019 and adopted an ambitious 2020 campaign plan centered on dramatically increasing civic participation and expanding vote by mail, it turned out to be a visionary move.

You and your members rose and met this historic moment despite the unknown terrain. Through a deadly pandemic and extreme economic challenges disproportionately shouldered by our front-line workers and communities of color, through climate fires raging across the West, through continuing racial injustice that sparked millions of our members to rise up in protest, and through unprecedented attacks on voting rights and our very democracy, you all showed up. You and your members showed up for the Post Office, you educated your communities about the importance of making a plan to vote and how to vote by mail, and you successfully mobilized for expanding healthy voting options. All of this positions us for the next round of these fights: expanding on the wins and defending against attacks that would set us back.

As previously announced, the DI is in the process of a leadership transition. We’re enormously grateful to outgoing Executive Director Wendy Fields for her extraordinary service and dynamic leadership, and we are pleased that current Deputy Director Jennifer Lamson will serve as the interim executive director. We have hired a consultant to manage the transition and hiring process for a new executive director.

As that process continues, our urgent work will move forward; many of you attended our post-election action meeting to begin planning for the coming months ahead. Our entire board is prepared to move forward with an aggressive, forward-leaning vision that meets this moment. We will continue to build and mobilize a broad, multi-racial coalition that seeks inclusive democracy that ensures a seat at the governing table for people who have often been denied an equal voice in decisions that affect their lives: Black, Brown, Indigenous, Asian, and working people.

Thanks in no small part to Wendy’s leadership—and strong backing from our grass roots partners—we are building on a strong foundation. Our shared goal of creating a public culture of 75% voter participation is more within reach than it was a year ago. Seven states hit that benchmark this year—and twelve more made it to 70%.

Overall U.S. voter turnout is projected to top 66 percent in 2020. That’s the highest participation level in more than a hundred years—but there’s really no comparison, because at that time, women and most people of color did not even have the right to vote.

As former DI board member Miles Rapoport recently outlined in the American Prospect, the democracy movement made this year’s historic election possible by winning key voting reforms in state after state. These include vote-by-mail, early voting, same day registration, restoration of voting rights for the formerly incarcerated, and many other significant measures.

Your engagement with and commitment to the DI as a multi-racial, cross-sector coalition brings a critical margin of support to these crucial victories.

We are building sustained organizational support for advancing democracy 365 days a year, every year, rather than just during election cycles. The DI’s unique contribution has been to design all program work through a race/class lens, break down issue silos, and center advocacy for democracy reform within our diverse, membership-based constituencies in labor, environmental, civil rights and civic organizations.

  • Through close collaboration with many of you, we were able to reach more than three thousand grassroots leaders through our Democracy Champions program, training and mobilizing grass roots leaders and volunteers to take part in voter education, election protection and election administration.
  • When the pandemic hit this year, we were ready to lead on calls for a massive expansion of voting by mail and champion the US Postal Service in the face of attempts to weaponize it as a tool for mass voter suppression. Due to the foresight of DI leaders who had prioritized expansion of voting by mail since 2017, we were ready to scale up already-planned education and advocacy campaigns to meet the moment. Our years-long partnership with postal unions on this issue paid off in 2020, as together we defeated an insidious attempt to delay the U.S. mail during a pandemic election.
  • Our intersectional coalition of labor, environmental and civil rights organizations brought new partners, deepened mobilizing commitments and visibility to the fight to defend our public Postal Service. Our coalition was able to elevate this fight to a higher profile, forcing changes at the Postal Service and educating voters about how their votes could be secure and counted under unusual circumstances.
  • We launched our Bayard Rustin Program to further develop senior-level leaders of color in the democracy movement and placed our first fellow in the Michigan Democracy Hub.

Policy priorities that DI Partner leadership will be discussing at a January 2021 principal-level stakeholder meeting include:

  • Federal action to renew and strengthen our democracy, including the Voting Rights Act and the For the People Act (HR 1) and, pending the outcome of the Georgia Senate run-offs, ensure that these and other transformative policies can pass the Senate with a simple majority.
  • A comprehensive public health response to COVID-19 and support for essential frontline workers, who are members of our partner organizations.
  • Full and adequate funding for our public Postal Service.
  • Continued expansion of vote by mail, early voting, same day registration and other voter-friendly reforms, with local, state, and federal laws, rules, and procedures.
  • State and local ballot and legislative opportunities to educate, mobilize and effect change that will reduce the influence of big money in states and local communities.
  • Continuing to center our work on confronting strategic racism, cultivating racial justice and lifting up the voices of working-class Americans.

The DI’s commitment to race/class analysis is essential to building the broad-based, 21st century multiracial and cross-cultural movement needed to confront the urgent issues that threaten our health, our livelihoods, our planet, and our democracy. Many diverse voices will be working on these key priorities. The DI will continue to powerfully make the case that transformative progress on essential public priorities such as public health, civil rights, climate change and equity are inextricably linked to achieving and sustaining the basics of democracy reform: Expanded access to the ballot, changes in legislative rules in the U.S Senate and elsewhere, and citizen-based alternatives to partisan gerrymandering.

We have strengthened our capacity to take on these fights by attracting three new leaders to the DI board of directors: K. Sabeel Rahman, president of Demos; Ray Curry, secretary treasurer of the United Auto Workers; and Virginia Kase, CEO of League of Women Voters. These organizations and leaders have joined the two of us and fellow DI board members Derrick Johnson, president and CEO of NAACP; Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth; and Gustavo Torres, executive director of CASA because they know we are different, essential, and battle proven. Their experience and resources will strengthen and broaden our coalition.

As democracy reform becomes ever more central to our future, the DI is shifting from our traditional behind-the-scenes role in the movement. We are making our case in the public square to mobilize and move political will on the issues that affect the lives of our combined 45 million members.

As we look to 2021 and beyond, we will continue to expand our partnerships with state and local allies and uphold our battle-tested innovative work, remain ahead of the curve and cultivate new leaders. Watch for a save-the-date announcement for the January 2021 principals convening coming soon.

We look forward to partnering with you to achieve our mutual goals as we scale our work to meet the great needs of protecting and fixing the democracy we all hold so highly.

Democracy Initiative Announces Jennifer Lamson as Interim Executive Director; National Search Underway to Replace Outgoing ED Wendy Fields

Monday, November 30, 2020

For Immediate Release:
Contact: Roger Kerson, 734.645.0535, rkerson@democracyinitiative.org

Democracy Initiative Announces Jennifer Lamson
as Interim Executive Director; National Search Underway to
Replace Outgoing ED Wendy Fields

Washington DC, November 30: The Board of Directors of the Democracy Initiative (DI), a coalition of 75 labor, civil rights and environmental organizations representing more than 45 million people, announced today that current Deputy Director Jennifer Lamson will serve as interim executive director, effective December 1, 2020. 

The organization will conduct a national search to replace outgoing Executive Director Wendy Fields, who is leaving the organization to pursue new personal and professional opportunities. 

“We are grateful to Wendy for four years of dynamic, innovative leadership,” said Karen Hobert Flynn, president of Common Cause and co–chair of the DI Board of Directors. “Wendy’s strategic vision built our capacity and grounded our work in the real needs and experiences of the millions of people who are members and constituents of DI affiliates. We could not be prouder of the role DI has played in the growing democracy movement, achieving a record turnout in 2020, the most diverse and inclusive election in U.S. history.” 

“You don’t say ‘goodbye’ to someone like Wendy,” said Tefere Gebre, executive vice president of the AFL-CIO and also a co-chair of the DI. “She is my sister in the trade union movement and a true warrior for social justice. I know for certain that we will be marching together in the future, wherever there is a cutting-edge fight for our democracy, for the rights of workers, and to protect our planet.” 

Lamson, has served as DI’s Deputy Director since 2019, overseeing the organization’s field organizing and strategic communications activities. She is an experienced non-profit executive, with extensive background in grassroots organizing, strategic planning, communications, and program management.   

Lamson has previously served as a vice president of Common Cause, director of the International Boreal Conservation Campaign at the Pew Charitable Trusts, and as a strategic advisor to foundations, environmental and social service organizations.  

“We don’t have a minute to waste,” said Lamson. “DI partners share a deep commitment to realizing the promise of our democracy by lifting up the leadership of people of color, the working class, and front-line social justice organizations. Together, we can build on this historic election to create a governing agenda that confronts the urgent issues that affect our lives: racial justice, the right to vote, the corrupting role of big money in politics, climate change, and COVID-19 relief.” 

 

The Democracy Initiative is a coalition of 75 organizations with a collective 45 million members fighting for workers, civil rights, social justice and the environment. DI partner organizations are united in their commitment to realizing the promise of American democracy where all people have an equal seat at the governance table. 

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