Peter Dreier is the E.P. Clapp Distinguished Professor of Politics at Occidental College, where he also serves as director of the Urban & Environmental Policy program. He co-authored the books Place Matters: Metropolitics for the 21st Century (2005) and The Next Los Angeles: The Struggle for a Livable City (2006). He writes regularly for the Los Angeles Times, The Nation, and The American Prospect.
When Robert Borosage and Roger Hickey co-found the Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) in 1996, Dreier helped them establish the organization along with such activists as John Atlas, Barry Bluestone, Julian Bond, Barbara Ehrenreich, Jackie Kendall, Nelson Lichtenstein, Steve Max, Jay Mazur, Gerald McEntee, Harold Meyerson, Larry Mishel, Joel Rogers, Richard Rorty, John Sweeney, and Richard Cloward and Frances Fox Piven (co-creators of the "Cloward-Piven Strategy" for societal transformation) – all of whom were linked to the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA).
Dreier is a member of Progressives for Obama (PFO), co-founded by Tom Hayden, Danny Glover, Barbara Ehrenreich, and Bill Fletcher, Jr. (a former Maoist and current DSA leader who serves as executive editor of the periodical Black Commentator, and who co-founded the Black Radical Congress, which has close ties to the Communist Party USA). Dreier's fellow PFO members include such notables as Carl Davidson, Bernie Sanders, political scientist Andrew Hacker, Leslie Cagan, Paul Buhle, Daniel Ellsberg (responsible for the release of the infamous "Pentagon Papers"), Jane Fonda, Todd Gitlin, Marilyn Katz, Frances Fox Piven, Andrew Stern, Harry Targ, Cornel West, Tim Wise, and four members of the Vietnam War-era domestic terror group Weatherman -- Howard Machtinger, Jeff Jones, Steve Tappis and Mark Rudd.
One of the classes Dreier teaches at Occidental College is titled "Movements in Social Justice," for which a required text is Howard Zinn’s A People's History of the United States. In December 2007, a former student of Dreier's, Jason Rantz, penned an article about his experience in that class. He reported:
“Dreier ... romanticizes Socialism and Communism, often ignoring the brutal truth about those economic systems, in order to indoctrinate his students. To that point, students in this course are expected to write a paper on one book from a list of several he has picked. Among them: Talkin' Socialism; California Red: A Life in the American Communist Party; and The Romance of American Communism.
“The professor doesn't use his course just to brainwash his students into the thrills of Socialism and Communism. [H]e uses his course to routinely demean conservatives. Dreier orders students to read far Left publications like The American Prospect (he assigns the article "Rejecting the Right" toward the end of his class)…. Far from respecting alternative sides to his favorite issues, Dreier almost always solely presents assignments reflecting his stance on issues….”
Dreier has been a longtime supporter of the community organization ACORN. In 2008 he wrote a piece aiming to convince ACORN-friendly politicians, journalists, and funders to remain loyal to the group.
On September 26, 2009, Dreier penned a piece for the Huffington Post that blamed a right-wing cabal -- supposedly composed of “Big Business, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, Lou Dobbs, the Religious Right, the Wall Street Journal, Mitch McConnell, and Karl Rove” -- for unjustifiably attacking leftist organizations such as ACORN, SEIU, the Apollo Alliance, the Center for American Progress, the Sierra Club, the National Organization for Women, AFSCME, the National Council of La Raza, the NAACP, the ACLU, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the National Council of Churches, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, the AARP, the Teamsters, the Catholic Worker, UNITE HERE, the Immigrant Solidarity Network, the National Education Association, the U.S. Student Association, the American Association of University Professors, and the Democratic Party.
Dreier supports the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), which would make it easier for union organizers to intimidate workers into forming new unions. According to Dreier, the EFCA “would give workers a fair and direct path to form unions through a majority sign up,… help them secure a contract within a reasonable period of time, and toughen penalties against employers who violate workers' rights.”
Dreier favors living-wage laws. In 2007 he cited, as a model worthy of emulating, the example of Los Angeles, where the minimum wage for city employees was $9.39 per hour with health benefits, or $10.64 per hour without benefits -- both figures considerably higher than the national minimum wage. Many economists have noted that minimum-wage and living-wage increases invariably lead to higher unemployment rates, particularly among those at the lower end of the pay scale. As of August 2009, the unemployment rate in Los Angeles County was 12.3 percent, about 21 percent higher than the national average at that time.
In September 2009, Dreier co-authored a 61-page report titled “Manipulating the Public Agenda: Why ACORN Was in the News, and What the News Got Wrong.” The report was intended to counter allegations that ACORN was a corrupt organization – charges that had become exceedingly widespread in the wake of revelations that ACORN employees in several different cities had demonstrated a willingness to abet such crimes as tax fraud, money laundering, human trafficking, and underage prostitution rings.
Dreier said the attacks on ACORN had originated among “conservative business groups,” “opinion entrepreneurs,” and “Republican officials” who were “upset with ACORN’s community organizing efforts to help poor Americans improve economic conditions and gain a stronger political voice.” These groups, he said, were trying to discredit ACORN by flooding “the conservative echo chamber” – publications, TV and radio talk shows, blogs and websites, think tanks, and columnists – with unfounded smears about ACORN’s widespread involvement in malfeasance such as voter-registration fraud.