Working America (WA)

Working America (WA)


* Promotes “economic justice” for the “working people” who constitute “the 99%” of Americans whom the wealthiest 1% allegedly exploit
* Supports the Democratic Party and its agendas

Founded by Karen Nussbaum on September 1, 2003, Working America (WA) is a nonprofit group allied with the AFL-CIO. Its mission is to “challenge the corporate agenda across the nation” and promote “economic justice” for the “working people” who constitute “the 99%” of Americans whom the wealthiest 1% allegedly exploit. Boasting more than 3 million members, WA in mid-2012 claimed to be “the fastest-growing organization for working people in the country.” At that time, it was active in 10 states and had an office presence in 13 others.

Strongly supportive of the Democratic Party and its agendas, WA organized its first major initiative during the 2004 presidential campaign season—a widely publicized bus tour of workers throughout the Midwest. In the run-up to the midterm congressional elections two years later, more than 100,000 WA activists engaged in grassroots political electioneering on behalf of Democrats.

In 2011-12, WA advocated an end to “the Bush tax cuts for the 1%”; the closure of “corporate tax loopholes”; the passage of a mortgage-relief plan that “puts the needs of homeowners above the greed of mortgage bankers”; and the abolition of “corporate personhood.”[1]

Today, WA’s priorities are focused on seven major issue areas. In each one, the organization’s desire to promote the expansion of government and the public sector is clearly evident:

* Healthcare: WA strongly supports the the Affordable Health Care for America Act that was signed into law by President Obama in March 2010. When the legislation was being debated during the preceding several months, WA canvassers went door-to-door and met personally with more than 210,000 people, trying to solicit their support for the bill. Those efforts ultimately generated some 30,000 signatures on petitions advocating healthcare reform, as well as 31,000 phone calls, 40,000 e-mails, and 75,000 letters urging lawmakers to vote for reform.

* Good Jobs: Asserting that “government has a role to play” in job creation, WA calls for a massive “investment” of taxpayer dollars “in our nation’s infrastructure and in the teachers, firefighters, police and other public employees who provide services to our communities.” Further, the organization demands that “big corporations stop sitting on their profits and start using them to create new jobs.”

* Retirement Security: Charging that “corporate corruption” drained the pension accounts of many Americans, and that “many companies are looking for ways to break promises they made to their retirees,” WA adamantly opposes the privatization of Social Security, “the only guaranteed source of income for millions of seniors.”

* Quality Education: WA impugns politicians and activists who would “try to roll back teachers’ rights” by “send[ing] education dollars away from our public schools” and toward alternatives like “voucher schemes.”

Corporate Accountability: According to WA, American corporations do not pay “their fair share of taxes,” even as their profits “are at new highs as a portion of the entire economy.” Further, says WA, the recent repeal of certain laws has made corporations “freer than ever to mistreat their workers and their consumers.” In this regard, WA points specifically to the 2008 financial crisis, where as a result of “greed,” “irresponsibility,” “fraud,” and “misconduct” by banks and other mortgage lenders, “the economy tanked … and a crippling recession took hold.” “At great expense,” adds WA, “the government stepped in to save the banks from their own mistakes.”[2]

* Unemployment: WA argues that unemployment insurance benefits “keep families out of poverty,” “help them stay engaged in the economy,” and thereby “boos[t] the economy during downturns.” Thus the organization calls for “expanded unemployment insurance that covers all jobless workers and provides adequate benefits for them.”

* Workplace Rights: WA calls for “a fair minimum wage” and encourages the formation of labor unions. Maintaining (falsely) that women in the workplace are routinely victimized by wage discrimination, WA warns employers that they “may not pay unequal wages to men and women” who perform relatively equal tasks.

WA’s chief partner organization is the Working America Education Fund, which promotes “a progressive message on economic issues” to “counter the rightwing message machine.” Like WA, the Fund’s work is “anchored in one-on-one personal contact in the field.” In 2010, the Fund organized in nine states—Arkansas, Colorado, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon and Pennsylvania—where its canvassers engaged in approximately 1 million face-to-face conversations with residents “about issues affecting working families and their communities.” The Fund works collaboratively with a wide range of labor unions, both at the national and state levels, and with activist groups like the Alliance for a Better Minnesota, and the Sierra Club. Such notables as Patricia Bauman, Heather Booth, Robert Borosage, and John Sweeney sit on the Fund’s board of directors.

For additional information on Working America, click here.


[1] “Corporate personhood” was a disapproving allusion to the Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling that Citizens United (CU), which was both a political advocacy group and a corporation, was entitled, under the First Amendment’s free-speech protections, to speak out against a political candidate—in that case, by means of a CU-produced video critical of Hillary Clinton—just as individual voters were entitled to do.

[2] Notably, WA makes no mention of the federal government’s central role in creating the housing crisis, by its passage of the Community Reinvestment Act and other measures that compelled mortgagees to lend money to undercapitalized borrowers on a massive scale.

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