Today is December 30, 2012. I just finished watching the President of the United States on “Meet the Press”. He explained that political capital is required to do anything in Washington. I wonder if that’s how Democracy is supposed to look.
I listened as he spoke about immigration reform but said nothing about JOBS. I have been involved in organizing the unemployed for 4 years now. A group called the 99ers has traveled to Washington to lobby for a voice in policy, held rallies and attempted to network with other organizations. These causes sought to add volume to their collective voice toward an agenda that didn’t contribute to our goal of establishing a sufficient number of good-paying jobs. Because they refused to participate in our functions, we refrained from collaboration on any effort that diverted attention from the creation of jobs and support for 99ers.It’s time to reveal stories and expose special interest groups that are agenda driven and will use ANYONE who lends political clout.
In the “Meet the Press” interview, Barack Obama blamed Democrats and Republicans for failure to address public interests lacking political capital. The reason for a protracted employment crisis and zero policy intervention is American’s don’t care. No well funded and recognized organization is vested in pushing an agenda to support 99ers.
Below, I discuss some of the instances where we attempted to network with special interest groups for the REAL people of America to be heard and reveal behind-the-scenes truth.
AFL-CIO and Mr. Richard Trumpka:
99er members approached AFL-CIO in 2010; before Wisconsin and union worker layoffs. We warned unions that the war on workers was headed their way after it wiped us out. On many conference calls, we discussed how the two groups could work with Working America for a unified message. We asked that they send an email announcement to their members about our rallies.
We didn’t ask for money or use of their lobbyist. We wanted them to facilitate communication to their members about a shared concern. They said “If you spend time volunteering to make phone calls and grow our data base, we will see what can be done“. Although they wouldn’t guarantee anything, they wanted us to trust they would send an email in exchange for hours of our time. Because we have no income or other resources, we need to ensure mutual benefit for any time invested in other causes.
The AFL_CIO explained that unless we organized the unemployed to develop their data base, “It’s not our problem”. With the noncommittal stance taken, we didn’t volunteer to gather an unpaid marketing team. After heated discussions on weekly conference calls, interests of union organizers seeking employment outweighed the need of the collective.
During 2010 election campaigns, union pages disguised as helping the unemployed advertised to create political capital for the Democratic Party. TV personalities like Glenn Beck slammed 99ers by saying they were un-American and doing bidding for unions. In retrospect, he had a point. However he never asked 99ers for their perspective of what was happening. Was he wrong? YES. Was it a desire of unions? YES. No one knew about back stories behind the public eye.
Shortly after the idea of networking with unions broke down, Occupy Wall Street emerged. If you watched Fox News, you would think only the unemployed were rallying in these camps. It is no surprise Fox would propagate that misconception because Occupy’s motto was “99%”. 99ers didn’t appreciate our branding being hijacked for a purpose that had little to do with us.
No one questioned the 2010 campaign about 98% vs. 2%. At that time, Occupy appeared to be more geared toward college students and union members than the unemployed. There was no national rally for employment in general, but plenty of union support for benefits and union jobs. But the unemployed got more bad press after being called lazy and addicted to drugs.
Unemployed people were now portrayed as hippies and trouble makers. No one paid attention to the fact NOT ONE RALLY to fight for jobs ever came out of Occupy. 99ers were lumped in with 99% and had no representation. It’s amazing that Occupy was well funded when 99ers couldn’t get enough funding to travel to WashingtonDC.
In 2012, every unemployed chat room and social media site was bombarded with political requests from unions to support them on the street support to escalate their numbers. Many unemployed still receiving compensation complied with these tactics because many were union members. They might have felt it was the best chance to get back to work. But benefits expire and unemployed union workers can no longer afford to pay union dues.
What benefit will unions provide then? The only support remaining is a small unfunded group called the 99ers – regular people who wanted a voice during a time that voice was desperately needed.
A grass root movement called “Re-Build the Dream” was suddenly pushed by a group called MoveOn. Since many 99ers felt their dream was gone, we immediately looked into this idea and thought maybe this group has something we can finally support. I personally participated.
I traveled to New York City and worked on a video to be aired opening night. I would tell part of my story as well as another 99er, one business owner and a teacher. On the day of recording, the only other person being filmed was the other 99er.
We traveled to New York City for opening night where Van Jones was speaker. I picked up my ticket and learned I was the only cast member who wasn’t given a ticket to the after party. I thought it was odd but didn’t really care.
I sat in the VIP section and watched as Van Jones introduced “Re-Build the Dream”. I immediately became uneasy as he spoke about rebuilding the dream for America when it didn’t include Americans like me. It was about UNIONS. I was furious. Again, something I thought was meant to help EVERYONE turned into an agenda about a special interest group.
Afterwards, I went back to the hotel and gave my review to the 99ers on Facebook. The next day I traveled back and within 5 minutes returning home, contacted Van Jones. During filming I expressed how happy I was to finally have groups working together for everyone. I explained that I don’t want this to turn into supporting only one group. I was assured “Re-Build the Dream” was about helping everyone. I took a leap of faith then realized that is NOT what happened.
They used our emotionally packed stories to push a union agenda and didn’t mention us once. So again, I declined to be someone’s doormat. They were notified they may not use the video and given 48 hours to take it down before I publicized their exploitation of the unemployed to pursue an agenda having nothing to do with us. If “Re-Build the Dream” wanted to adjust the message to include 99ers, I would lend my support. But the video may not be up as is because this was not in the contract. I will protect 99ers, no matter what it takes. The video was taken down and no sincere attempt was ever made to reach out or improve the message.
As I watched “Meet the Press” today, I was reminded of why we are such a commodity to be used by so many groups. They want to increase their political capital. Meanwhile, the people they exploit continue to remain unrepresented. I guess Democracy isn’t about freedom anymore it’s about what group you belong to, how well it is funded and who has the ear of the leaders in Washington. This creates division in America.
I don’t propose you hate these groups. But I do wonder, if they truly want equality, why deceive us into participating and then leave so many supporters behind? Why don’t Americans care about anyone but themselves and those they connect with daily? Are Americans controlled by special interest groups who have millions of dollars in funding but represent themselves to be “grass roots” movements?
The 99ers didn’t want special interest funding. They wanted solutions so the group could be dismantled and we could go on with our lives. Instead, both sides black listed us and relegated 99ers into a black hole built by those who could have closed it.
Special Interest groups aren’t so special. It’s WRONG to walk over citizens to manipulate action; corrupting and molding the system to benefit a very small group. If this is democracy, we need a new description.