tv Politics and Public Policy Today CSPAN September 29, 2016 2:30pm-4:31pm EDT
prescriptions you take, whatever other personal data these companies have, is not very well protected. and part of the reason is because there's no economic deterrence for companies to have lax security. the courts have repeatedly turned away people claiming injury from identity theft, and the supreme court's recent decision in a case called spokehill versus robins leaves unsettled the question whether you have a right to sue when your personal data has been compromised due to a data breach. so all right, so that's the assault. and the assault is real. and the erosion of our rights has been steady and predictable for the last, i would say, decade or 20 years. so what can we do about this? there have been some bright signs on the horizon. the passage of dodd/frank and the creation of the consumer financial protection bureau is
an enormous step forward. now, the agency has been in existence for only four and a half years, but has already done some important things. it's taken some enforce actions, it's done policy work to protect those people who are not entitled or not eligible for anything other than subprime loans to protect them in the market. it has proposed some, some curtailment of the right to mandatory arbitration. but that's just the first step. that agency is under assault constantly in congress. i talked to my friend rich, he stopped counted the number of times he's been hauled up to the hill to testify. it was, i think, 50 at last count. he's not only been there for a few years. we need more legislation, and in order oo eer to do that, we ne organize. we need to personalize these
stories, and we need to look at the level of powers that are available to us and try to exercise power. so let me talk about a few things. one is if you look at mandatory arbitration, congress understands how powerful a force that is. there are exemptions to it. when dodd/frank was passed, the most foors lobbying was not done by the banks. it was done by the auto dealers. why? because they wanted a provision in the bill that made it illegal for the auto manufacturers to require the auto dealers to arbitrate disputes. one of the few odd carve-outs in dodd/frank. well, the auto dealers had a point. and we need to -- we need to force congress to take a hard look at arbitration, mandatory arbitration. the only way we're going to do that is if we come up with a number of stories that drive
home just how unfair, undemocratic, and essentially how perverse that process is. the other thing that we need to do is we need to win the battle in the courts. this is where you're going to hear from paul bland and people from public citizen litigation group early on. we have been fighting these battles in the court, but the court is now up for grabs. justice scalia's seat remains vacant. justice ginsburg is 83. justice kennedy is 80. justi justi justice breyer is 78. the next president will remake the supreme court, in all likelihood. most of the decisions i have been fretting about have been 5-4 decisions. one vote can make an important difference and one vote on november 8th can make a huge difference. thank you very much.
>> thank you, professor. all right, our next speaker will be speaking about stopping corporate power and money in politics. he is the president of public citizen, a group that you have heard about and you will hear again today. he's been leading public citizen since 2009, where he is now spearheading the effort to loosen the chokehold that corporations and the wealthy have over our democracy. following the supreme court's decision in citizens united, he established a democracy is for people program, which is a project of public citizen, and it's specifically intended to fight for a constitutional amendment to overturn the ruling and curb money in politics. please welcome robert wiseman.
>> thank you for your stamina for democracy, for breaking through power. fortunately or otherwise, i'm the last person between you and lunch. so try to amuse you. unfortunately, this microphone is taped down and i can't walk around. i don't have pictures, so i'm just going to talk. but i was suggesting to someone that maybe we could entertain a little bit with shadow puppets because of the good niglight, w have the people and the koch brothers. pounding on the people. we'll come back to that puppet metaphor later on. so there's a convention, a story of conventional wisdom which is america is a country deeply divided. we're red and blue states. heard some detailed reporting on this on npr this morning, with some interesting -- actually interesting reporting, and some shocking views.
we're plainly a country divided profoundly by race and equally as profounding and less often recognized by class. and i say that that political story, that's the dominant narrative of trying to explain what's going on in the country, that we're a divided nation. it has some truth. that story has some truth, that's why it works. buzz it overshadows another story that is at least as important, i think, probably more important. which is that we're actually an amazingly united country, when it comes to the policy agenda that americans favor. astoundingly united. i'm about to read you a set of statistics, but by way of background, compare them to the fact that 4 out of 5 people agree that the earth revolves around the sun. that's a marker. and it's not -- as an aside, that's not a -- nothing to do with american science teaching.
it's cross culturally true. that's about the number when you look across countries. however, 83% of americans think that the top 1% have too much power and have used it for economic advantage. three quarters of americans favor a steep rise in minimum wage, by about 2 to 1, people oppose corporate trade deals like the trans-pacific partnership. the vast majority of americans favor breaking up the big banks. about 9 in 10 say we need stronger financial regulation. 4 out of 5 voters favor expanding social security. not protecting it, not defending it, not stopping cutbacks, but expanding social security. by a three to one margin, americans want to close corporate tax loopholes. the president's controversial clean power plant is favored by a two to one, a small 2 to 1 margin. 3 out of 4 americans favor stricter air pollution standards.
the clean water act has 80% support. if you give people the completely ridiculous and misleading choice between environmental protection and cost to the economy, 59% say they want stronger environmental protections. more than 9 in 10 americans want origin of labeling, country of origin labeling for meat. 83% of americans favor giving medicare the right to negotiate drug prices. more republicans rate drug prices as a -- republicans rate high drug prices as a higher level of concern than obamacare. they're more concerned about drug prices, republicans, not the country, than obamacare. almost 9 in 10 americans say we should have tougher enforcement of law and regulations that apply to corporations. so it is an amazing consensus in the country behind a progressive populist agenda. there's also, as david, mike, and others were saying, amazing lack of progress on that agenda. there's a huge disconnect
between what americans want by overwhelming numbers and what we get. what do we get out of congress, what do we get out of executives, out of state, out of city councils? you can't explain that adequately in my view with anything other than looking at the power of corporations and especially the power of the corporate class in our elections. so corporate political power is not only expressed through money and politics but that's the cutting edge. and the problem long proceeds, of course, the citizens united decision oliver was talking about in 2010, but it got a lot worse with that decision. that decision held that corporations have the right to spend whatever they want to influence election outcomes. most of you probably are not in the business of reading supreme court decisions, but if you want to pick one, although it's a long one, it's worth reading citizens united because it is astounding and even though it has some law stuff in there, you'll understand immediately why it's astounding. it's predicated on the idea that
the first amendment protection right of oppressed people, oppressed classes to express themselves, and you read the majority opinion from justice kennedy about this connection between the first amendment and the right of the oppressed and it's eloquent and moving until you recognize that the oppressed clashe's talking about is the corporate class. and that he's worried about the right of dupont and exon and walmart to step out. we have citizens united, another decision later on that deepened it and a couple others. what it stands for, this right of corporations to spend whatever it wants, but what it has enabled is the wild west era in campaign spending. so the world has become -- the political world has become materially worse since that 2010 decision. in 2012, there were about $6.5 billion spend on federal elections, which was a huge record. you get these records, it becomes numbing.
this year, we're going to smash that for sure. those numbers totally undercount how much is actually being spent for a variety of reasons. the advertising business says they spent $9.4 billion in spending on political matters in the 2012 election cycle and expect to get, almost approach $12 billion this year. that itself would be an underaccount. the amounts involves are just extraordinary. what are the impacts? most of the things that fall from this are familiar to people, but actually how bad it is may not be completely obvious. one thing that has long been the case is that the need to fu fund-raise for political candidates means they spend their time with rich people, and that effects what they think and say and do. president obama may have spoken and written about it more eloquently than anybody prior to s citizens united in his book "audacity of hope." running for senate, what was he
doing? increasingly, i found myself spending my time with people of means, law firm partners, hedge fund partners and venture capt ls. they were smart, interesting people, knowledgeable about public policy, but they reflected almost uniformly the views of their classes. then he said i started to think the way they thought because i was hanging out with them all the time. just, you know, more precisely, if you look at the 2012 election, the "chicago sun times" reported right at the end of the election that the president obama had spent, attended twice as many fund-raisers in the course of the election has he had attended campaign rallies and mitt romney disappears for long periods, only doing an event a day because he was so busy fund-raising. if you wonder what happened to hillary clinton in the august period, part was a strategy to see if trump would shoot himself in the foot or head every day. didn't work out perfectly, unfortunately, but a lot was she was spending her time fund-raising. if you have friends in los angeles or san francisco, they
can tell you traffic was messed up every day because clinton was riding around going to fund-raisers. it's kind of funny. but even all this, so that's sort of what happens with the candidates, but the many we talk about is worse than it seems at first glanls because it gets focused in the most competitive races. what we now have is all this outside money, super pac money and so-called dark money that citizens united enabled and spurred along coming in at astounding numbers. a billion dollars in 2012 and way more this year. but it gets really focused on the races that are tight. in the tight senate races, most of the time the outside spending groups spend more than the candidates themselves so they get to decide what is being debated and discussed. they spend almost all their money on negative ads. everybody hates negative ads, but they work. that's why people use them. the candidates are a little
deferred from using negative ads because they can be held accountable, but these outside groups, indistinguishable from the real thing, americans for a better tomorrow tomorrow. the outside groups spent 85% to 90% of their money on attack ads. that becomes what the races are about. the state of the political dialogue is meaningfully degraded and then of course, we have a lot of that money coming in the form of secret spending and dark money, which means you can't even trace where the money is coming from. the one thing you might be able to do is identify who the funder is, but when it's all -- all the funders are secret, you can't do it. so the vast majority, you hear the numbers the koch brothers are going to raise almost adoll down, but you won't see the koch brothers -- they'll come in with a couple million dollars in
exposed spending. and all of the rest of the money is on money they don't report. the rules are not enforced and honors and they're breached. as the former chair of the federal election commission will tell you, anyone is free to break the rules because there is no enforcement from the enforcement agency. super pacs are not supposed to coordinate with candidates. no one thinks that doesn't happen. they used to say it was a wink and a nod, but maybe now it's just an oud. they're coordinating. money sloshes around so you can't file and track what went from whom to where, and thanks to another supreme court decision in 2014, the mccutchen decision, you can put together these strings of political committees and make it possible for individuals to donate directdirect ly huge amounts of money to candidates up to $3 million. there was a huge fund-raiser that was controversial in the democratic primary that george clooney hosted for hillary
clinton, and just to get a good seat at that fund-raiser, you had to contribute $300,000. and it's worth asking why could anybody contribute $300,000 if the maximum in a primary was $2700, because the supreme court said you can stream all this money together, compile these committees, write one check and it's all fine. so stuff is really honored in the breach. that's kind of like i think sort of the lay of the land of some of the key elements of this, but some of the consequences maybe aren't sufficiently recognized. there's two that i think are sort of dominant. they're sort of obvious, but maybe less obvious than it first appears. the first one is that all this money that's coming in is provided by an incredibly small number of individuals and corporations. makes sense to think of them together as a corporate class. like a really, really small number. so i would say that occupy wall street which did a great service to the country, kind of got it wrong. all those discussions about the
1%, right? the other 99%. 1%. that doesn't explain what's going on in campaign funding. you need to talk about the top .01% to get any insight into what's happening. the top .01%, take about 4% of national income. so about 30,000 people, something like that. they provide 40% of all campaign contributions. top .01%. even that actually undersells the story. if you look at super pacs, the cutting edge of the worst stuff, you're looking at 100 people from election to election who dominate what's going on. usually the top 100 donors are responsible for about three quarters of the super pac money. in 2012, there were 52 people or families who gave more than a million to super pacs. this year, we're already at 100. so i guess the benchmark for being taken seriously rises.
not surprisingly, people are overwhelmingly male. people of color don't have this kind of wealth. it's almost all of these giant contributions come from white people. the other thing that's really underappreciated is the extent to which all this money controls what's debated. if we connect back to that long list of things that americans agree on, mostly not even talked about or they're not talked about as much as they could be given the consensus in the country and they're not talked about because that interest doesn't line up with the unlike rudy giuliani here getting a cell phone call, sorry. that interest doesn't line up with the donor class interests. and the politicians have to be responsive to the donor class to be taken seriously. so at the end of the day, the donors decide effectively who runs, they have a huge influence
over who wins. they have a giant influence over what is debated, what is even raised as serious political conversation, and of course, after the election, what's going to be talked about seriously in congress. so what do we have to do about it? the policy agenda is pretty straightforward and americans don't have any disagreement about that, just like the other numbers, americans are consensed on the need for far reaching reform, depending on the poll you look at it's 80 to 10 to 9010 who want reform. the niems had a remarkable poll that said the country is split not only for the need for reform but whether the system needs fundamental change or to be completely rebuilt. i'm not actually sure which is the more radical of those two, but that's basically everybody agrees on one of those two things. nobody agrees that the current system is fine or even needs small changes. the changes we need are familiar. so the small thing is to have
disclosure, all the money outside money, direct contributions, all of it has to be disclosed. sort of silliness, the secret money dominating our we need to have a system of public financing for our public elections, there's good systems in new york and elsewhere that show us to do that and we have to overturn citizens united and other supreme court decisions that both entrench this ludicrous notion that corps should have the same right as people to affect our elections but also make it possible to have all these outside spending. the good news is that americans completely agree on that agenda. but we know from the first part of the conversation that agreeing on the agenda isn't enough. people have to get mobilized on it and people actually since citizens united have been and we have had a change in what the conversation is on money and politics from kind of a boring good government thing to a fundamental democracy issue, corporate power issue and understanding the connection between the money and politics
issue and corporate power and everything else that american -- the whole agenda that americans want to see realized. just uzing the constitutional amendment as a marker we went from two senators who supported the amendment in 2010 when the idea was thought to be frivolous or too extreme to 26 in 2012 when it started to gain traction. we have 54 u.s. senators voting for constitutional amendment remarkably in 2014. one of the presidential candidates now says that she would introduce an amendment within the first 100 days of taking office and it's a core part of the agenda for the democratic party remarkably. we haven't broken through yet all the way to win. this used to be a bipartisan issue, mitch mcconnell has stopped that but it will be again in the near future. the total key to winning is mobilizing. right? the polls are insufficient. everything is about showing there's passion and that people
care. this past spring we had the first large demonstration around democracy issues in a generation, the first money and politics maybe ever in washington, d.c. with 5,000 people turning out to support the agenda that i just talked about as well as a broader democracy agenda focusing on the crucial issue of voting rights as well. that was a good small first step. we have to be at least an order of magnitude bigger with people literally laying down in the streets to make a difference, that's what we have to do to win and we have to win on this issue to win everything else that's being talked about city conference. we are talking about breaking through power, this is really a central issue for breaking through power. last thing to say is, okay, how do you get connected? if you don't know the website for public iz is you should, it's citizen.org. please sign up for our e-mail list. we will send you fundraisers but
we will also send you a ton of information about things you can do and if you care to be involved in organizing we want to get you hooked up with the on the ground organizing that's going on across the country in these red states and in the blue states to win this fundamental democracy reform. thank you very much. [ applause ] good afternoon, everyone. welcome back after lunch. we have a great lineup for the afternoon and our first speaker is going to be talking about the importance of whistle blowing. he is professor emeritus at american university washington college of law, he has been a scholar in he is dense with the law faculty of the king's
college of the university of london, he has also been a visiting professor at monash university in melbourne, australia, and he has taught at the university of san diego school of law as well as visiting professor at ritzumaken university school of law in japan. please welcome robert vaughn. [ applause ] >> thank you very much. as a teacher i was always a little concerned when i was assigned that first class after lunch, but we can move from there. one australian observer of whistle blowing concluded whistle blowing is the legal regulation, and i quote, most crucial to integrity, accountability and organizational justice in all institutions, end quote. even if you might be a little
skeptical about that statement, which, by the way, i am not, we recognize that whistle blowing is a powerful technique for holding the powerful accountable. i will describe the importance of whistle blowing law by examining several different perspectives that are linked to different frame works of accountability. these perspectives are a reservoir of arguments and proposals for change. through them we can consider the history and the expansion of whistle blowing laws and breaking through power. but i can't begin this discussion without mentioning those whistleblowers who have changed the perceptions of the public of whistle blowing and who have established the context and content of many whistleblower laws. but without an appreciation of these persons, whistleblowers become kind of inn substantial legal creations.
in appreciation of their sacrifices make whistle blowing concrete rather than abstract, personal rather than statistical and emotional as well as analytical. i will not forget them as i speak and i ask that you do not. we're going to discuss these four perspectives, the employment perspective, the open government perspective, the transparency or market regulation perspective and human rights. the new deal labor reforms in the 1950s developed an anti-retaliation principle that prohibited retaliation against employees for disclosure of violations of labor laws or workplace protections. in the 1950s a few courts, particularly those in california, used the anti-retaliation principle to restrict dismissals of at will employees when those dismissals would be against public policy
because those employees reported violations of law by their employers, violations of both regulatory and criminal law. this history helps to explain why whistle blowing laws are usually treated as a subset of employment laws. the character of modern society also explains this conception of whistleblower laws. the activities of contemporary society rely heavily upon the activities of government through government agencies and the activities of private organizations through corporations. both private and public sector organizations can vary in size, but except for the smallest they require employees to carry out their activities. these employees possess information not otherwise available regarding misconduct, incompetence danger and risk. employees and therefore, may
properly see weather blower laws as changing the relationship between them. if whistleblower laws restructure the workplace this reduction in the power of employers invites widespread and lasting opposition to these laws. this perspective invites the consideration of the interest of employers who can argue that it is the public interest not the interest of employees that must be considered. thus it is the employee who must prove the entitlement to protection and the employees does this in a setting where they formally face the resources of the employer alone. the other perspectives are information based. the employment perspective is not. in the employment perspective the emphasis is on the employment relationship and that relationship incorporates interest in bureaucratic secrecy, secrecy that is asserted to be justified because of the need for national decision-making and the preservation of management prerogati
prerogative. this perspective contains other difficulties as well. it incorporates the procedural and administrative mechanisms of employment. these administrative and procedural mechanisms usually -- usually benefit employers. it requires the determination of who is an employee and it requires the determination as to whether retaliation takes place through an employment-based action. both of these requirements invite subterfuge and abuse. it is less likely than the other perspectives to draw on international law and on international organizations. international labor standards are ambiguous as to whether employees who make disclosures that do not involve violations of workplace laws are protected and the international labor organization lacks the status and influence of international human rights and anti-corruption organizations. because of its pervasiveness the
employment perspective is a powerful alternative to the others. the open government perspective, this perspective emphasizes the public right to know about government policies and practices. freedom of information laws offer the justifications for disclosure of information held by the government. a principal justification for this disclosure is sustaining democratic accountability. democratic accountability involves both political accountability and legal accountability and open government laws support both types of accountability. as to political accountability i go norps of the action of government officials makes criticism of the government less likely. ignorance dulls outrage and reduces the likelihood that civil society groups will organize for and use democratic procedures for change. as to legal accountability, the accountability of government officials on the one hand
requires an understanding of the standards and practices that are to guide their conduct and on the other hand requires information about the conduct of those officials. the open government perspective introduces a dispute about the role of government. one view of the role of government is a limited view in that in order to preserve the realm for private activity and choice, the other more activist view of government says that the democratic state must address societal maladies that individuals are unable to resolve. the activist view sees the individual at risk not only from government but from the concentration of private power from which the individual must be protected by the government. both views identify corruption as a threat to the mission of government. the open government perspective affiliates whistleblower protection with international anti-corruption movements and that also advocate democratic
accountability and disclosure. in contrast to the employment perspective the open government one is information based. nothing in this perspective necessarily requires that protection apply only to employees. the market regulation or transparency perspective, this perspective evidences a concern with open markets. for example, with the low of capital internationally it requires an assessment of political risks. and argues for knowledge of the frequency of corruption. the lack of transparency of markets or of government can be a surrogate for the likelihood of corruption. corruption distorts markets. for example, corruptions in government contracts distort not only domestic markets but can distort international markets as well. whistleblower protections are information provision that is help to support efficient
markets, such whistleblower provisions thus become part of anti-corruption efforts in many countries and international conventions and in international economic organizations such as the world bank and the regional development banks. although concerned with the protection of markets, this perspective implicates misconduct by government officials as well. as the open government perspective can apply to nongovernment disclosures, the market regulation perspective can encompass information about government. these protections need not apply to employees because a number of individuals -- a number of individuals possession -- hello. it's back on. okay. either that or my voice suddenly disappeared. the protections need not be limited to employees because a number of individuals possession information relevant to the evaluation of markets. for example, the american
convention against corruption extends tsz protections for disclosures to, quote, public servants and private citizens. the breach of fiduciary duties by corporate officials often involve the suppression of information or the presentation of false information. this concealment and falsification of information distorts markets, particularly markets in corporate securities. while the open government perspective can be seen as an information-based approach to the accountability of government, the market regulation perspective can be seen as an information-based approach to the accountability of markets. in response to the great depression of 1929 the new deal used information disclosure as a method of market regulation. two recent examples emphasize this approach and the increasing importance of whistleblower protection. the sarbanes-oxley act responded in the whistleblower provision
to the failure of enron and world com, failures that were caused by accounting fraud. one of the best known whistleblowers of the period, sharon watkins, who was named a time person of the year along with cynthia cooper sought to inform corporate officials of these fraudulent practices. unfortunately for her all of the officials she approached were deeply involved in the fraud. the legislative history of the whistleblower provision of the sarbanes-oxley act refers to this role of sharon watkins. the financial crisis of 2008 level to whistleblower protections in the dodd/frank act. the provision contained important innovations and reflected the importance that it was a watched to whistleblower protection as a recognition of markets. health and safety regulation in the view of many reflect an importance beyond the integrity of financial markets.
the loss of human life and human suffering of these deaths and injury demand effective regulation of health and safety. the nad casey of industry standards in industry after industry has generated a wealth of statutes. the information disparate between regulators and regulated industries is accepted as a principal reason for regulatory failure. this information deficit disables regulation. beginning at least with the mine health and safety act of 1977 whistleblower protection has been used as a tool for ensuring adequate information regarding workplace risks or public safety through protected disclosures to regulators. many environmental and health and safety statutes contained whistleblower protections. important whistleblower preventions are included in the
improvement safety act of 2008 and food safety modernization act of 2011. since 20 2 thousand -- 2000 congress has enacted more whistleblower protections than in any comparable period. federal private sector whistleblower laws now competence of millions of private sector employees. the human rights perspective. freedom of expression has played an important role in the development of whistleblower protection in the united states. in 1968 in pick ring versus board of education the united states supreme court applied the first amendment to protect public employees who made disclosures to the public. the whistle ploer provision of the civil service reform act that covers millions of federal employees sought to vind kate these constitutional rights but substituted statutory standards for the vague balancing test under the first amendment. in this is sense u.s.
whistleblower law rests on the human right of freedom of expression. this perspective gives whistleblower protection a strong connection to international human rights law. for example, both article 19 of the universal declaration of human rights and article 13 of the american convention on human rights protect freedom of expression. the right has been broadly interpreted by the american court of human rights and reyes versus chile the court healed that this right of freedom of expression gives the individual the right to receive information about the government and imposes upon the government an obligation to provide information to citizens. en international human rights contains a large body of ideals, principles and arguments, powerful international organizations support the development of human rights. under many human rights conventions signatories are bound by the judicial -- by the
decisions of judicial bodies who are charged with interpreting the convention. for example, decisions of the european court or human right have helped to develop human rights in britain -- excuse me, whistleblower rights in britain. a human rights approach relying on freedom of information is more likely to encompass opinion, therefore, this perspective supports a broader scope of protections and under more lenient standards than reasonable belief. the freedom of expression applies to public disclosures and this perspective more than the others is likely to protect public disclosures. the principle of the inn give siblt of the human rights would protect disclosures addressing other fundamental issues of human rights. the human rights perspective is not instrument list as are the other perspectives. with them protection is granted to serve some other value or interest.
a human rights analysis focuses less on human rights as a way to implement other values or to accomplish worthwhile goals but asserts that these rights represent basic human values worthy of protection. the task of breaking through power is not an easy one. whistleblower law is often seen as a way of doing so. to understand the weaknesses of whistleblower law but more importantly to appreciate their possibilities requires an understanding of these perspectives. because of these perspectives matter examination of them helps us to see the weakness of whistleblower law and to appreciate possibilities for change. each of these perspectives enables and limits whistleblower protection and examination encourages us to seek significant change. by the way, for the students here i'd like to give a little warning and that warning is be very careful what you do when
you're 26 years old. when i was 26 years old i turned down a couple jobs and took a job with ralph nader in washington and one of the -- one of the tasks that he charged me with was looking at the federal civil service and one aspect of it that i came to particularly focus on was the need for whistleblower protection for federal employees. so now some 40 years later i am still working on the same topic that i was assigned then. so just an alert, please be extremely careful what you start with when you're 26 years old. thank you. [ applause ] >> maybe there's still hope for edward snowden.
before we move on i wanted to just do a couple of housekeeping notes. after the next speaker we are going to have circulating these note cards to members of the audience. if you have questions, please write one question per card, write legibly and we will collect them and ralph nader will address them during the last session on the agenda. and then after that he will be available out at the book table to sign copies of books that people may have bought. >> all right. our next speaker is going to address public sentiment and social change. he is professor of politics and chair of urban an environmental policy at -- sorry, chair of the urban environmental policy department at occidental college, he writes widely on american politics and public policy for the nation, american progress, dissent and the
huffington post as well as numerous op-ed pages in the newspapers. he is author of the 100 greatest americans of the 20th century, a social justice hall of fame, and he has also led the successful minimum wage campaign in pasadena, california. please welcome peter dreyer. [ applause ] >> i want to first address the students from hood college that are here. i actually want to particularly address the women from hood college who are here. so the women from hood college, can you raise your hands? okay. now put them down. okay. now, i want to ask you a very simple question. how many of you played sports in high school? raise your hands. >> okay. raise -- and how many of you didn't play sports in high school. >> okay. so around the country i asked
this question all the time when i'm talking to college students and it turns out that somewhere between a third and a half of all the women in college played sports in high school, sometimes more than that, and roughly a quarter to a third of them now play inter collegiate sports in college, and they take that for granted, that choice, depends on their talent, depends on their will, but they determined that they have the right to do that and that right is something that is relatively new, the right to play sports for women in high school and in college. let me ask you another question and this can be for any of the students from hood college. how many of you know who billy jean king was? raise your hands. one person. okay. all right. okay. so that to me reflects an important reality, that we take for granted the achievements of movements of the past, to the extent that we take them so for granted we don't even know who
the people were that were responsible for making those changes. for those of you who don't know billy jean king was not only one of the greatest tennis players of all time, she was active in the women's movement, she testified before congress on behalf of title 9 which was the law that made it possible for young women today to play high school and college sports. and so many of the radical ideas from the past, ideas that were once considered u taupian, radical, socialist, crazy, impact cal are now things that we take for granted and those things include social security, the minimum wage, women's right to vote, the right of workers to unionize, a progressive income tax, consumer and environmental protection laws, national parks, government subsidized healthcare, same-sex marriage, a black president and a woman president. all of those were once considered radical ideas. so the radical ideas of one generation are often the common
sense of the next generation. how did that happen? well, in order to aund is that we have to understand where we've been, where we are and where we're going and for those of you that are somewhat demoralized or depressed by the current political situation, have no fear, this, too, will pass. movements make change, movements make it possible for us to dream dreams, movements make it possible for people to think that radical ideas today's will be taken for granted by our children and our grandchildren. dr. king said the arc of the moral universe bends towards justice but he forgot to say one thing. who is going to bend it? who is going to make it possible for that arc of the moral universe to bend in those are the people i want to talk to you about today. a big overview of the movements of the 20th century that have made our lives a lot better, whose shoulders we stand on but whom we often forget. victor berger was the first socialist congress person from
milwaukee. in 1911 he introduced this crazy idea in congress called old age insurance. he got one vote for that bill, that was his own vote. but 25 years later during the new deal, during the franklin roosevelt administration we adopted social security. the radical ideas of victor berger became the common sense of our ideas today. these three women were part of the leadership of the settlement house movement that created the fight against slums and against sweat shops in our business cities, they were mostly upper middle class women that moved into the immigrant slums of the late 1800s, early 1900s and fought for the rightser of immigrants, helps to organize unions, helped to organize what today we would call consumer groups and they created things like tminimum wage for women. the triangle factory fire in 1911 mobilized a billing
movement, 145 immigrant young teenage girls were killed in this fire in new york but there was a protest movement after it, francis perkins, al smith, later the governor of new york, robert wagner were three activists in that movement. one of the people that was one of their supporters was a woman named ann morgan, she was the daughter of the richest person in the world, j.p. morgan, but she decided she wanted to be on the side of the working class women so she showed up with her rich friends at the pickett lines. rose snyderman was a union organizer at the time. she couldn't believe that this upper class woman in fur was out there in the middle of winter picketing with the working class ep women, she called them the mink brigade, but they were people who were in solidarity, that's how eleanor roosevelt became politicized by the battle over the triangle fire. there were people fighting robber barons, these muck raking
reporters and there was the women's rights movement. this is 2016 exactly 100 years ago next month two important things happened, one is that margaret sanger opened up the first first control clinic in america, jeannette ranken was the first woman elected to congress in 1916. these are things that we now take for granted. birth control and women in congress but they were really revolutionary 100 years ago. workers rights, workers sat in in the wool worths in new york in the detroit and flint factories to get the right to unionize. the sit in movement which took its idea from the working classworkers movement brought us civil rights, the right to vote, the right to accommodations, the environmental justice movement challenged and changed the law and introduced the clean air
act, the clean water act, the environmental protection act in 1970. these are all radical ideas at the time. the consumer protection movement led by mr. nader but also by a woman named frances kelsey, she protected -- she was a doctor at the federal drug administration -- food and drug administration and she stopped the drug companies from allowing -- from -- the food and drug administration from allowing the drug companies to throw this dangerous drug which saved millions of lives. tony mazaki was a leader of the movement for workplace safety and helped to create the occupation occupational saeft afety and he administration in 1970. if you haven't seen the movie about karen silkwood starring meryl streep you should, she was one of the activists that helped to fight for workplace safety. and more recently and in today's
environment you still have the right to protect the right of women to have abortions and women's equality in general. there is the movement for immigrant rights today and the dreamers movement. they have already gotten a number of states to allow undocumented students to pay in state tuition, an incredibly popular law in those states, but we still need to get the dream act passed in congress. the voting rights act was passed in 1965 but we're still fighting for voting rights all over the country. you can see that that's happening this last couple weeks in north carolina in particular. there has been a movement for gun protection, gun control over the last few years, the upper right-hand corner is the protest in new town, connecticut, in the lower left-hand corner is the unfortunate ceremony that the president went to around the seven people who were killed in
charleston, south carolina. black lives matter has helped to alert us to the reality of racial profiling and police violence. the number of shootings of african-americans has not gone up in the last ten years, but our awareness of it has because of cell phones, because of body cameras, because of increasing media coverage and so now there is a movement for changing in police practices. occupy wall street disappeared but their ideas continued. you can't kill an idea. the idea of the 1% and the 99% has lasted much longer than the movement. there is nobody in america, not a conservative, no at liberal, not a progressive, not a monarchist who doesn't understand what the 1% and the 99% means. so the ideas of occupy wall street and the power about the power of the rich and the power of big banks has stayed with us and has helped shape our movements. the hearing last week where the ceo of wells fargo bank took a
grilling from both democratic and republican senators, john stumpf the ceo was in some ways the modern or the most recent version of occupy wall street. the movement to raise the wage. if you had told me just five years ago that any city in america would have today a $15 an hour minimum wage i would have thought you were crazy but in the upper right-hand corner is the mayor of seattle signing a law two years ago to have a minimum wage in that city of $15 an hour. there are now dozens of cities around the country including my own city of pasadena but also our neighbor los angeles and about eight other cities in southern california that have adopted $15 minimum wage laws. that's because of the movement of walmart workers and fast food workers and janitors and many other workers around the country fighting for improving the minimum wage and low wage work. the big issue of the next ten years, i think, will be student
debt. students are now sitting in, protesting, organizing. senator warren has a bill to address the issue, both the democratic candidates for president, hillary clinton and bernie sanders both made this a big issue because it resonates with a lot of people. there's a big movement around the country to stop sweat shop labor by having students refuse to buy shirts and t-shirts and sweatshirts with the name of their college on it that are made in sweat shops around the country. there is a factory that was created by the united students against sweat shops in the do anyone can republic, those of you who are in college including at hood college should make sure that your bookstore sells the products from that factory which is that factory in the dough minute can public where they pay three times the minimum wage, they have a union and good workplace safety conditions. it's one of the few factories in
the world that is like that but it shows that it can be done. there is obviously a big movement around climate change, dozens of colleges have voted to divest from fossil fuels from their endowments, we have stopped the keystone pipeline, this was the result of protest and activism not because the arc of the universe was going to bend towards justice automatically. five, ten years ago the idea of same-sex marriage was considered crazy, now over 70% of the american population believes it should be legal. this is a dramatic change in public opinion in a short period of time as a result of litigation, protest, organizing and changes in public sympathy. all of these movements have three things in common and those are things that are true of movements of the left or the right. number one is that every movement has organizers and activists that think
strategically and large number of people that take their advice and follow their guidance. just a few of them from eugene debs to alice paul to walter ruther the union leader to frances park ins the secretary of labor to norman thomas to miles norton who founded something called the highlanders school in tennessee to train organizers, dorothy day the leader of the catholic worker movement, betty fredan who led the first national organization for women, two incredible women active in the civil rights movement, the farmworkers movement, but they had to have people who can inspire us with their poetry, artist tree, writing, philosophy, using their athletic ability to promote social justice and social change to boys who wrote the yellow wallpaper the first feminist
short story, a photographer who went around the country exposing the abuses of child labor, upton sinclair who exposed the crisis in the meat packing industry in his book "the jungle" john stein beck whose book about farmworkers "grapes of wrath" raised our consciousness, woody guthrie who sang what should be the national anthem this land is your land, langston hughes the great poet, arthur miller the playwright, the weavers who introduced us to songs from around the world, jackie robinson who used his athletic ability to fight for social justice, rabbi herbel and martin luther king, phil objection, the freedom singers from the civil rights movement, pete seeger and bob dillon, pete seeger and
bruce springstein, mohammuhamma and marvin gay. michael harrington, dr. seuss whose books were about moral outrage, if you read between the lines you will see lots of radical ideas. rachel carson who exposed the dangers of ddt and pesticides and the great biologist who exposed the way we produce our consumer products harms the environment. adrian rich the poet, the feminist poet, billy jean ring, the tennis player, leslie fwoer most of you under 50 have never heard of leslie gore, she was a rock and roll singer, people think i'm crazy to put her up here, she wrote this incredible song and sang this song in 1963
called "you don't own me" which was an early feminist song that people don't recognize. she's most famous for "it's my party and i will try if i want to" but i think she should be most famous for "you don't own me." bill employers, tom borello the singer from rage against the machine. michael moore, these are all people who every movement needs people who inspire us, write about us, give us hope for the future. and finally we all have to have political allies, those are people who are in government and who work with activism from people in office like senator la folic, john peter at get the governor of illinois, at get was willing at the bee head st of jans adams annual frances perkins to introduce factory legislation in illinois in the 1800s.
johnson the governor of california introduced the minimum wage law and the women's right to vote, franklin roosevelt the mayor of new york phil laguardia, an unsung and radical governor of minneapolis in the 1930s, a women's activism and congresswoman, washington the radical mayor of chicago, fall wellstone the iconic senator from minnesota, the harvey milk the first openly gay elected officials, bernie sanders, john lewis and elizabeth warren. all of these are people who have changed our lives, they've changed our minds, they've helped us understand changes. so i just want to give you finally a portrait of where are we now? what are americans thinking today? 77% of us think there's too much power in the hands of a few rich people in large corporations, 74 think corporations have too much
political influence, 60% think the economic system favors the wealthy, 84% think money has too much influence in politics, 85% think we need to overhaul our campaign finance system, 73% favor adopting tougher rules for wall street, 64% stronger regulations on green house emissions, 82% big corporations don't pay their fair share of taxes, 79% wealthy people don't pay their fair share of taxes, 68% favor raising taxes on the richest people in the country, 66% think wealth should be more evenly distributed. 69% think the government should reduce the gap between the rich and everyone else. 75% we should increase the minimum wage to $12.50 by 2020, 63% think we should increase the minimum wage to 15% by 2020 and 58% think we should increase the minimum wage to $15 now, 80%
think we should require employers to provide paid family leave, 71% favor a public option for health insurance to compete with the private insurance companies, 67% favor lifting the income tax cap on social security, require higher income workers to pay social security taxes on all of their wages and 70% believe the federal government should fund high quality preschool programs for all children and 62% support debt free university tuition. welcome to finland. welcome to denmark. welcome to sweden. if the american people had their way we would live in a progressive social democracy. how are we going to get from there to another world that's possible, that's the lessons of the movements of the 20th century. dare to struggle, dare to win. thank you. [ applause ]
>> thank you, peter dreyer. i hope we are feeling motivated and reenergized. before i move on i'd like to ask that we pass out these note cards for anybody who has a question. please raise your hand and we will make sure that you get a card to write your question on and i will be choosing a few of them at the end to respond to.
our next speaker is going to be talking about training for change. he is a senior strategist with national people's action and he has been a community organizer for 15 years on the neighborhood city, state and national levels in both the united states and the uk. he has organized successful campaigns on neighborhood infrastructure, immigrants' rights, workers rights and wall street reform. he is currently serving as bank accountability campaign director at national people's action and i'm informed that he has built a bridge over a moat surrounding a j.p. morgan chase shareholder meeting and has stormed across dressed as robin hood.
please welcome jordan estevou. [ applause ] >> clearly someone found my bio somewhere on the internet from like five years ago and ran with it, which is great. so thanks very much for having me. my name is jordan estevau i am a senior strategist at people's action norm earl known as national people's action, a merger between npa, alliance for just society and u.s. action. we are a network of people power community organizations around the country. there are some 50 member organizations in 30 states. collectively we have organizers in 100 cities, about 600 professional community organizers working in those
cities with people on issues from housing, justice to climate and environmental issues to mass incarceration and policing and about a million members across the country. so people's action we are a racial and economic justice issue organization and our raise on debt tra is that we feel that there are three simultaneous big crises happening in this country and on this planet. one that the planet itself is in crisis, that every summer is the hottest summer ever and that can't continue. that the economy that we are living in is based on extraction, it's based on run away inequality and that's getting worse and worse every year and that can't continue. and that our democracy is broken. that the number of people who have real influence in our politics is shrinking all the
time. so our -- one of our assumptions is that we believe that -- sorry -- that the people who are affected most by these issues are the experts on these issues. are the people whose voices are too frequently missing from the rooms where decisions are made that affect all of our lives. so i started with national people's action running our financial industry accountability campaign work. in 2008. and, you know, sometime previous i had been working with an organization in chicago called the northwest neighborhood federation. two members of that organization, which is a local community organization working on, you know, local neighborhood quality of life issues josé
torres and sonnia cruz were cousins and they knew each other, they had a fine relationship and were working on, you know, things like getting the parks cleaned up, getting neighborhood job training center built in the neighborhood, things like that. and the organizers who were working with them, you know, built deep relationships with these folks and learned at around the same time that both of them were in foreclosure, that they were -- their stake in the community was under threat. and they stood to lose their homes. what's interesting about that is they didn't know that about each other. they were so just buried in debt and in shame about the fact that
they were so deep in debt that they had screwed up, they had made a mistake, they had bought outside their means, you know, further conversations with organizers and, you know, more and more with each other we learned that they had both taken predatory loans, right, these exploding option arms that we know now were concentrated in communities of color, in low income and working class communities that they targeted latinos, blacks and elderly folks with -- with poisonous loan products. and they did this systematically, right, like wells fargo, bank of america, citi bank have all paid big settlements because years down the line because the evidence
was there. so more and more people in our network started telling us stories like this. and it was, you know, it wasn't just mortgages, this was things like payday loans, car title loans, anything to do with debt in the financial industry where they were really -- and this still continues -- were targeting our communities with those poisonous loan products. this is, you know -- you can call it reverse red lining, national people's action was born in the fight against red lining in the 1970s so that was not new to us. red lining is a practice that has a long history, but in the '70s before they had computer maps they had actual maps where they would draw a red line around the black community and not make loans there. so it stopped black folks for generations from building wealth in their communities. so that campaign spread
throughout the organization and, you know, prior to the big financial crash in late 2007 we had already protested at ben bernanke's house and got a meeting with him, and he told us in that -- we told him, look, you know, thousands of people in our neighborhoods are losing their homes, every other house is abandoned in some of our communities, there is a crisis under foot. he said, there is no crisis, the market will self-correct and then later that year literally lehman brothers went out, aig got a bailout, the rest is history. so this is to say -- back to my earlier point, you know, the people who are affected by the issues are the experts on these issues and they saw this coming and if we invest in their ability to work together, to organize, to come together and build power and actually listen
to them then we can make a lot of good things happen and prevent a lot of bad things from happening. so, you know, these conversations between people they don't happen by themselves, right, it takes -- it takes organizing especially as our -- the trend is that the social fabric of our communities is dis integrating, the trends are towards more isolation, more individual action versus -- versus collective action. so we need to fight that actively. so after the crash in 2008, you know, a lot of us were kind of frozen and tell me if you remember it this way, but for like a good year there was no protest against -- or nothing visible, nothing major against the banks in the financial industry. there are a lot of stories about -- and there is a narrative brewing about how the
financial crash was the fault of brown people taking -- you know, trying to buy too much house and that narrative started to really take hold and there is, you know -- and we said, do you know what, we need to take people -- we need to -- we cannot let our own people, let alone the rest of the world believe that. we need to move people from private shame, private frustration to public anger. and so in 2009 we learned that the american bankers association was going to have a convention in chicago. chicago of all places, right? super hard hit city by the financial crash. and we said, you know, we can't -- we can't let them get away with that. so we -- you know, we called, you know, thousands of people across the region and across the country and 1,000 of them answered the call and, you know, came in from iowa, from new
york, from nevada, from wisconsin, michigan, from, you know -- from all over and we decided we're going to have our own convention across the river are from theirs. we are going to have this conversation with our people about who actually is to blame for the financial crash and who is actually to blame for all these foreclosures and communities being decimated. and we are going to invite some of our friends, so, you know, like elizabeth warren, pre senator elizabeth warren came and spoke with us about this crazy idea she had about consumer financial protection bureau that would regulate banks on behalf of consumers. and we took those lessons and we marched. we hit -- you know, we did actions on bank of america in downtown chicago, we did actions on, you know, all the -- all the bank offices in their biggest
branches downtown and so the first day we had 1,000 people, second day we had 2,000 people, the third day we had 5,000 people at the foot step of the american bankers association conference. and we also had, you know, a few hundred people hidden in hotel rooms at their conference who during the conference were actually able to get inside the hotel and disrupt their conference and get in their faces and tell them what was really happening in our communities. powerful action, but what's key about that is nothing like this had happened since the crash, right? and so all the media really for years after the fact we saw our people, you know, folks like josé and sonya on b roll that was used on news clips to show that people were angry at the banks.
and it was really, you know, this have he simple thing that was missing from the conversation was evidence that people were up in arms. that's where we saw the change of narrative, the beginning of the change in the narrative from this is people's fault to this is wall street's doing. and i wish there were a timer here so i knew how much time i had left. five minutes? cool. so the j.p. morgan chase action was also a great one, it turns out, you know, lots of our folks had mortgages with jpmorgan chase, got predatory mortgages from jpmorgan chase and we decided to let them know that at their shareholder meeting which when we went to see the location where that's going to be held it turns out they are going to have it not in new york where they usually had it, but they are going to have it at their corporate headquarters in columbus, ohio, which apparently we learned is the largest office building in the world after the pentagon, second largest in the
world and it's this giant, you know, building surrounded by a giant parking lot surrounded by i kid you not a moat, a drainage ditch, but it's there to keep traffic in. so we said, moat, that's perfect. and as the person introduced me stated we built a draw bridge and we dressed like robin hood and we said we're going to take back what's ours. and, you know, again, generated lots of news, visual evidence about the fact that people are angry at the banks. so, you know, there's another note that i want to -- that i want to make about this, which is, you know, there is a rich and important interplay between -- between what you would call maybe organic social
movements and kind of professionalized or institutionalized community organizing and we see that play out again and again where the big splashy and, you know, very resonant movement isn't enough by itself. doesn't last by itself. and that professionalized community organizing also isn't enough by itself, like you need both. so you see this with, you know, the previous speaker named the occupy wall street movement and how, you know, there are others now who are really running with those ideas and have been able to turn those to translate the ideas of the 99% versus 1% into things like real traction on the fight for 15, the fight for $15 minimum wages in multiple states. we see it in the huge amount of
kind of political space that was opened by the people's climate march in new york city, 400,000 people taking the streets of new york to fight against climate change. you know, that's -- it's created tons of momentum for organizers on the ground working on these issues and, you know, not at all least the black lives matter. i will give a very brief anecdote about that. so this is back in illinois. anita alvarez for years was the state's attorney there, she is -- you know, she is the attorney who famously suppressed the video of the murder of laquan mcdonald and was responsible for policies that incarcerated really hundreds of thousands of black folks in illinois. and she had an opponent, kim fox, who grew up in the projects
in chicago, believed in restorative justice, you know, wants to work to heal communities rather than punish them and, you punish them. and, you know, byp 100, the black youth project, did amazing direct actions. got a lot of media attention. because it's black young people fighting for their own rights. and at the same time our members in illinois, the people's lobby, fair economy of illinois. illinois's people action. south side community for liberation established community groups. they were out on the doors knocking on doors for anita alvarez. they gave more hours to her campaign than any other organization. and we won that election. kim fox is now the state's attorney in illinois. both the movement and the
organizing were critical and insufficient for that moment. we think there are really important lessons to learn from that when we can organize and put it together. thanks very much. [ applause ]. >> thank you, jordan, for reminding us to all have a little fun while we're at it. our next speaker knows how to do that. and he also knows a little bit about overcoming civic apathy, which is the topic of his speech. he has been named by the atlantic as one of the 100 most influential figures in american history and by "time" magazine
and life magazines. he helped us drive safer guards, breathe cleaner air, drink cleaner water. and work in safer environments for more than four decades. we are here in part to commemorate the bubblization 50 years ago of his best-selling book "unsafe at any speed" which led to congressional hearings and led to the establishment of the national traffic and motor vehicle safety act. he was also instrumental in the creation of the occupational and health and safety protection, environmental healthation, consumer product safety commission, and the national highway safety transportation commission. "unstoppable," "return to sender" and the best seller" 17 traditions." he has a syndicated column, his own radio show and gives lectures and interviews year-round. please welcome ralph nader.
[ applause ]. >> thank you. i have an awesome subject today called overcoming is civic apathy. obviously we really haven't been able to find the various answers, although there is luminous exceptions. that includes yours truly. just look at all the elbow room you have today. so i want to start with what i call the civic certainty. you know how they say in sports there are a lot of super athletes but just a few really makes a difference at the end of the game? it isn't because they have superior physical qualities. they have that will to win. they have that athletic victory
personality. well, in a civic society, we have to develop that kind of civic personality. and it's something we all know in terms of talents. people who have a certain perceived sense of injustice, that's a good start. when they don't have to abstract about certain changes that need to be made for a better society. right where they live they are being victimized or oppressed or hammered. i'd like to start with three very short stories about isaac new ton, william blake, and albert einstein. one time at a gathering, he was asked, mr. newton, why are you so much more brilliant than other scientists? and he looked at her and said i'm not really that much more brilliant than my fellow scientists. i just have a perhaps greater
ability to concentrate longer on a problem in my mind. concentration. pull that out. william blake in the 18th century, early 19th century, great artist and poet, he was at a social gathering and someone came up and said, mr. blake, with whom are you living these days? he said with whom am i living? i'm living with my imagination. pull that out. imagination. then albert einstein once said with typical understatement, "i have no special gifts. i just have a passionate curiosi curiosity." pull out the word curiosity. you ask yourself. people who are actively engaged in building a more just society
and a more functional democracy usually have those traits at one level or another. they're curious because they show up. all over the country people are telling me we can't get people to meetings. we can't get people to vote. we can't get people to neighborhood gatherings about a neighborhood problem. these people are living in virtual reality when they are not trying to make ends meet and surviving. they're looking at screens, young people especially, looking at screens. and that's not quite the way to get people out. you get them informed. you tell them about meetings. but getting people to meet people, that's when things are done, is extremely difficult. i was at a gathering once in massachusetts on the civic organization. and a young man is in his early 30s said i'm from weehawken, new
jersey. 14,000 people down, depressed area, a lot of empty factories and so forth and things in disrepair. and i couldn't believe how this town government wouldn't do anything about it. so i decided to go to a town meeting. he's the only one there. he said maybe it was super bowl night or something. so he goes to the next town meeting and he's the only one there in the audience. i had you have 10,000 adults in weehawken. you seem to know what most people want, a functioning city, right? they don't want to break their axle on a pothole that's been there for two years. what if you had 100 people there that had your motivation? he almost fell down. he said, it would change the whole town. 100 people happens to be 1% of
the adults in weehawken, new jersey. apathetic people always fascinated me. i actually dream about them. i try to understand them. number one, they're clearly in the majority. number two, they gripe a lot. they have all kinds of complaints. sometimes seen is as cynical. but they really complain about a lot of things. quietly. they don't go out in the village square. but they have a sense of injustice like everyone else. thirdly, they almost are unwilling to break their routine. they have the routine. they have their hobbies. they work hard. they raise their family. they do a lot more difficult things in life than spending a few hours a month under civic responsibilities. they raise children. take that for difficulty.
they have an ailing parent. they have two jobs. they have day care. they have to commute. they overcome accidents they weren't anticipating. and yet when -- can you at least come to the town meeting. you agree with me. you want something changed here. you want the school repaired. you want the drinking water cleaned up. i'm not trying to persuade is you. can you come? can you show up? no. well, can we discuss it? yeah. well, why don't you show up? hey, you think i'm -- just because i'm apathetic, i'm stupid? here's why i don't show up. number one, i don't have time. number two, i don't know all the rules and when lawyers tell us to shut up and sit down. and i just don't know. number three, i don't want to be slandered. i don't want to be talked down to. i don't want to get in trouble with my boss because i'm seen as a trouble maker.
and number four, even if i had the time and i wasn't blistered by moon beams and i didn't care what others thought about me, it wouldn't make any difference because the big boys are going to decide anyway. those are the four iron rules of apathy. so i decided during the campaign in 2000 to take it to the next creative step. so i proposed on on the website, and it is is nader.org. i left it up for these purposes. i invited people to join. and i said in the interest of being as inclusive as possible, the nader gonzalez campaign is offering membership. it is is free and simple with no rights because of the society's dedication to no exertions
whatsoever. except to recite the solemn oath of the apathetic to yourself. is and here's the oath of the apathetic. "as a member of the american society of apathetics, i solemnly swear and declare that i will endure any injustice, accept any abuse, absorb any disrespect, suffer any deprivation, conceive any exclusion, inhale any toxics and avoid any public responsibilities in order to defend my inalienable right to apathy, so help me, my descendants and my country." we got no takers. someone is told me they put them in a conflict of interest. if they made the oath of the apathetic, they would no longer be apathetic.
they have standards, you know? so let's find out what worked in the past in terms of civic engagement. they all have their burdens and their pressures. why would women show up to start the women's sufferage woman. they were up against all of these industrial businesses and so on that didn't like women because they fought to end child labor. they fought the price of food and so on. why do people show up to vote for the liberty party against slavery in 1840? that was the first part of any size to go against slavery. why did all the workers have the sit-down strikes in flint, michigan and warren, michigan in the 1930s putting all of
livelihood on the line. there was no social security, no unemployment compensation to support their families to form the united autoworkers. why is that? why do people marchs, farmers, signing up 200,000 farmers in a few counties in texas in the late 1880s to start the political reform movement in our country. well, one reason was perceived injustice to themselves. the farmers were being fleeced by high interest rates, by the banks, loan to crops, and by high railroad freight rates to get the crops to market. the women felt deeply disrespected and they felt the men weren't addressing a lot of the issues women were concerned about.
the workers couldn't live on what they made working 50, 60 hours a week in an auto plant. it's not easy. and the hazards and the occupational deaths and diseases. the first motivation was perceived self-interest. they weren't abstracting to injustices that accumulated all these specific injustices. some of the socialist, innovators tried to get them to a higher level of political and economic transformation. the second motivation that got people to do things was that leaders that formed political movements. thomas ran for president under
the socialist party in the 20th century and pushed franklin delano roosevelt to adapt more social net innovations, social security, and pushed the early socialist parties, health insurance, 40-hour week, taxation and the like. so you can see political movements often match civic movements. almost always civic movements precede former political movements. underneath all our citizen groups that's a pretty good generalization. now, the third that got people going is more current.
2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 we push obama. say you wanted a $9.50 minimum wage. the labor unions were supposed to be for it. nothing happened. and then it started happening in 2012. why? it's called money. justice requires money. and seiu labor union put it up, put up millions of dollars. and suddenly buses full of people protesting mcdonald's, burger king and so on around the country. the will was there, but the facilities were not being paid for. and so money is behind a good deal of success of the women's sufferage movement.
bostonians put money in the abolition of slavery. another approach is to give people a sense of small victories so they get their morale up for bigger victories. the sequence movement whereby there are victories along the way. but the major goal has not yet been achieved. another way is skill. people have hobbies. i'm really amazed by how much time and brain power people spend on hobbies. they spend 300 to 500 hours a year. and they know their hobbies beginning to end. poker players, bowling, classic car collectors, stamp
collectors. you name it. they really know their stuff. and they spend at least $500 a year on their hobby. they enjoy it the more skilled at it, the more knowledgeable they are. so move into the civic arena. obviously if you don't have any civic skills. if you're never taught in undergraduate college, high school or middle school you will be less likely to become an active citizen. if you know how to do something, you're more likely to do it than if you didn't do something. is there any reason why 100% of all high school graduates shouldn't know how to use the state and federal free information act? information is a currency democracy. we teach it in our high school in connecticut. they file a letter to a
government agency. i want the meat and poultry inspection reports i want the nursing home report. i want this. i want that. that's a great breakthrough actually that we had a good part of in the 1970s in the federal free information act. it's so easy to teach civic skills because when you connect students in the classroom with things going on in the community, they get tremendously motivated. it's real. it is not sitting in a classroom with a computer in front of you. or if you don't have a computer in front of you, it is memorization, regurgitation the, multiple choice test. we are basically training young people to be ineffective and uninterested citizens. we are training them to be cogs and corporate and other
bureaucratic wheels. as a result, they don't live very is happy lives. they don't live lives where they can meet the necessities of life. look at health care. look at the lack of any adequate public transit. or inadequate housing and so forth. so we have to say what we start afternoon civic skilled classes for students and parents who volunteer. you don't have to change the curriculum. that's very difficult. at least it will start the ball rolling and you will see how much more motivated the students are in their regular classes, how much more challenging and questioning they are. now, there's another aspect here that relates more to young
people. but during the anti-vietnam demonstrations and college campuses, we learned something very interesting. that is, if you're part of the risk as a citizen, you are more likely to be part of the solution. one of the reasons why the big business executives never propose solutions for the people where they're employed or customers or communities is these executives are not part of the risk. they have impugnity, all the pleasures of life. one of the reasons students really stepped forward in the '60s is they were part of the
their friends, choose their food, choose their music, choose who they are going to walk and hike with, choose their mates. they can choose a lot of things. and they have a lot of personal freedom. but civic freedom is another thing. do you have much freedom to participate in the power that shapes our tax system, our peace and war choice, our local environment, the uses of public budgets and so is forth. well, the answer is obvious. in most cases that kind of freedom is not available. so it's good to start saying, what are our assets? okay. we don't have that much power. what are our assets that we can deploy number one, we outvote is the corporations. we're millions of votes. they don't have a single vote. not yet. okay.
number two, we have far more energy than our adversaries. they have coasted, gotten soft. they're not that great in number. what are we doing putting our money in jpmorgan chase and buying metropolitan life insurance policies. nation magazine, democracy now, city lights. and when i get little checks for them for expenses to go on a show or a little advance, i look at the check. it's jpmorgan chase. it's wells fargo. what are we doing spending money when we can spend money in community banks and credit units and patronize farmer-to-consumer markets and local sustainable energy and community health clinics, start them if they're not there.
take our dollars away from global business. they've got $2 trillion stacked up and money, the fortune 500. that's our money originally. where did it come from? it's our consumer dollars. where did it come from? the next asset we have is we own the greatest wealth in the country. what? come on. of course. we own, together with all other americans, the public lands on shore and offshore. that's about the size of the u.s. by the way. all the natural resources. we own all the airwaves over which radio and tv transmit their programs. we are the landlords.
what don't we get for our taxes? we have to be more demanding in terms of what are we getting in return for trillions of dollars of r&d that built the great industries in this country whose executives take credit for themselves. like the semi conductor industry. a good deal of the pharmaceutical industry, aerospace industry, the biotech industry, nano tech industry, containerization industry. this stuff came out of the pentagon, nasa, national institutes of public health.
see, once you start amassing the assets, we get a higher morale boost. now, we help start the first with public research groups. if it's easy to band together, you're more likely to band together. if you can't find each other, it's hard to band together and become an effective force. so we persuaded students in the early '70s to vote, to put a check off under utility bill. and assess themselves $5, $6 a year. it goes into a nonprofit called student public industries group like new york, california. and they hire young people who are lawyers, scientists, organizers, publicists, lobbyists. they have done enormous job with tiny bit of resources connected
through this facility on their tuition bill. you can go to uspirg. the head of uspirg will be speak day three, constitution hall, september 28th of this month. so let me end on this note. we need to think very straoepst. that's part of civic self-respect. we need to think creatively how do you develop mechanisms where people band together as utility rate payers, right? as tenants? as taxpayers. as consumers and various areas. we need to recognize the most successful lobbyists on congress do not mess around with marches and rallies.
have you ever seen the nra with a massive rally? or apec with a massive rally in washington? it's because they focus on 535 people, their staff, their doctors, their lawyers, their accountants. that's what they do. zero. focus, completely focused on their members of congress. laser beam focus. that's how they get leverage. they know there are 535. that's just smart strategy. developing check-offs to get people together depending on their class or their economic interests. that's just smart politics. and the final thing is start utilizing the rights we already have. we underutilize our rights under
tort law. most don't even go to a lawyer to file a suit or claim against their perpetrator. we totally under utilize our rights of contract. we sign on the dotted line or click on. we don't even see the contract. then they charge us $35 for a bounced check that costs the bank a buck and a half. do you ever say to yourself, did i agree with that? or when the airlines check frequent flyers without my consent? did i agree to that. or you signed a general consent form in the hospital, you agreed not to go to court in case of malpractice? would i agree to that? the law of torts and the law of contracts. that's what the constitution hall is all about september 29th.
so do spread the word. and remember out of the smallest exertions can come great movements. middlebury college. bill had his students's class talking about climate change. finally the students said what are we going to do about it? all we do is talk about it. finally bill said what do you want to do? do you want to march on climate change issues in burlington, vermont. a thousand students march. this was the biggest martha ever can occurred in the united states on climate change. they said what? here's vermont with the biggest march? something must be wrong. so they started chapters all over the world. it put huge rallies into play. it has 150 full-time people already. one class, middlebury, virginia.
it is you and you and you. thank you. [ applause ]. >> thank you, ralph nader. i'd like to note we were right on schedule until our last speaker. our next talk will be a panel discussion. and i'm going to introduce the moderator of the panel. and then i will let her introduce the panelists. and the moderator is catherine isaac. she is with the campaign for postal banking and grand alliance to save our public postal service at the american postal workers union. she serves on the board of the international labor rights forum. and she formally worked here in
this building. she led the summer institute on teaching activism. catherine, take it away. >> thank you. thank you very much. good afternoon, everyone. welcome to the panel on teaching civics, a view from the classroom. so i'm going to introduce our panelists and then i'm going to talk a little bit about our civics for democracy project and then turn it over to them. then we'll do some questions so the panel can talk with each other after their presentations. so to my nearest is ayum magwood a teach or at an inspect school in d.c.
an elective called mapping inequitity in d.c. she teaches u.s. history with a mind to preparing future citizens to engage in respectful and informed dialogue on current issues. also under lie current and future issues. she strives to show how to respect opposing viewpoints. and to counter them with informed evidence rather than partisan sound bites. she teaches history through a strong social justice lens. for example, this year she's upending the chronology and starting the year with a four-week -- six-week 1960s to the present unit entitled "understanding the rise of trumpism and black lives matter." next we have julian dodson. julian is president is and ceo
of the d.c. urban league, urban debate league. he coaches several debate teams in the public approximate private schools. he taught english and debate 14 years until he finally devoted his time to expanding in the metropolitan leader. screen writer, lear sift, poet, avid fisherman who likes to tackle tough ideas and approach education with a world view. this jack-of-all-trades credits his father for forcing him to do what it takes to be self-sufficient is, his mother for teaching him,000 honor his wife. he has three children who all attend the maya angelou french immersion school. and rob lingo.
meet the challenge d.c., a native of the washington, d.c. area, robin is passionate about providing spaces for d.c. youth to change the world around them. she looks forward to building more opportunities to highlight young people's ability to be engaged citizens and community leaders. but before i turn it over to them, i want to the talk a little bit about a project that ralph sponsored in the early '90s which culminated in a book called "civics for democracy." so it shouldn't be a big surprise to any of you that ralph saw a great need for engaging young people in our system of government. but civic education in our schools was and still largely is focused on voting, jury dutying and knowing the three branches on of government. students needs to be equipped with the knowledge with
practical tools of participation as well as opportunities to practice those tools and build civic schools. our goal was to train students to be fully engaged as citizen activists, not nearly as voters and volunteers. our schools do not teach chemistry without a laboratory, cooking without a kitchen. so we began working with educators, historians and activists to produce the textbook. we wanted first to add curricula -- the the missing curricula of people's history of the civil rights, labor, women's rights, consumer, and environmental movements led by ordinary americans and an essential part of u.s. history. as lawrence goodwin put it, one
cannot construct what one cannot imagine. we also felt a need to teach practical tools. these include pamphleteering, whistle blowing, public education, research, direct action and citizen lobbying. and we showed students how to use the courts initiative and referen da, shareholder activism and the media. we also included activities that allow students to practice citizen tools and skills as a community, gaining confident and experience to continue the practice of civics throughout their lives. in the 20 plus years since civics for democracy, various educators have made significant progress, especially in teaching a morin collusive history. but there is much more to be done. so let's now hear from our panelists who do this day in and day on out.
. i want to tell you a little bit about how i got here. my african-american mother and my white father met each other in 1964, three years before the supreme court banned -- well, it struck down the enter racial marriage ban. they met each other in c.o.r.e., a civil rights group in new york. they used to take me in my, what do you call it, stroller on strikes and marches with a sign attached. so i grew up in a very strongly social justice background. so it's in my blood. i can't get away from it. another very formative experience was i spent my 20s in a possession ape asant
cooperative in mexico. i spent eight years teaching in urban charter schools, quote, unquote, low income african-american and latino students. so at that school i taught u.s. government. and so it was there that i immersed myself in the whole sieve, not just crippurriculum. i read a lot about civics and really took on the role of trying to make to form future citizens of america. it is a little sad when i switched to my new school and switched to u.s. history. i soon found out that i think my role is even stronger and even more important. and actually i think i can do more and be more effective at forming citizens