Breakouts for “Strategies to Build Progressive Political Power” conference


The “Strategies to Build Progressive Political Power” conference will be held on Dec 2, 2023.  See full details.   This page lists details of the breakout sessions.

Breakouts 1 (11:30 am):

  • Fund Healthcare Not Warfare: Maternal and Child Health; In addition to a dysfunctional Healthcare system, Americans suffer from serious under-investment in the federal programs needed to insure public health, in large part due to draining of civilian programs for the bloated military budget. Among the worst impacts of this failure of investment is the dire state of maternal and child health in the US. Panelists will describe different dimensions of the maternal and child health problem, and programs that need our tax dollars. We will give particular attention to the possibility of new State and Federal legislation addressing these critical health needs. Sponsored by the Fund Healthcare not Warfare campaign; convened by Susan Mirsky; presenters include Katie Murphy (Mass Nurses Association), Susan Mirsky (Fund Healthcare Not Warfare), and Jonathan King (Mass Peace Action/MIT).
  • American Power, Its History and the Current Moment in the Middle East In this breakout, Aziz Rana, author of “The Two Faces of American Freedom”, will explore the role of the United States in the Middle East today.  He will ground this discussion in the long history of American power: both as a project of colonization in North America and of global dominance over the last century.  In the process, he will also draw out implications of this past for unfolding events. Convened by Martha Karchere. Presented by Aziz Rana.
  • A Rural New Deal; Democrats have conceded the field to Republicans in rural America. And the result has been the death of the family farm, the hollowing out of the lives is small town America all the while encouraging massive farms and the consolidation of markets for farmers who are left as victims of economic forces the are out of their control. What we need is a Rural New Deal. PDA and our friends at the Rural Urban Bridge have developed an economic plan to change this. Anthony Flaccavento of the Rural/Urban Bridge will lead a discussion of we can make a change. Sponsored by Progressive Democrats of America. Convened by Russell Freedman; presented by Anthony Flaccavento of the Rural Urban Bridge and co-author of the program.
  • Struggle and Progress in Building a Progressive Public Sector Union – the Experience of the Mass Teachers Association; The presentation will outline the long term steps that have resulted in an increasingly progressive MTA. These include the creation of a successful, expanding progressive caucus in the MTA over 10+ years. This in turn is based on a combination of strategies and tactics: Primary focus is local organizing and strikes as the basis of union work. This will also include a discussion of both the importance of and steps towards building support among students, families and communities who are affected by the strikes and work actions. Building on that, engaging in legislative action not through backdoor negotiations with legislators, but through public movements and campaigns built around the issues ,i.e., Cap on Charter schools, Fair Share, MCAS, Student Opportunity act, Cherish. But these are not stand alone nor ends in themselves. Projects involving a wider analysis of links among both local organizing and legislative work and wider political economy, i.e., the Campus Debt Project helps on local organizing and also effective re: Fair share and Cherish. Convened by Rich Levy; Barry Davis, President of the Haverhill Education Association, will be presenting.
  • Grassroots Strategies to Protect Reproductive Rights: Activism and LegislationIndivisible Mass Coalition Feminist Action Team (IMCFAT) built a network of activists to oppose the efforts of Mass Citizens for Life to bring a “Pregnancy Crisis Center,” more accurately called an anti-abortion center, to Cape Cod. They announced  their intentions to stand out for 40 days, 8 – 5 at the only clinic on Cape Cod that provides full reproductive health care, including medication abortions.IMC/FAT recruited people from across Cape Cod to stand in opposition, 3 days per week, for two hours. Our signs informed those people driving by that women’s rights to bodily integrity were under attack, even here in “blue” Massachusetts. We had up to 25 people holding signs: Support Choice; Abortion is Healthcare; Support Women’s Health and Honk for Choice. We got lots of support from the citizens driving by. The Abortion Truth Campaign (ATC recruited people from across Massachusetts to work on local legislation to limit the effects of “pregnancy crisis centers” in their towns. There are now several towns that have passed local ordinances concerning deceptive advertising practices of pcps and/or limited shield laws and to promote safe access to legally protected reproductive and gender-affirming health care services. Sponsored by IMCFAT and ATC. Convened by Lara Crawford and Marcia Goffin. Presenters include Laurie Veninger, Julie Hull, and Jenifer McKenna; remarks from David Greenberg.
  • Poor People’s Campaign 40 Day State House Initiative; The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival’s 40 Days of Moral Action, is focused on bringing  before State legislators the need for a moral budget and the elimination of poverty in the State. Starting in February, Each week lifts up a theme through a series of State House rallies and events beginning Sunday evening. The weekly events around the theme include a Mass Meeting (Sunday evening), Moral Monday (nonviolent moral fusion direction action in our state capitals and Washington, D.C.), Teaching Tuesday (educational events), Theomusicology Thursday (movement arts and cultural events) and Faithful Friday/Saturday/Sunday worship in faith communities. Impacted residents will discuss housing and nutrition needs for those on the bottom, across the State. Sponsored by Mass Poor People’s Campaign. Convened by Maureen Ellis. Presenters include Judy Schiavone (housing and disability needs) and Kate Scarborough (Western MA Nutrition Needs).
  • Breaking the Logjam on Mass. Medicare for All (MassM4A); Presenters will describe briefly the history of M4A legislation in Mass., including the  universal endorsement of M4A in the recent 20 district, non-binding referendum, including some conservative districts. They will describe the organizing of  the recent Forum on M4A in Quincy, in Representative & Speaker Mariano’s district,  and the introduction of the M4A calculator which can be used to calculate the savings to a municipal government if benefits are switched to MassM4A . This forum will be the first in a series to be held in  the districts of the leadership of the State House and Senate. Sponsored by Mass-Care: the Massachusetts Campaign for Single Payer Health Care, South Shore Medicare for All. Convener TBD; resource people include Jon Weissman and Sandy Eaton.
  • Ukraine: A Time for Peace; The war in Ukraine has taken tens of thousands of Ukrainian and Russian lives, uprooted millions, contaminated land, air and water, helped create world food shortages, seriously undermined the safety of an enormous nuclear power plant, and pumped vast amounts of fossil fuel emissions into the atmosphere. It has made the kind of international cooperation necessary to prevent climate catastrophe impossible. The longer the war goes on, the greater the danger of spiraling escalation which can lead to wider war, environmental devastation and even nuclear war. Meanwhile the war diverts tens of billions of dollars — with tens of billions more on the way — that are needed to address urgent needs at home. Many experts claim the war is a now stalemate with no end in sight. Meanwhile there is a growing sentiment around the world in favor of negotiations. Pope Francis, United Nations Secretary-General Guterres, Presidents Lula of Brazil, Erdogan of Turkey, Xi of China and others have called for a ceasefire and a negotiated end to this calamitous war. The view of many now is that this war must end. And it must end now. Mass. Peace Action has established as a priority campaign, “Ukraine: A Time for Peace”. The goal of this campaign is to bring together people who may have very different perspectives on the war into a mobilization that gives visibility and organization to what we hope may be a growing sentiment in the U.S. in favor of a ceasefire and negotiations as the only sane way to end this war. This workshop will present the goals, strategy and successes of this campaign. It will also examine the conflicting narratives that attempt to explain what this war is all about that make agreement on a solution so difficult. Convened by Paul Shannon. Presented by Susan Mirsky (Nuclear Disarmament Working Group of Mass. Peace Action).
  • We Need Global Climate Cooperation to Address the Climate CrisisPeople are experiencing intensifying climate disasters in the US and around the world. We need to work together across borders to demand our political leaders take bold action in order to safeguard our families and our future. Combatting the climate crisis requires that governments cooperate to rapidly stop burning fossil fuels and transition to a green economy. Specifically this means cooperation between major economies like the US-EU-China and a major economic restructuring to support low and middle income countries to decarbonize and create renewable energy.  Justice is Global has been working to push the progressive movement on this and make climate internationalism a priority for grassroots groups around the country. We’ve used tactics like deep canvassing to persuade undecided community members, nonviolent direct action, and congressional advocacy.  Join us to talk about how this might connect to peace activism in Massachusetts, ways to connect issues across movements, and even potentially learn some specific skills related to deep canvassing. 
    Sponsored by Justice is Global. Convened and presented by Ben Levenson, Deputy Director for Justice is Global.

Breakouts 2 (2:30 pm):

  • 21st Century Economic Bill of Rights; The neo-liberal economic strategy followed by Democrats and Republicans the last 50 years has been a rousing success. It has created billionaires and millionaires. It has raised corporate profits. It worked the way it was supposed to work. And we working people paid the price. High prices, falling wages, poverty and a fraying of the social safety net are the result. It is time to turn things around and PDA has developed a 21st Century Economic Bill of Rights to guarantee a basic fair economy for all of us. Let’s talk about it. Sponsored by Progressive Democrats of America. Convened by Russell Freedman. Presented by Alan Minsky, Exec. Director of PDA and co-author of the 21st Century Economic Bill of Rights.
  • Continuing Struggles for Quality Public EducationThroughout our nation’s history, access to a quality education, as well as the content of that education, has been a political battleground. These struggles continue both nationally and within Massachusetts. Though historically public schools were locally financed through property taxes, at present both State and Federal Government make significant – though often unappreciated – contributions. The federal contribution has been limited in order to finance the $884 billion military budget. Its unlikely that the gap between high income and low income households can be closed without significant increases in public investment. One of the mechanisms of the anti-democratic control of curriculum, is the imposition of high stakes tests (MCAS). There are likely to be challenges to this policy in the coming year in the Legislature and at the ballot box. This Forum hosts leaders in Massachusetts public education assessing the situation.  Sponsored by Mass Peace Action Peace Economy campaign; convened by Andrew King; presenters include Lisa Guisbond (Citizens for Public Schools), Edith Bazile (Black Advocates for Educational Excellence), Rep. Carol Doherty (State Legislature – former President of the Massachusetts Teachers Association).
  • Run For a Local Elected Position; Many people do not know how to begin to think about running for a local elected position. Now more than ever we have to get people engaged with the political process. The Republicans understand that the action begins at the local level. We need to better prepare people. I thought by talking about how one makes a decision,and what resources are available, it would be a good start. I have asked two school committee members to join me on the panel. I am also reaching out to a person who I knew from Brand New Congress, who has loads of experience with campaigns, especially field planning. Convened by Nicky Osborne. Presenters include Frances Kearns (member of ORR [Mattapoisett] school Committee), Matt Monteiro (member of ORR school Committee), Chris Riley (Field consultant).
  • Got Legisplained? Common Pitfalls of Grassroots Lobbying & How to Avoid Them; “I support your cause, thank you for your time!” “I’ll reach out to some of my colleagues and get back to you.” “I’m focused on the budget at the moment.” Have you heard any of these phrases from legislators during an advocacy meeting? You may have been legisplained. In this session, facilitators from Act on Mass will go over some of the common pitfalls grassroots lobbying and how to avoid them in order to have the most effective lobby conversations and broader advocacy campaigns possible. After the workshop portion, participants will share their experiences with direct advocacy, legisplaining, and lessons learned along the way bolster everyone’s shared knowledge and advocacy skillset. Convened by Brenna Ransden. Presented by Erin Leahy (Act on Mass)
  • Gaza, Palestine and Politics:  Israel’s brutal assault on Gaza has sparked a worldwide movement for a ceasefire and more broadly for a re-orientation of the international support for Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands. The breakout  will explore the burgeoning US Palestinian solidary movement and how it is playing out in our political system. What are the prospects for meaningful policy change? How is Israel and its US lobby fighting back?  Convener: Jeff Klein, MAPA Palestine/Israel Working Group.
  • Campus Organizing: Building Enduring Power and Training Organizers Through Labor Unions; Educational campuses have long been a site of agitation and activism. The high turnover means that efforts might lack longevity; simultaneously, high turnover creates ample opportunities for leadership development and trains new organizers for the future of the left. Amidst the resurgence of energy within the labor movement, how can labor unions powered by young people and students help transform the status quo of higher education? This panel will discuss the organizing potential possible through labor union involvement by young people in their time in undergraduate, graduate, and other school. Participants will engage in discussion of the goals of campus political activity and the possibilities of training and empowering young people to harness the reins of the movement on their campuses and go onwards into their lives with the concrete skills and positive organizing experiences from (labor) organizing on campus. We will critically examine the pitfalls of campus-based organizing as well as the potentials, and share lessons learned. Sponsored by ORMA. Convened by Evan MacKay. Presenters include Nikki Thomas (Graduate Employees of Northeastern University organizer) and Jake Scarponi (WPI bargaining committee).
  • Change the Flag and Seal of Massachusetts; For more than 50 years, Indigenous leaders of the area we now call Massachusetts have been calling for the flag, seal and motto to be changed. Our state symbol features a white hand holding a Colonial broadsword over the head of an Indigenous caricature, with the Latin motto scrolled beneath, commonly translated: ‘She seeks a quiet peace under the sword, but peace with liberty.’ After 40 years of stonewalling and delay, the legislature and the governor have now received the recommendations of a special commission, including historians, legislators, and six Indigenous leaders of the Commonwealth, calling for a complete revision of the present racist symbol, which the commission said is causing harm today. Seventy nine cities and towns in Massachusetts have now taken formal votes in favor of this long awaited change. Grassroots organizations, including the, Mass Peace Action, UU Mass Action, and many others are supporting the call of the Indigenous leaders on the special commission for a new, aspirational flag and seal that reflects “Peace” among all the diverse people who call the Commonwealth home today. Our voices are needed now to support the work of the Special Commission, and to call upon the governor and the legislature to create a new state flag, seal and motto – today! Sponsored by Franklin County Continuing the Political Revolution. Convened by David Detmold, presented by David Detmold, Montague.
  • Organizing for Racial and Economic Justice with One Fair Wage; Organizers for One Fair Wage MA invite you to a discussion on the OFW MA 2023-2024 Campaign Drive to Raise the Minimum Wage for Tipped Employees in MA to the full State minimum wage with Tips on Top. The subminimum wage is a racist product of slavery in the US stemming from Jim Crow and needs to be abolished. OFW seeks to uplift some of the most economically vulnerable workers and those most prone to sexual harassment in America, restaurant workers. They are often immigrants and women with 2/3 of tipped workers being women, predominantly women of Color. It is an industry in which wage theft and workers’ rights offenses are also rampant. Wage Justice is Racial Justice and One Fair Wage MA believes Massachusetts is ready for a change for greater wage equity. The 2023-2024 OFW MA Campaign is working to build a movement of workers and allies that will abolish the subminimum wage for tipped workers in MA using the multi-pronged approach. This includes a November 2024 Ballot Measure, coalition building, High Roads Restaurants and worker and ally organizing across the State. Please join us for this workshop where we will explain more about the campaign, OFW efforts and wins across the country, how raising the min wage for tipped workers is working in 7 states, know your rights for restaurant workers and a strategy session on how you, your coworkers and your community or organization can help. Convened by Dan Goguen. Presented by Meghan McDonough.
  • Statewide Housing Justice Policy & Organizing; Housing is overwhelming the top issue across the state, but there is not one silver bullet. We need a comprehensive set of solutions to deal with the housing crisis here in Massachusetts that is a crisis in working-class and BIPOC communities. Our breakout will talk about what the components of housing justice policy are and how we can use the current moment to organize around both immediate solutions like rent control and long-term investment through the bond bill. Convened by Carolyn Chou, presented by Carolyn Chou, Homes for All Mass; Jonathan Cohn, Progressive Mass; Anna Callahan, Incorruptible Mass