Tag: political activism

It’s a national tragedy that many of America’s college students are homeless

Earlier this month, Glamour magazine posted an article to their website about a subject that, while most people wouldn’t find to be exactly glamorous, is a very serious issue facing our country: homelessness in higher education. You’d have to read the entire article, which you can view here, to truly understand how serious of an issue homelessness in higher education is.

The article is about Brooke Evans, a formerly homeless student at University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison) who helped start a food pantry for students at UW-Madison. In addition to her efforts to start a food pantry for her fellow students, Evans has advocated for, among other things, requiring college and university cafeterias to accept food stamps and offering free mailboxes to students at her university who don’t have a postal address. Evans has gone above and beyond in her efforts to advocate for improving the lives of college and university students in America.

Evans isn’t the only college student in this country who has been homeless while in college. In fact, federal statistics has shown that over 59,000 applicants for federal student aid last year reported being homeless, and homelessness among college students in America is on the rise. There are a perfect storm of circumstances contributing to an increase in college homelessness, most notably that an increasing number of students from low-income households are attending college, that a college or university education of some kind is needed for virtually every good-paying job in the United States nowadays, and, most importantly, that tuition and other college-related expenses have risen dramatically in recent decades.

I admire Brooke Evans’s advocacy for homeless and poor college students. We really need a lot more people like her to stand up for our country’s most vulnerable and forgotten-about people.

Hillary supporter John Lewis disses Chicago

All right, John Lewis didn’t actually diss Chicago explicitly, although the civil rights leader, U.S. Representative, and Hillary Clinton supporter claimed that he didn’t see Bernie Sanders participate in the Civil Rights Movement of the mid-20th Century, and used that claim to justify his support for Hillary.

While I have a ton of respect for John Lewis, as he’s someone who put his life on the line to fight for racial equality in America, just because I have respect for someone doesn’t make someone immune from my criticism of him. I think that Lewis’s remarks, while likely accurate, were very elitist of him.

While Lewis’s claim that he never saw Bernie in the Civil Rights Movement are probably true, since most of Lewis’s activism was concentrated in the South, virtually all of Bernie’s civil rights activism, outside of being one of hundreds of thousands of people in the crowd at the 1963 March on Washington, was on the campus of the University of Chicago, located in Illinois’s largest city. Specifically, Bernie, Bruce Rappaport, George Wells Beadle, and other civil rights activists fought against racially-segregated apartments that were owned by the University of Chicago, and Bernie has the arrest record to prove it.

The reason why I’m criticizing Lewis over a likely factual remark is this…Lewis implied that he thinks that he’s the gatekeeper who was and wasn’t a civil rights activist (he’s not, and nobody is), and he also implied that civil rights activism in Chicago wasn’t/isn’t as valuable as civil rights activism in the South. Both of those are examples of absolutely absurd logic. Even today, there are many activists affiliated with the Black Lives Matter movement who are based in one part of the country who haven’t met Black Lives Matter activists in other parts of the country. That doesn’t devalue their work for racial equality in any way. What John Lewis did was devalue Bernie’s work at ending segregation in Chicago, and that is flatly unacceptable.

The First Annual Order of The Progressive Midwesterner Awards

For the first time ever, this blog will be awarding end-of-the-year awards to several individuals who I consider to be effective at advancing progressive causes during the year, regardless of whether or not one meets the typical criteria of being politically progressive or not. This is the first annual awarding of the Order of The Progressive Midwestern Awards, for the year 2015. All ProgMid Award winners for this year and years in the future are automatically inducted into the Order of The Progressive Midwesterner.

The award categories for the first ProgMid Awards are as follows:

  • Person of the Year
  • Man of the Year
  • Woman of the Year
  • American of the Year
  • International Person of the Year
  • Group of the Year
  • Athlete of the Year
  • Blogger of the Year
  • Activist of the Year
  • Elected Official of the Year
  • Entertainer of the Year
  • Young Person of the Year

There are two important notes regarding the awards:

  • Many award recipients will receive multiple awards. For example, if the Person of the Year in a given year is a female athlete from Canada, she would win Person of the Year, Woman of the Year, International Person of the Year, and Athlete of the Year.
  • Should multiple people or a group of people win award(s) other than Group of the Year, the plural form of the name(s) of the other award(s) will be used (People, Men, Women, Americans, International People, Athletes, Bloggers, Activists, Elected Officials, Entertainers, and/or Young People).

With that said, I hereby present the First Annual Order of The Progressive Midwestern Awards, for the year 2015!

Person of the Year – Bernie Sanders

Person of the Year is the only open ProgMid Award category.

No person has made a bigger impact on advancing progressive causes in the year 2015 than Bernie Sanders. Bernie, the junior U.S. Senator from Vermont, is currently seeking the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in the 2016 elections, and he has made improving America’s economy a key part of his campaign. Bernie has publicly championed raising the U.S. minimum wage to $15/hour, guaranteeing paid family leave, making college in America truly affordable, breaking up large financial institutions, and many other progressive ideals. Bernie is the ProgMid Person of the Year for 2015.

Man of the Year – Bernie Sanders

Men are eligible for the Man of the Year Award.

Since the Person of the Year, Bernie Sanders, is male, Bernie is also the ProgMid Man of the Year for 2015.

Woman of the Year – Rachel Notley

Women are eligible for the Woman of the Year Award.

In Alberta, Canada’s most conservative province, Rachel Notley led the Alberta New Democratic Party to a landslide victory in the Alberta legislative general election in May of 2015, and, as a result of the election, Notley became Premier of Alberta. Notley and her party ran on a progressive platform that championed good government, Alberta’s environment, economic justice, and common sense, and they won in a very conservative part of Canada. Notley is the ProgMid Woman of the Year for 2015.

American of the Year – Bernie Sanders

In order for one to be eligible for the American of the Year Award, one must be a United States citizen, United States national, resident of the United States, or some combination thereof.

Since the Person of the Year, Bernie Sanders, is an American, Bernie is also the ProgMid American of the Year for 2015.

International Person of the Year – Rachel Notley

Those who are not eligible for the American of the Year Award are eligible for the International Person of the Year Award.

Since the Woman of the Year, Rachel Notley, is a Canadian, Notley is also the ProgMid International Person of the Year for 2015.

Group of the Year – The Black Lives Matter Movement

The Group of the Year Award is the only ProgMid Award that is required to be awarded to a group of people.

In response to racism, police brutality, and police shootings of black people in America, the Black Lives Matter movement, a group of progressive activists seeking reform of the criminal justice system and increased accountability of law enforcement in America, has brought the issues of criminal justice reform and law enforcement accountability to the forefront of American politics. Black Lives Matter is the ProgMid Group of the Year for 2015.

Athlete of the Year – Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

Professional athletes and individuals primarily known for being amateur athletes (including, but not limited to, collegiate athletes and amateur Olympic athletes) are eligible for the Athlete of the Year Award.

Although one would usually not think of a NASCAR driver as advancing a progressive cause, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Dale Earnhardt, Jr. played an important role in building public support for taking down the Confederate flag from the grounds of the South Carolina State House in the aftermath of the terrorist attack on the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. When asked about his thoughts about the Confederate flag, Dale Jr. called the Confederate flag “offensive to an entire race” and said that the Confederate flag “belongs in the history books, and that’s about it”. For his condemnation of the Confederate flag, Dale Jr. is the ProgMid Athlete of the Year for 2015.

Blogger of the Year – Kelly Wilz

Those who are an administrator of, editor of, author of, and/or contributor to a blog are eligible for the Blogger of the Year Award.

One of the newest members of the progressive blogosphere is Kelly Wilz, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Marshfield/Wood County. Wilz is also the author of the progressive political blog Dissent and Cookies, which launched in May of 2015. As a blogger, Wilz has primarily focused on ending rape culture in America and supporting tenure protections for college professors, both of which are very important causes. Wilz is the 2015 ProgMid Blogger of the Year.

Activists of the Year – The Black Lives Matter Movement

Those who are largely or primarily known for being a political activist are eligible for the Activist of the Year Award.

Since the Group of the Year, the Black Lives Matter movement, is a group of political activists, members of the Black Lives Matter movement are also the 2015 ProgMid Activists of the Year.

Elected Official of the Year – Bernie Sanders

Those who were a public official elected either directly by the people or elected by a body elected by the people (such as the U.S. Electoral College) at any point in the year in which the award is given are eligible for the Elected Official of the Year Award.

Since the Person of the Year, Bernie Sanders, is an incumbent elected official, Bernie is also the 2015 ProgMid Elected Official of the Year.

Entertainer of the Year – Jon Stewart

Those who are entertainers (actors/actresses, comedians/comediennes, musicians, sports announcers, radio show hosts, television show hosts, etc.) are eligible for the Entertainer of the Year Award.

While Jon Stewart left the anchor desk of the Comedy Central news satire program The Daily Show in August of this year, Stewart has not abandoned the first responders who responded to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Stewart passionately advocated for, and won, renewal of federally-funded health care for 9/11 first responders. Stewart is the 2015 ProgMid Entertainer of the Year.

Young Person of the Year – Keanan Sargent

In order to be eligible for the Young Person of the Year Award, one must be less than 18 years of age on December 31 of the year in which the award is given.

At an August 2015 LGBT pride parade and rally in Madison, Wisconsin, Keanan Sargent, the then-nine-year-old son of Wisconsin State Representative Melissa Sargent, did something incredibly creative when confronted by homophobia. Keanan used balloons to obscure a sign that anti-LGBT protesters were displaying at the pride parade and rally. For his creativity and progressive values, Keanan Sargent is the 2015 ProgMid Young Person of the Year.

How union workers in one downstate Illinois community fought back against an effort to block Project Labor Agreements

Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) are agreements between a governmental body, whether it be the federal government, a state government, or a local government, and one or more labor unions that gives the unions the ability to collectively bargain for wages and benefits for workers on a publicly-funded project, such as road construction or construction of government buildings.

In Glen Carbon, Illinois, a coal mining community-turned-St. Louis, Missouri suburb in Madison County, Illinois, workers had to fight for their right to a PLA after anti-union forces tried to repeal an ordinance authorizing PLAs not long after the original ordinance was enacted.

On June 9th of this year, the Glen Carbon village board (Glen Carbon is legally incorporated as a village under Illinois law) voted to require PLAs on village construction projects by a 4-2 vote, despite the fact that the village president, Rob Jackstadt, has publicly opposed PLAs. Jackstadt responded to the vote for PLAs for scheduling a vote to repeal the pro-PLA ordinance for July 14, and that’s when the unions showed up before the Glen Carbon village board to tout the benefits of PLAs.

The unions’ primary argument in favor of PLAs was that they prevent labor stoppages from delaying work on public projects. Mark Johnson, the president of Operating Engineers Local 520, cited an example of union workers working without a PLA on a private-sector construction project (specifically, a Sam’s Club bulk-item store in Edwardsville) in his defense of PLAs:

You’re looking at 11 labor agreements trying to function on the same job site…It works, but it doesn’t work as well as these PLAs do. Instead of 11 agreements, you have one blanket agreement covering everybody.

Another argument that the unions used in defense of PLAs is that workers on projects covered by a PLA are paid more than non-union workers in the same type of work. Raymond Hunt, an ironworker from Glen Carbon, said this before his hometown’s village board:

The unions are the best thing going…They take care of their people. The non-union people – they work for nothing. They can be fired in a second. If the boss doesn’t like what they’re doing, doesn’t like them personally, they just get rid of them. I’ve seen a lot of it happen. The union people are dedicated and do a good job.

Only two people showed up at the Glen Carbon village board meeting to argue the anti-PLA position. One of them, Jamie Wilkinson, was an official of some kind for Associated Builders & Contractors (ABC), a trade association that has backed Republican politicians and publicly opposed union construction. Wilkinson publicly dissed union workers by saying that he thought that they were not the only qualified labor force.

Thanks in no small part to the brilliant campaign waged by unions and union workers to keep PLAs in Glen Carbon, the Glen Carbon village board voted 4-2 to keep the pro-PLA ordinance they had enacted a little more than a month earlier on the books. PLAs result in fewer workplace disputes and put more take-home pay in the pockets of hard-working workers.