Report: The Poor People’s Campaign, 50 Years Later

In 1968, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders launched a Poor People’s Campaign to organize towards transformative actions to end poverty, racism, and militarism in America.

While this effort was undercut by King’s assassination, two prominent faith leaders — the Rev. Liz Theoharis and the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II — are launching a new multi-issue, multi-racial Poor People’s Campaign to recapture the spirit of that 1968 campaign.

To support this modern-day Poor People’s Campaign, the Institute for Policy Studies has produced an analysis of the campaign’s four core issues: racism, poverty, the war economy/militarism, and ecological destruction. The report finds that by many measures, these problems are worse today than they were five decades ago.  

For example, the report documents the increased number of Americans below the poverty line; the acceleration of economic inequality; the emergence of new forms of voter suppression laws and mass incarceration that further entrench systemic racism in America; the growing imbalance in federal discretionary spending on the military relative to social programs; and the intensification of racial and income disparities in access to clean air and water and exposure to environmental hazards.

This report is a preliminary analysis for release at the launch of the new Poor People’s Campaign on December 4, 2017. A more in-depth “audit” of these issues, including testimonials from many of the leading activists and thinkers of the past 50 years, will be released in 2018.

Key initial findings:

  • Compared to 1968, 60% more Americans are living below the official poverty line today — a total of 41 million people. And while the percentage of families in poverty has merely inched up and down, the top 1 percent’s share of national income has nearly doubled.
  • More than 50 years after the Voting Rights Act, people of color still face a broad range of barriers to democracy. According to the Brennan Center, 23 states have adopted voter suppression laws since 2010.
  • The criminalization of poverty and racially biased sentencing and policing practices have driven the number of prison inmates up eightfold since 1968, with the share who are people of color increasing from less than half to 66%. Federal spending on prisons has increased tenfold in real terms since 1976.
  • Spending trends also reflect increased scapegoating of immigrants. Between 1976 and 2015, federal expenditures on border control and immigration enforcement rose eightfold while the number of deportees grew tenfold.
  • The gap between our government’s discretionary spending on the military versus anti-poverty programs has grown from two-to-one at the height of the Vietnam War to four-to-one today. In the meantime, millions of lives have been lost in wars that have made us no safer, while “real security” in the form of good jobs, health care, and quality education remains beyond the reach of millions of Americans.
  • Since 1968, the environment has become less polluted, but the poor and people of color are bearing the brunt of climate change and suffering the most from environmental hazards. According to the CDC, for example, at least four million families with children are being exposed to high levels of lead, with low-income and people of color at greatest risk. And low-income families and people of color tend to be more likely to have living conditions and jobs that increase the health risks of extreme heat.

Find the full preliminary analysis here [PDF].

The post Report: The Poor People’s Campaign, 50 Years Later appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.


How An International Grassroots Campaign Beat Metal Mining Corporations


(Photo: Flickr/ Mobilus In Mobili)

The cry of “water is life” has spread from farmers in El Salvador, over a decade ago, to families in Flint, Michigan, to the Standing Rock Sioux in North Dakota, and now to lawmakers in El Salvador.

On March 29, this small Central American country’s national legislature stood up to enormous pressure from global mining corporations and passed the world’s first comprehensive ban on metals mining, a toxic industry that threatened El Salvador’s water supply.

This historic vote would have been unthinkable until very recently. On a trip to El Salvador last summer, we asked a wide range of people, including the chair of the Legislative Committee on the Environment and Climate Change, if they could imagine El Salvador ever passing a legislative ban on industrial mining, given its devastating environmental costs. Everyone told us versions of “no.”

Yet on Tuesday, March 28, one of us stood with that very same legislative chair, Dr. Guillermo Mata, an hour before he rallied his committee to a unanimous vote for just such a ban. The next day, the full legislature voted in the ban, with all members present from all parties voting in favor.

To understand the extraordinary nature of this victory, you need to understand the tens of millions of dollars that mining companies have been dangling in the faces of Salvadoran farmers and politicians alike for over a decade.

As The Nation has chronicled in a series of articles, mining companies rushed into the country in the early 2000s as gold and other mineral prices skyrocketed, in part due to the rapid growth of the Chinese economy. Skeptical farmers in the gold-rich north of the country visited communities near gold mines in nearby Honduras and came home with stories of environmental havoc unleashed by the toxic cyanide used to separate the gold from the surrounding rock.

Read the full article on The Nation’s website.


Both Candidates Are Bad on Climate, and You Can Thank Campaign Finance Rules For That

Trump doesn’t take climate change seriously, doesn’t understand the science, and doesn’t have a grasp on how the energy markets work in the U.S., Janet Redman told The Real News when asked about the candidate’s remarks during the second presidential debate.

She also dispelled his claim that there’s such a thing as clean coal.

Redman critiqued both the Democratic and Republican parties for receiving considerable amounts of money from fossil fuel industries. “What we’re seeing is the result of the way campaign finance rules operate,” she said, “So it’s not surprising to me that both sides talk about fracking (the process of using pressure and water to extract gas from rocks) as a solution.”

Building new pipelines and subsidizing fossil fuels with taxpayer dollars will not get us to stay below the 2 degrees that countries agreed on in ratifying the Paris climate deal, she said.

Redman concluded that the American public, particularly millenials, are saying climate change is one of the most critical issues they face today.

“We’ve got to shift public funding to a clean energy economy. It’s what we have to do,” Redman said.

Educator, author, and activist Chris Williams added that “If we’re are really serious about urgently addressing the scale and scope of this problem of climate change, then neither of the candidates offer any solutions that anyone should be voting for.”

Watch the full interview on The Real News’ website.

The post Both Candidates Are Bad on Climate, and You Can Thank Campaign Finance Rules For That appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.

Janet Redman is an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies.


Walk Free campaign to end slavery in Thai chicken industry

Our friends from the Walk free movement, a global community of over 8 million people who have driven 32 campaigns around the world to end modern slavery, are currently running a campaign calling on Betagro, a major poultry exporter to the EU supplying chicken for pet food and ready-made meals, to investigate conditions for all workers in their poultry supply chains and compensate 14 workers who escaped slavery conditions.

Tale of modern-day slavery

In June 2016, 14 migrant workers escaped a chicken farm in the Lopburi region of Thailand. Their reports of harsh treatment, exhaustive hours and despicable work conditions made instant headlines. They were made to work 19 hours a day for 40 days, had their travel documents confiscated by the farm owner and forced into debt slavery by brokers who arranged the jobs. Trapped on an isolated farm, workers could only leave for a single two-hour supervised trip per week. All 14 workers left the farm and are now being cared for by the Migrant Workers Rights Network (MWRN), a membership based organisation for migrant workers from Myanmar residing and working mainly in Thailand. However, with no means to survive, they urgently need to receive their owed compensation to rebuild their lives and find decent work.

Call on Betagro to compensate workers

Walk Free are calling on Betagro to show responsibility by investigating conditions for all workers in their poultry supply chains and ensuring these 14 survivors receive their owed compensation without delay. They have the power to make sure these workers receive the money owed to rebuild their lives and find decent work, as they currently have no means to survive.

Fairfood’s work in Thailand

Fairfood has actively campaigned to support Asian shrimp workers, who often earn poverty wages forcing them to work long hours with little to no job security. The majority of workers in the Thai shrimp industry are migrants from Burma, who have paid brokers high amounts for placements, travel, and visas to work in the industry. This shrimp like other food produced by Thailand’s exporting industries, is sold in European supermarkets, who have a turnover of about €3 trillion in 2012. These supermarkets are the ones with the power when negotiating prices and terms and conditions with suppliers. The parallels between Fairfood’s investigations into the Thai shrimp industry, highlighted in its 2015 report Caught in a trap – The story of poverty wages behind Asian shrimp sold in European supermarkets are obvious.

Sign Walk Free’s petition now and call on Betagro to end modern-day slavery!


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