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Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren hold rally on workers’ issues

Our Revolution, Raise Up MA’s first official collaboration

Jule Pattison-Gordon
Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren hold rally on workers’ issues
Sen. Bernie Sanders addressed a crowd of supporters during a rally in Boston last Friday. (Photo: Photo: Courtesy of KulbakoPhoto)

In a rally that maxed out the 3,500-person capacity of the Orpheum Theatre last Friday, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren called for the Democratic Party to move beyond defensive reaction to President Donald Trump’s policies and advance working class values proactively. The senators followed a lineup of speakers who focused on related issues through a state-specific lens.

Author: Photo: Courtesy of KulbakoPhotoJosé Palma, of Neighbor to Neighbor Massachusetts, spoke during the rally to advocate for passage of a state Safe Communities Act.

“The time is long overdue for fundamental restructuring of the Democratic party,” Sanders stated during the rally. “We need a party that is not a product of the liberal elite but of the working class of this country.”

The event also signaled potential collaboration between the state-focused Raise Up Massachusetts and the more national Our Revolution. Sharing the stage were members of the SEIU, Fight for 15, Coalition for Social Justice, Jobs Not Jails and Neighbor to Neighbor, who showcased key economic and social equity issues. Speakers called for passing a $15 an hour minimum wage; paid family and medical leave; the Fair Share Amendment, which would tax income over $1 million and direct revenue to public education and transportation; and criminal justice reform. They also urged passage of the Safe Communities Act, which would implement protections such as preventing state and local police collaboration with federal immigration enforcement and ensuring due process for those detained for civil immigration violations.

Raise Up Massachusetts, Jobs Not Jails and immigrant groups co-sponsored the event. The rally marked the first official collaboration between Raise Up and Our Revolution and demonstrated potential for further joint efforts, according to Lewis Finfer, director of Massachusetts Communities Action Coalition and a member of the Raise Up coalition, and Rand Wilson, a member both of Our Revolution Somerville and Raise Up Massachusetts.

Key issues

José Palma, political director of Neighbor to Neighbor, told gatherers that his brother-in-law emigrated 14 years ago to flee violence in El Salvador, and since then has established his own plaster business and has two U.S.-born children. By the time of the rally, Palma’s brother-in-law was detained in a Bristol County jail and was facing deportation, which would separate him from his family. Palma called for immigration reform.

Erica Scott-Pacheco, a member of Our Revolution and board member of the Coalition for Social Justice, called for paid family and medical leave. She said her husband was injured in a car accident that left him temporarily unable to work and with no paid leave. Another issue: If he had been working in Rhode Island, his job or a similar one would be guaranteed to him when he recovered. No such protection exists in Massachusetts. Scott-Pacheco said she struggled to support them both while taking time off work to bring him to medical appointments.

Sanders voiced similar stances to local activists on many issues, including reducing mass incarceration and implementing higher taxes on the richest. He focused on the economy, saying that it needs to be structured in a way that allows working families to do more than simply work, but also to enjoy life, get education and spend time together. To facilitate this, he called for removing the student debt barrier to higher education and promised to file legislation to make public colleges and universities free. He filed such a bill on Monday. Sanders also targeted the cost of childcare as a barrier to financial success.

“I don’t want to hear any more talk about family values from Republican colleagues until we pass universal affordable childcare for every family in this country,’” he said.

Sanders also promised to file a Medicare for all single-payer program bill in April.

Local blended with national

Many speakers highlighted the way local action can drive national change.

“Massachusetts must lead the way to protect communities threatened by the Trump administration,” Palma said, calling for sanctuary state designation for Massachusetts as well as federal immigration policy reform.

Warren put the focus on people power, saying the federal power alignment currently is stacked against Democrats.

“The number of tools we have in Washington on our side is limited,” she said. “That means one thing: We won’t be able to do it by ourselves in Washington. It takes all of us.”

Wilson told rally attendees that achieving the goals they voiced will require grassroots engagement, including door knocking and small donations. He noted that Our Revolution provides event planning tools on its website, making it easier for individuals to organize their own events.

The collaboration would be a natural fit, Wilson told the Banner, noting the many overlaps in Sander’s 2016 presidential platform. Wilson spoke not as a representative of Our Revolution but as an active participant on the national and Somerville level. He helped bring the organization together with the Raise Up coalition for the rally.

“I thought, what an opportunity to bring together the economic justice platform of the Raise Up coalition with the passion and enthusiasm and energy of Our Revolution-Massachusetts,” Wilson said.

Raise Up brings unique benefits to a potential collaboration, Wilson said, such as an agenda focused around three clear initiatives: the Fight for $15, paid family medical leave and the so-called millionaires’ tax. Meanwhile, Our Revolution brings to the table a high number of supporters, he said. The two groups also attract different audiences. While Raise Up is linked into established progressive networks in the state, Our Revolution appears to draw younger supporters, he said. One value of the rally was presenting Raise Up’s goals to a new audience, Wilson noted.

No official plans exist for further collaboration, Wilson said, but there is a lot of potential. He envisioned that Our Revolution could become a member of the Raise Up coalition or might formally adopt Raise Up’s economic justice platform.

Raise Up’s Finfer told the Banner that the rally established a line of communication and opened the door to further collaboration. He praised Sanders’ focus on what can be done on local and state levels to advance national agendas and for highlighting Raise Up’s key missions.

“They took what we saw as a really big and positive step by spotlighting those issues,” Finfer said.

He said there are many potential ways that Raise Up could reach out to Our Revolution on how to become involved on issues the Raise Up coalition is working on, and said Our Revolution brings a very engaged membership to the issues.

“[Our Revolution] is an important group of people that’s committed and has a larger membership,” Finfer said.