United Working Families Forms to Challenge Top-Down, Corporatist Leadership

CHICAGO—(ENEWSPF)—July 28, 2014. This past weekend, representatives of four organizations with substantial grassroots membership throughout Chicago convened and created United Working Families (UWF), a new organization to fight for working families against the top-down, corporatist leadership influencing public policy and elections throughout the city.   

More than 120 delegates representing Action Now, Grassroots Illinois Action, the Chicago Teachers Union and SEIU Healthcare Illinois gathered to discuss the mission, vision and values of United Working Families before ultimately ratifying its formal launch. The new coalition represents more than 150,000 members in dozens of Chicago neighborhoods across the city.

United Working Families will work directly to transform the political landscape through grassroots mobilization, candidate recruitment and training, and building ward-level activist teams throughout the city with a goal of leveraging “people power” to fight back against the status quo’s entrenched corporate dominance and top down leadership at City Hall and in Springfield. 

Maria Luisa Augustyniak from Grassroots Illinois Action addressed the assembly, “We can build something to hold onto, something that can turn the tide. We need to see hope in our communities and we need to see it by making it happen now.”

Everyday Chicagoans continue to suffer from unprecedented levels of heartbreaking violence, the loss of 58 neighborhood schools, high levels of unemployment, a lack of quality, well-paying job opportunities – and the tragic absence of responsive political leadership.

Recent polling by the Chicago Sun-Times strongly suggests that voters are looking for an alternative to the top-down management of the city demonstrated by Mayor Rahm Emanuel.  This growing sentiment is further supported a MoveOn.org survey indicating that 85% of its 75,000 Chicago members want a “progressive challenger” to Emanuel.

“We are in a moment in Chicago where people are unafraid of challenging the status quo and demanding leadership that is representative and responsive of the people.  That’s why we are putting forth an alternate vision for our city and lifting up a progressive agenda and championing political leadership willing to advocate for it,” says Gloria Higgins, an active CTU member.

“We are seeing that there is an energy in the progressive base that wants bold leadership representing us,” said Katelyn Johnson, Executive Director of Action Now. “Our community members are energized and fired up after Saturday’s​ meeting, and we’re taking our message to the streets to do what we do best—organize.”

United Working Families has already ​been working on identifying, recruiting and interviewing potential candidates that the organization may support.  Over two dozen interviews have already been conducted to identify potential candidates.  UWF has been organizing throughout the city and drilling down at the ward level by engaging with the people and grassroots leadership, helping to empower leaders, through training and developing infrastructure that will champion and support progressive leadership in the 2015 municipal electoral cycle. 

Two key platform issues that were affirmed by the membership include raising the minimum wage in the city of Chicago to $15 per hour, and supporting an elected school board.  UWF will be leveraging its power to support those campaigns. Candidates hopeful of seeking an endorsement will need to be champions of the UWF agenda.

“Our members are ready to express their anger and disappointment in the current elected leadership by finding candidates aligned with our vision for Chicago, and then doing everything we can to get them elected,” said April Verrett, Executive Vice President of SEIU Healthcare Illinois.

United Working Families has hired an Executive Director, Kristen Crowell.  Crowell has been working in progressive politics for over 15 years in Illinois and Wisconsin. Her experience includes running the labor community coalition We Are Wisconsin, which led the recall against Scott Walker. In that role, she built a massive field campaign and raised over $50 million dollars.  Most recently, Crowell served as the Campaign Director for A Better Illinois, the coalition working to advance a fair tax in the Illinois State Legislature.