Bill de Blasio campaigned on ushering in a new era in New York City and actively pursued low-wage voters. Now that he is Mayor, what can the people who elected him do to influence what happens next? It is a question grassroots groups grapple with around the country. On GRITtv this week, Ana María Archila shares a few ideas. Archila was a founder of one of the most effective community groups in New York; now she's heading up a regional initiative that seeks to build popular democracy, not only at the ballot box, but in between elections.
From the school to prison pipeline and stop and frisk to immigration reform and workplace safety regulations, New Yorkers are eager to seize the moment for political change, says Archila. For evidence, consider the crowds that gathered at the Talking Transition Tent which was set up in downtown, immediately following last fall's elections.
Mayor Bill de Blasio seems to be listening. Less than two months into his term he has expanded paid sick leave for hundreds of workers around the city, one of the central demands of low wage workers. But how do people ensure that this momentum continues?
"He is only listening because low wage workers are extremely organized," Co-Executive Director for the Center for Popular Democracy Ana María Archila tells GRITtv. "New Yorkers are demanding more."
In addition to paid sick leave, organizers with Make the Road New York (the community organization that Archila describes as her "organizing home") are campaigning for a raise in the minimum wage and increased work place safety regulations. Organizing locally and creating small scale initiatives, like worker or consumer co-ops, can help engage people and address some immediate needs, but ultimately, low wage Americans need to build political power.
"The biggest co-operative we have is our own government and we need to make sure that it works for us," she says.
For more on ushering in a new progressive era, watch our interview with Joo-Hyun Kang on ending the Stop and Frisk regime.