2015 National Conference Report

Building a Movement for People and the Planet

2015 National Conference Report

Today, everyday Americans face a triple crisis of growing inequality, a rigged democracy, and a planet in peril. And the impacts of these crises fall hardest working class people, especially people of color. We can’t afford to wait on candidates and elected leaders to address these challenges on their own. That’s why we’re building a movement for racial, economic, environmental, and gender justice.

This weekend, at Populism2015: Building a Movement for People and the Planet, 750 of leaders from National People’s Action, the Campaign for America’s Future, Alliance for a Just Society, and USAction, unveiled our own 12-point agenda to put people and the planet before profit. With more than 2 million members in over 30 states, including key primary states and swing states, our new populist movement plans to inject our agenda into the political debate.

Thank you to everyone who helped make this year’s conference a success and a special thank you to Communication Workers of America, National Nurses United, American Postal Workers Union, and American Transit Workers Union, who each brought delegations to the conference.

This conference was about charting a bold agenda, taking bold action, and learning from one another how to advance game changing campaigns back home. But most importantly, this conference was about changing hundreds of people’s lives as they become the leaders our movement needs.

Below, you'll find a report about what we did together at our conference. 

We unveiled a bold agenda.

People and Planet First: The New Populist Movement

Populism2015 kicked off with a powerful opening plenary that laid out our vision for a progressive populist movement. Jim Hightower set the room on fire with his humor, wit and politics. Leaders from National People's Action, USAction, Alliance for a Just Society, and Campaign for America's Future -- along with our affiliates, allies in labor and other progressive organizations -- talked about what its going to take to build a bold, bottom-up movement. Watch the plenary here. Watch the short here.

Exposing the Triple Crisis of Inequality, Broken Democracy and Climate Change
Building on the vision of our Long-Term Agenda for a New Economy and a bottom-up people's movement from the opening plenary, these workshops laid out a strategy to run next generation campaigns, build power at the scale of the problems we face, and shift the public debate -- a strategy we call People and Planet First.

Advancing a Populist Agenda that Puts People and Planet First
Over 750 leaders participated in the final plenary to unveil the Populism2015 Agenda - a bold road map that puts people and planet first.  Allies including Congressman Keith Ellison; Jean Ross, Co-President of National Nurses United; Larry Cohen, President of Communication Workers of America; and Vien Truong of the Greenlining Institute, who together with the assembled leaders endorsed the document and the 10-year People and Planet First strategy. Watch the plenary here. Watch the short here.

We took bold action.


Against Payday Lending and For High-Quality Credit

Across the country, communities are fighting to get predatory payday and car title lenders out of their neighborhoods. On Monday morning, we took that fight directly to the headquarters of the leading payday lobbyist: the Community Financial Services Association of America (CFSA). Leaders demanded that the CFSA stop lobbying against common sense lending rules being developed by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and require their members to immediately stop predatory practices that trap millions of families in debt every year. As leaders head home, they will continue the fight for common-sense rules and high-quality credit.

Against Big Polluters and For Clean and Affordable Energy
The fight for clean power and good green jobs moved our community leaders to flood the lobby of the American Petroleum Institute. API is the biggest oil and gas lobbyist in America and the number one enemy of the public when it comes to lobbying against the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan and other efforts to reduce carbon emissions. We bought a 6-foot diameter globe that demonstrated what happens when we let fossil fuel companies crack open the earth for profit -- a climate crisis, environmental racism, poisoned water, and more. We demanded that the API get out of the way of the EPA's Clean Power Plan in states and start supporting energy efficiency, renewable energy and local, democratic control of our energy future. Leaders from NPA affiliates across the country will push to develop clean power plans for their own states that create thousands of living wage green jobs, while saving the planet.

Against Big Business and For Fair Trade
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is lobbying furiously for Fast Track Authority, which would allow the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) to sail through Congress without public scrutiny. If Fast Track Authority passes, we will end up with an international trade deal that destroys workers rights and wages in the United States and across the Pacific, giving corporations permanent power over governments as opposed to the other way around. We demanded that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce drop their support of Fast Track.

After visiting the Chamber of Commerce, we held a fired-up rally at the AFL-CIO with President Richard Trumka. More than 1,000 labor and community leaders marched past the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative to deliver a clear message: the TPP is bad for workers, communities and and the environment. The TPP will destroy good paying jobs across the globe in a race to the bottom. The only beneficiaries of this bad trade deal are multinational corporations. Senator Bernie Sanders, Jim Hightower, Larry Cohen (President of Communications Workers of America), Tefere Gebre (Executive Vice President of the AFL-CIO), Mark Dimondstein (President of the American Postal Workers Union), Cokie Giles (National Nurses United), community leaders and workers pointed toward the growing movement to kill these bad trade deals and win global trade that is good for people and the planet.

We learned from each other how to run game-changing campaigns.

Invest in a Green Economy: A Just Transition That Will Create Millions of Good Jobs

In two workshops, NPA affiliates and our allies at the Climate Justice Alliance discussed the ways we are organizing for a "Just Transition" from the extractive, exploitive economy to a new economy that puts people and planet first. Leaders from Illinois, New York, Iowa, Michigan and Massachusetts shared varied campaign strategies and we were briefed on the risks and opportunities in the EPA's Clean Power Plan. Everyone participated in an exercise to envision how we can use the state Clean Power Plans to create green, good-paying jobs while safeguarding our planet. NPA affiliates pledged to fight for strong clean power plans in their home states.

Make Wall Street Serve the Real Economy: Winning on Payday Lending

Leaders from Missouri, Michigan, Illinois, Kansas, New Hampshire and Iowa educated and agitated a packed room on the predatory loan sharks of the payday, car title and installment loan industry. Workshop participants heard about the triple digit interest rates and debt trap business practices that strip billions of dollars out of our communities each year. They also discussed the historic opportunity to crack down on these lenders with upcoming rules from the Community Financial Protection Bureau. NPA affiliates and allies in the room committed to go home and generate support for a strong rule.

Fight for Democracy and Curb the Power of Big Money: Building a New Civil Rights Movement

While 70 million people, disproportionately people of color, have lost their civil rights because of our broken justice and immigration system, big corporations and the ultra-wealthy have unprecedented power in politics. In the most highly-attended workshop with 349 participants, NPA affiliates and allies shared powerful testimonies and strategies being developed in cities and states to radically reform the justice system and restore civil rights to communities of color, including immigrants. In the second part of the workshop, member-leaders who have run for public office agitated others to do the same, while moving racial and economic justice squarely into the center for the conversation.

Black Lives Matter Workshop

Following the Sunday plenary, DC-Maryland-Virginia Black Lives Matter leaders and Black Lives Matter organizers from across the country presented on the movement and ran a powerful healing circle. People active in Black Lives Matter from Minnesota, Michigan and New York shared spoken word, testimonies and strategies to advance the movement at home.

Raise Wages, Empower Workers and Reverse Inequality: Taking on Campaigns to Raise the Minimum Wage & Win Good Business Certifications

Low-wage work is driving our inequality crisis. 75 community leaders came together at this workshop to lift up some of the powerful work being done to fight back at the state and local level. Participants learned about the complementary strategies of minimum wage hikes and good business certifications, which would charge a fee to low-road employers. Finally, they also discussed strategies for elevating these solutions at home by agitating policy makers and getting the word out in the press.

Guarantee Women's Economic Equality: Building Power to Address Structural Sexism in the Economy

At a  powerful workshop with over 140 people packed into an overflowing room, leaders discussed strategies to fight for gender equality for all women -- women of color, trans women, queer women, working class white women, and more. Affiliates from NPA, AJS, and USAction laid out exciting new campaigns around gender equality in the workplace ranging from paid sick and safe time to minimum wage and child care. Then, workshop participants discussed how to move a gender equality agenda forward by creating spaces for women, developing strategic campaigns, building a deep shared analysis on gender equality, and creating a new narrative that includes all women.

Enforce Fair Taxes on Corporations and the Wealthy and Expand Shared Security for the 21st Century

America isn’t broke, it’s the richest country in the history of the world, yet, Wall Street and big corporations aren't paying their fair share! In this workshop leaders gathered to think about structural changes that could create an America where everyone can thrive. Speakers from Illinois, Maine, Michigan, and New York shared stories about the state tax battles they’re leading at home and everyone participated in an exercise to create a speech about their local campaign using a shared, progressive narrative. As participants return to their home states, they will continue using this shared narrative to frame the debate about who pays.

Make Wall Street Serve the Real Economy: Solutions to the Debt Crisis

Community leaders from Iowa, New York, Kentucky, Illinois, Virginia, Colorado, Idaho, Washington, Michigan, Maine, and West Virginia gathered in this standing room only workshop to discuss the mounting debt crisis facing families, especially families of color. Participants were fired up to take home a variety of creative policy solutions, including: demanding the cancellation of medical debt at nonprofit hospitals; ending the criminalization of student debt; preventing payday lenders from building in communities; eradicating onerous financial obligations that keep formerly incarcerated people trapped in the criminal justice system; and, creating banking options that are run by and for members of the community.

Forge a Global Strategy that Works for Working People: Stopping Bad Trade Deals and Fighting for Fair Trade

Populism2015 attendees from community organizations, unions and allied organizations packed into this workshop focused on stopping the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the current fast-track legislation being negotiated behind closed doors in Congress. Staff from Communication Workers of America gave excellent background on the impact that TPP would have on workers rights, consumer protection and environmental sustainability around the world. Leaders from Iowa and Kansas discussed the impact that bad trade deals like NAFTA have had on their communities and likened TPP to "NAFTA on steroids." Leaders across sectors in multiple states made plans to contact their local Member of Congress to stop TPP in its tracks.        

The Mass Canvass Tactic

Participants learned about the three keys to using the mass canvass tactic to move organizing to scale: an inviting script, smart targeting, and proactive turnout. They will take these skills home to move advance issue campaigns on the state and local level.

​We advocated for our communities.

Legislative Meetings

On Monday afternoon, grassroots leaders from California to Maine and Washington to West Virginia held more than 100 meetings with Congressional staff to lay out our People and Planet First Agenda. Just days before a crucial vote we told Congress to oppose Fast Track Authority and the Trans Pacific Partnership. We also demanded our elected officials support the CFPB and strong payday regulations, end attacks on voting rights, shutdown police militarization and invest in our shared security and a sustainable future. We delivered a clear message to Congress: we want leaders who put people and planet before corporations and the 1 percent.

To help National People's Action continue our game-changing work in the coming year, donate $5, $25, or $50 today!