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Visible Hands: This land is your land 🗽
Featuring a Q&A with Sister District! Please VOTE!
📚 Book club alert: We’re reading The Fifth Risk by Michael Lewis as the 1st book in our summer book club. Mark your calendar for Sunday, July 26 @ 2 PM ET / 11 AM PT (Zoom link here and here’s the calendar invite). Excited to discuss your thoughts on the book and the role of government broadly with you all. And please feel free to come even if you haven’t had a chance to finish (or read a page of the book).
July 4th is around the corner. It’s been a crazy year thus far and the election is still 4 months away!
Today we are excited to spotlight our first advocacy group, Sister District, and its founder / executive director, Rita Bosworth. Sister District is an organization pushing to turn state legislatures blue and ensure fair redistricting by empowering an enduring community of volunteers. They are a case study of an organization that identified a problem in the system and is actively trying to address this concern at a grassroots level. In the 2018 midterm, 96% of official Sister District candidate races outperformed the last Democrat who ran in a midterm election in their district, and 8% of Sister District supported candidates won in districts that Hillary Clinton lost by 47% or more (compared to just 3% of Democratic state legislative candidates nationally).
Regardless of your political views, we hope this Q&A with Rita provides insights into how individuals and grassroots groups can get politically involved and bring about change.
VH: Visible Hands talks a lot about how folks should fully take advantage of every chance they have as a decision maker--as a consumer, employee, investor, and citizen. We often hear that it is “easier” to just retweet or like a story and continue being an armchair activist. How do you motivate people, especially busy professionals, to get more involved?
RB: We focus a lot on making activism fun and “bite sized.” If you can do something for just a few hours a month, with your friends or people who will soon become friends, the barrier to entry is much lower. We’ve always grown organically and have never seen a decline in engagement, because we stress social connections and people bringing friends and family into the fold.
VH: What energizes you about the work Sister District does?
RB: The chance to make a direct difference, every election cycle. We work at the state level so every year is an “on” year for us – which means that every year is a chance to iterate and improve on what we’ve done in the past. We’re also able to see the legislators we elect make an immediate difference in their communities and continue our relationship with them over time. It makes our work feel very tangible.
VH: How have you seen individual contributions lead to structural change, especially on a more localized level?
RB: Legislation that starts at the state level can someday become federal policy, and elected legislators who start at the state level may someday become federal leaders. So, not only do state legislatures influence an immense amount of everyday life, they’re also the place we must look to for structural change throughout the system.
VH: What are things we should be mindful of as we head into the election in November?
RB: This is the biggest election year of our lifetimes, and there are a lot of unknowns, especially with the coronavirus pandemic. If you woke up on November 9, 2016 and wondered if you could have done something more to stop Trump from being elected, now is your chance to make a difference and leave it all on the field.
As a citizen:
For information on how to exercise your voting rights, resist voter intimidation efforts, and access disability-related accommodations and language assistance at the polls, check out the ACLU’s site here.
Advocate for vote by mail -- it saves people time and protects public health in a pandemic. And according to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University, “there is no evidence that mail balloting increases electoral fraud.”
Voter suppression is still a huge concern -- from gerrymandering to voter ID laws to the dearth of polling places in some geographies. The Voting Right Advancement Act passed in the House in 2019 but has not passed in the Senate.
Check out Leadership Now, which brings businesspeople from across the political spectrum together to try to fix the system. And American Promise, which has a business chapter devoted to getting money out of politics.
As an employee:
The U.S. has some of the lowest voter participation rates among developed countries: 56% of the U.S. voting-age population voted in the 2016. 450+ companies like Walmart, Lyft, and Patagonia have signed up for Time to Vote, which asks businesses to give employees access to and information about early voting or vote-by-mail options, offer paid time off on Election Day or make it a day without meetings.
If your company doesn’t have a policy, check out these suggestions for getting time to vote.
Remember, for racial justice, employees need paid hours off for voting: “Residents in predominantly black neighborhoods waited 29 percent longer than those in white neighborhoods and were 74 percent more likely to spend more than 30 minutes simply waiting in line. The data showed that if paid time off on election days were universal, voting would be easier even for people who didn’t take direct advantage of the benefit…[because] if more workers could vote during the typical workday instead, lines would be shorter for everyone.”
As a consumer:
Progressive Shopper, a Chrome extension, analyzes Federal Election Commission donation data as well as ratings from non-profit organizations to assess companies’ political leanings. This extension is, as the name suggests, left-leaning. Its website has stats, such as how Crocs and its employees contributed 100% to Democratic candidates or how New Balance’s employee contributions went to Republicans 99% of the time.
As an investor:
As discussed in an earlier newsletter, there have been shareholder proposals related to civil rights, such as Arjuna Capital pushing for human / civil rights expertise on Facebook’s board. Check out shareholder resolutions and don’t forget to also vote in proxies!
Facebook ad boycott sinks stock, raises pressure on Zuckerberg: “Facebook already warned that advertisers are spending less as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Now, businesses are under pressure to cut costs and respond to the public’s concerns about racial injustice in society. When the civil rights groups organized the ad boycott to push Facebook to better combat hate speech, companies saw a way to make a political statement at an economically convenient time.”
Where Unilever's product labeling initiative could have a huge impact: “Clearly communicating emissions on every product could leverage those concerns in a scalable way, boosting sales of low-carbon products and punishing emissions-heavy options.”
Capitalism after the coronavirus, Op-Ed by Al Gore and David Blood: “All investments made today must factor in long-term climate and societal implications. Indeed, the shift to a zero-carbon, inclusive business model is already well under way...We need to invest in them with the same sense of urgency that people have demanded in mitigating the pandemic.”
The airline industry blocked disclosure of trade data, helping conceal the airlift of N95 masks from the U.S. to China: “Instead of having U.S. commerce officials boosting U.S. exports of masks, the proper approach should have been a needs-based assessment that took into account that the virus would be impacting the United States...”
Uber’s new strategy: buy unprofitable companies, ???, profit: “Uber has been searching for ways to stay afloat during the pandemic as its core ride-hailing business has collapsed and its business model of misclassifying driver-employees as independent contractors to save on labor costs is coming under increased scrutiny in California and nationwide.”
Fed caps bank dividend payments and suspends share-buybacks for third quarter after stress tests: “Under the very worst of the COVID-19 scenarios, “many” banks would be operating within their stress capital buffers and a quarter of the banks would be getting close to minimum capital standards...”
Stay connected via our Instagram, Twitter, Medium, and, of course, email (firstname.lastname@example.org)! Please invite any friends, roommates, coworkers, armchair activists, and grassroots community organizers to join the movement. See ya next Thursday!