From our partners: organizing poor and working class movements in the context of racism, classism and daily struggles to survive


The following three posts were written by member-leaders from the Southern Maine Workers’ Center, Vermont Workers’ Center and Put People First! Pennsylvania, three of the member organizations of the Healthcare Is a Human Right Collaborative.

Answering This Moment: Poor White Folks & Organizing in Maine

In this powerful reflection on organizing in a context in which so many people are impoverished and struggling to meet basic needs, and in which communities are sharply divided by lines of race and class, a member of the Southern Maine Workers’ Center opens up about their own family’s deep struggles as poor white people and the dangerous racism, xenophobia and poor shaming that Maine Governor Paul LePage and Donald Trump, among others, are pushing in poor and working class white communities. The author challenges other white organizers, particularly people with some level of socioeconomic privilege, “to build trust with poor folks in our communities by 1) meeting people where they are at–physically and ideologically 2) validating lived experiences as sites of revolutionary knowledge, and 3) applying that knowledge to inform our organizing practices and outcomes.” They warn against judging poor white communities from the outside or paternalistically trying to change hearts and minds (“But whose hearts and minds? Why is it one-sided?”), and urge us all to find grounding “in a practice that seeks to move and be moved, on all sides.”

Read the full post, including 10 strategic questions for white organizers (and everyone else), on the Southern Maine Workers’ Center’s website.

Rejecting racism and uniting for our human rights

In this op-ed published in the Barre-Montpelier Times Argus, VTDigger, Burlington Free Press, and Rutland Herald Vermont Workers’ Center member Avery Book reflects on the struggles of poor and working class people like his father, and how Donald Trump and others are exploiting people’s fear and insecurity to pit us against one another. “Ultimately, says Avery, “we must reject the divide and conquer rhetoric, and come together all across Vermont to fight against the billionaire class for a Vermont and world where every person’s human rights are met and we all can thrive.”

Read Avery’s full post on the Vermont Workers’ Center’s website.

Refuge, Reason and Resolve

In this response to alarming hostility to refugees from Syria in her home state, Put People First! Pennsylvania member Nijmie Dzurinko recognizes and honors the severe struggles that poor and working class people in Pennsylvania are facing to make ends meet and to get access to fundamental needs like health care, housing, education and childcare. Nijmie writes, “We have to ask ourselves, are the Syrian refugees the source of these problems? Will not admitting refugees fleeing war and poverty solve the problems that we as poor and working people have in Pennsylvania? Not only will refusing refugees fail to make any of these situations better, it also won’t create more resources for any of these things – because as we can see, we are already don’t have them. The only way to get what we need is to stop blaming each other and come together. By doing this, we can begin to understand how we got here and what we need to do to change it. We only get what we are organized to take and we aren’t asking for anything but the basics that we need to live.”

Read Nijmie’s full post here, including discussion questions and links to further reading.