ORMA Newsletter Winter 2021!


Inside this Issue: Priorities and News | Updates from Affiliates | Ways to get involved in the Revolution | Book Club

On January 30th over 100 members of ORMA met via Zoom at the Winter General Assembly. Here’s a video (with time reference index) of the Assembly:

Time – Subject

Intro & Invocation
3:10 – Agenda
4:30 – GND working group summary
6:20 – Money Out of Politics
10:00 – Dismantling Structural Racism
12:15 – Elections 2020
14:10 – Book Club
17:00 – Congresswoman Pressley – it’s still the Civil Rights Movement and we are all freedom riders
27:00 – D.A. Rachel Rollins
39:00 – Communications Report
41:15 – Tech Report
45:00 – PACE Report
48:15 – Strategic Planning Report
49:35 – Coordinating Comm Report
54:00 – Rep. Nika Elugardo
1:08:00 – Rep. Mike Connally – moving beyond issue based coalitions, tax the rich, housing for all
1:22:10 – Senator Jamie Eldridge
1:31:05 – Priority breakout group reports
1:51 – end

The purpose of the GA was to share information about political organizing work that is being done around the state and to advance the process of selecting progressive action priorities for 2021.

As the COVID pandemic has laid bare, the increasingly dire impacts of economic inequality in our society calls for many progressive social and economic policies to be enacted if serious change is to occur. And now that there is a stronger movement than ever afoot to address it–we need to keep up the pressure and the GA was the place to begin grassroots planning in 2021.

The GA was honored to hear words of inspiration, and support for many of the progressive policies we champion. Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley spoke passionately about the current point we are at in the US, with the killing of Black people nationwide, a pandemic, and perverse economic injustice, not to mention the forces at work that brought about the January 6th Insurrection. Representative Pressley said the civil rights movement was ongoing, that we were all civil rights workers, and that white supremacy must be beaten back. She noted that she is proud to be part of this movement for racial justice and has been inspired by the collective sacrifice and giving we are seeing in our communities during this challenging time.

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Rachael Rollins, District Attorney for Suffolk County spoke to the current fight we are in as “a fight for our lives.” The unfair prosecution of black and brown people must stop. Groups such as the Proud Boys should be prosecuted. “We have to look beyond what tribe we are part of,” she said, so we can work together to right wrongs of the past, such as wrong convictions, and that building a stronger education system is important for stopping incarceration.

Nika Elugardo, State Representative from District 15, spoke about policy areas she deemed emergencies: eradicating poverty, access to healthcare, affordable housing, improving education, immigration reform and tackling climate change. She also spoke about needing to understand what is causing inequality, singling out a lack of affordable housing.

Mike Connolly, State Rep. from District 26, also noted that a lack of affordable housing exacerbates inequality. Mike spoke about an obvious solution: Tax the rich more. He explained that if the state level of taxation of the rich had been kept at the same rate as what it was 20 years ago Massachusetts could have been collecting 6 billion dollars annually from the rich. Instead the effective tax rates on the rich declined and so did our state revenues. On top of this, government austerity hurts us everywhere, for instance “our governor” does not think we can even create a call center to help seniors sign up for a COVID vaccine. We need to move forward on affordable housing. “Tax the rich” and provide affordable “housing for all.”

Jamie Eldridge, State Senator for Middlesex and Worcester, spoke about being inspired by Bernie Sanders and what the progressive movement has accomplished already. He spoke about “public goods” being at the center of progressive priorities and that ORMA might consider focusing on them: free public college, Medicare For All, and housing for all. Jamie also spoke about legislation at the state level which may be passed in this session including election reform, prison reform, and immigration reform.

After the speakers, those attending the GA heard reports about all good things happening within ORMA and ways to get involved. ORMA’s subcommittees – Communications, Technology, Political Action, and the Coordinating Committee – all reported on their work this past year and about projects and plans from ongoing work. In addition, Working Groups (e.g. Elections 2020, Green New Deal, and Dismantling Structural Racism) shared updates on their respective actions. Bo Ye, discussed the work being done on ORMA’s priority of “Getting Money Out of Politics” and what WolfPAC has been up to on the topic. Jenni Chute also gave a report about the ORMA Book Club – which already discussed The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander and is now moving on to Robert Reich’s Beyond Outrage.

In the morning breakout session, small groups discussed overall organizational concerns and successes in the past year. One of the perpetual issues discussed included trying to increase the diversity of our membership, including upping the number of younger people, people of color and LGBTQ members. Another group happened to have persons from Rhode Island and South Carolina joining, and a lively discussion of the work of the National organization and the various approaches to mobilizing being used in other states ensued.

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A second breakout session was held in the afternoon. In small groups, members suggested and discussed possible lists of priorities for ORMA’s year ahead. Some priorities suggested included addressing the climate crisis, racial justice issues, police reform, income inequality, educational equality and Medicare For All (a vote on priorities will be held soon–look for the voting link in your inbox in March).

Of course ORMA’s true success will depend on having as many activist “hands on deck” as possible, to work on advancing ORMA’s priorities through elections, ballot initiatives, marches, organizing, and other activities. Stay tuned for an upcoming email about electronic voting for 2021 priorities which will begin by March 12 and be completed by March 17, 2021. Using Ranked Choice Voting, the top 5 ORMA priorities for 2021 will be selected by this process. Finally, please consider joining committees, working groups, and your local affiliate. When we organize, we win!

PS–On a side note many reported how great the music playlist was during the GA, especially the recent adaptations of classic activist music from the 70s and 80s. What are some of your favorite political/activist songs or artists? Think about it and stay tuned for a future sharing of music for the modern “revolution.”

ORMA Priorities and News

A statewide ORMA election was recently held for two new representative council members from our numerically overwhelmingly unaffiliated membership (people who have no local affiliate). There were seven candidates; the winners were Michael Bakshi and Lesley Phillips. Congratulations to the newest members of the RC! We also have 3 fairly new RC members representing affiliates: Warren Lynch of Malden, Jenni Chute of Worcester and Martha Karchere of Jamaica Plain Progressives.

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ORMA partner photo: Friends of Melnea Cass Blvd (a Roxbury group).

ORMA Climate Crisis/Green New Deal Working Group Report

Accomplishments since September 2020

The GND working group contributed to mission goals by mobilizing ORMA members and others to write, call, tweet, share, and/or march about specific environmental issues. Since September 2020, our outreach efforts have led to at least 790 letters (and an unknown number of phone calls, tweets, and social media shares) on the following issues:

Local Level:
Stopping Environmental Racism – Protect Melnea Cass Blvd Trees. A campaign to lobby city councilors and mayor to prevent cutting 100+ trees in a state-designated environmental justice community and heat island in Roxbury. Primary partner: Friends of Melnea Cass Blvd

Stopping the Weymouth Compressor. A campaign to press Attorney General Maura Healey to stop Enbridge’s compressor station in Weymouth. Primary partner: Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station (FRRACS)

State Level:
Supported November 2020 Nonbinding Ballot Measures in 19 MA Districts. A campaign of direct Get Out The Vote messages in favor of 100% renewable energy in MA by 2040, and for transparency in the state legislature. Partners: 350Mass and Act On Mass

Save Climate Legislation. A campaign to press the Conference Committee to report out a reconciled climate bill for the full legislature to vote on. Primary partner: 350Mass

Sign Next-Generation Climate Bill. A campaign to press Gov Baker to sign Climate Bill S.2995. Primary partner: 350Mass. Result: Baker vetoed that bill, but the new legislature re-passed the bill (with enough votes to override a veto) and sent it back to Baker.

National/ International Level:
Stop Boston-Based Deforestation in the Amazon \’96 Protest at State Street Corp. A campaign to publicize and protest corporate funding of deforestation in the Amazon by BlackRock, State Street, Vanguard, and others. Primary partner: Stop the Money Pipeline (an international coalition) Result: BlackRock says it will stop funding deforestation, but they’ve said it before, so we’re still working on it.

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Plans for 2021:
Continue to support ongoing issues. Explore additional ways to promote bold climate legislation in Massachusetts, including pro-forestation policies, campaigns against logging on public lands, and a possible ballot measure.
Volunteers are welcome! To join, contact Michael Gilbreath.

Elections 2020 Working Group: Report from the polls

Elections 2020 was voted one of the five ORMA priorities in 2020. In general, working on elections is the basic work of ORMA, but in 2020 there was such an extra sense of urgency that Elections was voted a special priority. ‘Get rid of Trump’ was the actual mandate. And at that we succeeded! In its electoral work ORMA also endorsed Ed Markey for Senate, Congressional candidates in CD1, CD4 and CD7, as well as a Somerville and a Chelsea state Representative, and a candidate for Governor’s Council in District 6. [There were also many previously OR-endorsed State Reps. running for reelection who had no opposition this time, such as Nika Elugardo and Mike Connolly.]
But that work was not really done by the Elections 2020 Working group, which only got organized in the end of September. Steve Garone and Judy Conrad put together a list consisting of everybody who had listed ‘Elections 2020’ as their first or second priority on the Priorities ballot last winter, and started inviting them to meetings. By the time we got organized everybody who came was already working on November’s election; we enjoyed trading stories about the work we were doing and various opportunities we heard of that we thought might be worth trying.

After the November election we continued meeting. ORMA, as we figured it, is supposed to be a grassroots organization. We need boots on the ground working on elections everywhere, in every city, township and county, in addition to the “big” statewide races. It seemed that in putting together the group we had made a small start towards that goal. The Elections 2020 Working group has already connected to a group that wants to field candidates in all the Sheriff, District Attorney and Governor’s Councillor races, which are all going to be on the ballot in 2022. This requires major advance planning. We hope to take part in that planning, if the group is continued as part of ORMA.

Update from ORMA’S Communications Committee

The Comms Committee started the year with five active members; in the course of the year we added Steve Garone, Jenni Chute and Karen Schiebler. We now have 7 active members. In addition to the active members of the Communications committee, the Coordinating committee gives us a lot of input and does quite a lot of writing and editing for us. As a committee we meet once a week, for a 40 minute huddle; and we also shoot hundreds of emails back and forth on a regular basis. It’s a noisy group, we sometimes disagree and when we do we bat it around till we come to something like consensus. There’s no top-down system for somebody resolving our disagreements by fiat.

We are in charge of sending out action alerts, this newsletter and other emails that inform the members of ORMA of what the organization is doing and what we think they would want to know about the state of the world and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. We also try to keep the ORMA website up to date, and keep a social media presence, on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

What we need from the membership: More committee members would be good. We could always use more writers and editors; especially we could use somebody who is skilled and creative with graphics, and more people who enjoy doing Twitter and Instagram.

Also a major thing that all of you could really help us with would be for ORMA members from across the state to send us information about what you and your affiliate are doing, and pictures of your activities. We would love to get newsletters and stories out more often. To do this we need your help.

We would love to keep the organization informed about what all the affiliates and working groups are doing. Also, we’d love information about what the unaffiliated members are doing; if you’re at a rally or writing letters to your local paper or having dialogues with your elected officials, tell us about it, snap us a picture and send it our way.

Affiliates

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Franklin County Continuing the Political Revolution’s campaign for Housing as a Human Right.

Franklin County Continuing the Political Revolution (FCCPR)   Housing in the US has become a commodity only available to the highest bidders—whether that be buyers or renters. Those who do not meet the financial challenge become homeless and are treated as if their situation is a personal failing, not the result of systemic issues designed to accommodate those with the resources. We believe that this system must change.

Join us for a virtual series on increasing access to affordable housing in Franklin County. On March 27, 2021 at 9 am, we kick off the event with a panel who will explore why affordable housing is difficult to find. We will consider how housing became a commodity, how it has been impacted by systemic racism created by government policy and what we can do with or without government help to create more affordable housing.

Panelists include: Brian Sargent, Assistant Professor of Public Policy, UMass Amherst; Linda Dunlavy, Executive Director, Franklin Regional Council of Governments; and State Senator Jo Comerford.

Eight virtual workshops in April and May will dive deeper into specific action areas Register at Housing Is Human Right. There is no fee for the keynote or any of the workshops.

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Artist, Barney Zeitz, working on a sculpture to be placed at a busy intersection where OR Greater Fall River often holds demonstrations (story below).

Our Revolution Greater Fall River Involved with The Cornerstone Sculpture project.

Our Revolution Greater Fall River has gotten involved with The Cornerstone Sculpture project. A well-known and successful sculptor named Barney Zeitz, who grew up in Fall River, who has been commissioned to do a public sculpture for Fall River Government Center, through the Bristol County Chamber Foundation, connected to the Chamber of Commerce. For a site he picked the corner where OR Greater Fall River often stand for demonstrations and activities, it will be a great backdrop for our future demonstrations on immigration, treatment of descendants of slaves, and protecting Native Americas. $90,000 has been raised so far, the goal is about $10,000 more.It will be dedicated to indigenous people, the enslaved, immigrants, refugees & their descendants. The work is from recycled steel which he buys at Mid City Steel in Westport MA and is brought to his Martha’s Vineyard studio. The names of all the people or groups who contribute will be etched on the sculpture. It also has an inscription: “To the enduring memory of our ancestors indigenous peoples, the enslaved and refugees. May we, their descendants and newcomers, build a more just and peaceful community.”

ORGFR decided at its February meeting that it should have the name of Our Revolution Greater Fall River on it. Those interested in contributing as part of our group, please send checks to Jim Hornsby 260 Lake Ave. Fall RIver MA 02721-5423. Make the checks to the Rev. James Hornsby, he’ll send it on. There is some time; the goal is to dedicate the sculpture in October as part of the Fabric Festival.

See more of Barney Zeitz’ work on Facebook!

Help OR Metrowest to Address the Housing Emergency Locally and Statewide: Call your State Reps!

The COVID pandemic, in addition to causing severe economic disruption for a large segment of our population, has also uncovered and amplified problems that existed before the pandemic. One of the most critical areas affected is housing.

Rent stabilization has been an issue for some time, as more and more renters find themselves unable to afford decent housing. Job and income loss due to COVID has made the problem even worse. Likewise, illegal evictions are increasing as landlords find ways to work around local and other moratoriums tied to the pandemic. Many renters – especially those in immigrant communities – often don’t have access to the legal resources they need to challenge evictions.

OR Metrowest has joined with a number of other groups (including the Metrowest Democratic Socialists of America, the Metrowest Immigrant Solidarity Network (MISN), and Metrowest Worker Center – Casa) to form the Metrowest Emergency Housing Coalition. The coalition is taking action to help affected communities deal with these issues both short and long-term. While some of the activities are still in the planning stages, initial actions will include:

  • Letters to the Attorney General and local DA to alert them to the severity of the problem in Metrowest and to urge them to protect tenants from landlords’ illegal evictions (including prosecuting landlords who break the law).
  • Petitions and “community letters” directed at landlords that demonstrate their communities’ support for ending illegal evictions.
  • On a broader, statewide level, letters to selected legislators to request their co-sponsorship of three eviction-related bills currently on Beacon Hill.

Events are also being planned aimed at building broad awareness of the problem and support for viable solutions.

How can you help? In the short term, we need ORMA members across the state to contact their representatives on Beacon Hill to co-sponsor and/or support the three bills currently being considered, listed below with their sponsors and links to the bills:

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OR Metrowest will keep ORMA’s membership updated on progress and new actions which you can take to help in the effort to save the homes of many in Metrowest and other communities across the Commonwealth. For more information, contact Steve Garone, Chair, OR Metrowest.

State Senator Becca Rausch is Helping Bay Staters Navigate the COVID Vaccine Mess

For some time, it has been clear that Massachusetts has done a poor job planning and delivering on a plan to fairly and quickly vaccinate its citizens against COVID-19. Vaccine allocations have been part of the issue, but a number of factors – an overly complex plan, websites that are both poorly designed and did not scale, and confused messaging – have made the problem worse.

To help her constituents and others deal with their frustrations and confusion regarding scheduling appointments for vaccinations, Becca Rausch, the progressive state senator representing the Norfolk, Bristol and Middlesex Senate District, has put together a page on her website that consolidates valuable information in a single place.

Senator Rausch has been diligent since the start of the pandemic in keeping her constituents informed through her website and emails, and is continuing to do so. The link to this useful website page is: https://www.beccarauschma.com/covidvaccine

Ways to get involved with ORMA. Join us!

Are you interested in joining Our Revolution Massachusetts? Find a group near you on ORMA’s affiliate page on our website! You can also volunteer for actions around the state and join the ORMA Facebook group to stay connected.

Interested in working on ORMA’s priorities? Our members have begun the discussion at the GA and voting will take place soon about determining the top priorities for the rest of 2021. To implement these priorities we need participation in Working Groups that will concentrate on each one. Please choose one or more groups you want to be a part of: Sign up here to get involved.

If you sign up, you will be contacted by a member already engaged in each area, or by a representative of our Political Action and Civic Engagement committee (PACE) to answer questions and help connect you with others interested in the same work.

We are mindful that many members already are involved in other organizations working on these same issues. ORMA feels strongly that often our most valuable work can be to lift up and amplify the work of allied organizations. If you are one of these folks we would especially value your participation in our working groups.

Affiliate meetings moved online: Please check your email from your local affiliate for details.

ORMA affiliates are holding meetings online, checking in on each other, and staying in touch via online resources across our state. Please check your email for more details.

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BE IN OUR NEWSLETTER: Affiliates please submit your photos to the newsletter editors if you’d like your photos/stories of organizing to be featured in future newsletters.

ORMA Readers Corner

Here is our monthly book recommended by ORMA members! It is the current book being read by the ORMA Book Club.

Beyond Outrage by Robert B. Reich. Here is a summary written by the author: Beyond Outrage connects the dots, showing why the increasing share of income and wealth going to the top has hobbled jobs and growth for everyone else, undermining our democracy; caused Americans to become increasingly cynical about public life; and turned many of us against one another. He also explains why the proposals of the “regressive right” are dead wrong and provides a clear roadmap of what must be done instead.

Please email Jennifer at for more details to join upcoming Zoom discussions for the book club, and send your reading recommendations to the ORMA newsletter volunteers who write this newsletter! We would love to hear from you.

We want to hear from you!

Uninspiring quote of the month: “Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell criticized Democrats for a lack of bipartisanship as they prepared to push through President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package in a way meant to avoid a filibuster. McConnell said this method meant the Democrats had “chosen a totally partisan path,” according to the Associated Press, adding: “That’s unfortunate.” The tactic in question is budget reconciliation, a way of bringing legislation to the Senate floor that lowers the voting bar and avoids the prospect of the opposing party killing it via the filibuster. Despite McConnell’s criticism, he and Republicans have taken the same route to pass measures without help from the opposing party. One example is the series of sweeping tax cuts in 2017 that formed a centerpiece of President Donald Trump’s term.” Business Insider.

Inspiring quote of the month for its predictive power — not for what happened:

“Take me out to the ballpark, ‘Stay six feet from the crowd; Shoot up my arm with that Pfizer stuff, Hoping that soon we’ll have more than enough! Kudos to all of our scientists, They’re really on top of their game! For it’s one shot… two… then we all can be safe, or so they claim!”
– By Ed Koenig, Massachusetts resident, a poem about getting the Covid vaccine at Fenway Park.”

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