My Year with Progressive Mass

What a year! Almost exactly a year ago, I left the world of environmental organizing because I had become convinced that all of the challenges in the Commonwealth, from antiquated toxic chemical laws, to a regressive system of taxation, to an hopelessly inadequate minimum wage and some of the most out-dated voting policies in the country all exist for one basic reason. The tens of thousands of progressive activists across the state, the ones who elected Deval Patrick, Elizabeth Warren and state legislators like Carl Sciortino or my own Senator, Sonia Chang-Diaz, are not heard on Beacon Hill. When it comes to making policy, too often our legislative leaders pay more attention to the well-heeled lobbyists at fundraising dinners than they do to those of us who pounded the pavement to get them elected.

Fortunately, a group of progressive activists had been thinking the same thing, and I asked if I could help. I started as a full time volunteer working out of a donated living room.

We started with a meeting of the minds. Our policy conference in March featured some of the state and nation's leading progressive thinkers and 150 of you traveled from across the state on a cold day in March to share ideas.

At about that time, I was humbled to be asked by the board to continue my work as the first paid staff person for Progressive Massachusetts. We were clearly filling a need, and you responded with your time and money.


Next, we launched  an ambitious project to make Beacon Hill more accessible to people who don't have all day to study further amendments to bond bills or budget line items buried in stacks of papers and voted on in near secrecy. Our legislative scorecard shone a light on Beacon Hill. I can't go anywhere without people telling me what a great resource it is for them.

Then we took our education to the next level by live-tweeting important legislative sessions. Lifting up the veil on the legislative process made it that much harder for bad policy - like the current welfare 'reform' legislation winding it's way though the State House, to make it to the governor's desk unnoticed. And when legislators stood up for particularly good provisions or particularly bad ones we made sure you could find that out.

I'm proud of the work we have done to educate the public on the goings-on at the State House, but education only get's us so far. This fall, Progressive Massachusetts took on a leadership role with the Raise Up Massachusetts campaign to raise the minimum wage and ensure that everybody who works can earn sick time. Because of your support, we were able to hire another organizer, Shaina Kasper to make sure we could gather 15,000 signatures to get both of these issues on the ballot.

Shaina and I made over 4,000 volunteer calls, hosted a dozen kick-off meetings, held 50 signature gathering events and built up an awe-inspiring team of volunteer leaders who hosted nearly 100 more events. By the time all was said and done last Wednesday, Progressive Massachusetts volunteers had collected nearly 18,000 signatures and the campaign collected 285,000!

I want to conclude by telling you that this work is personal to me. I am truly honored that all of our donors took a stand and not only said that they believe that a more progressive Massachusetts is possible, but they wanted to be a part of it by contributing. 

So I want to ask you, If you looked up your legislator on our scorecard this year, or called your legislator because of an email we sent, or met a Progressive Massachusetts volunteer collecting signatures, can you make a contribution today?  Any amount helps.
If every person on our email list gave just $5 a month, we would be able to support the organization for an entire year. Any gift is greatly appreciated, the most important thing is that you give as generously as possible so we can continue fighting for economic and social justice in the Commonwealth.
Ben Wright
Campaigns Director
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