Progressive coalition plans nationwide fiscal cliff day of action

Protestors call for an increase of taxes on the wealthy and voice opposition to cuts in Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid during a demonstration in the...
Protestors call for an increase of taxes on the wealthy and voice opposition to cuts in Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid during a demonstration in the...
Scott Olson/Getty Images

The grassroots push for a progressive fiscal cliff deal is heating up. A coalition of labor unions, liberal pressure groups, and community organizations will stage simultaneous rallies and actions on Monday around the country, in an attempt to move the fiscal cliff negotiations to the left.

“We expect thousands of people in more than 100 cities to stand up and make their voice heard,” said Peter Colavito, SEIU’s director of government relations. “They will be calling on their members of Congress to do the right thing and protect vital services, protect the middle class.”

The objective for Monday is “telling Democrats that they need to make sure in this negotiation that there are no cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security,” according to Garlin Gilchrist,’s national campaign director, which is also participating. Additionally, he said, they aim to pressure Republican legislators to “stop holding the middle class tax cuts hostage to tax breaks for the richest 2%.”

SEIU appears to be investing heavily in the effort; the website for the coalition, called The 99 Uniting, lists the District of Columbia address for SEIU headquarters as its base of operations. A list of coalition members on the site includes SEIU-affiliated organizations such as Change to Win and UnitedNY. But it also encompasses a diverse range of other progressive organizations, such as New York Communities for Change, and other labor unions, such as AFSCME, the NEA and the labor federation AFL-CIO are also expected to participate.

Organized labor has been playing a high-profile role in the fiscal cliff negotiations since the end of the 2012 election. Top labor leaders joined the heads of other progressive organizations for a private meeting with President Obama in mid-November. Two weeks later, SEIU, NEA and AFSCME all participated in a fly-in lobby day during which union members from all over the country visited Washington, D.C., to speak with their representatives.

The three unions have also blanketed the airwaves with advertising. Most recently, they’ve launched a series of television commercials urging moderate Democratic Sens. Claire McCaskill and Mark Warner to prevent cuts to the social safety net, timed to appear before Monday’s day of action.

“Cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid would put the well-being of millions of families and children at stake,” Chuck Loveless,  AFSCME federal government affairs director, said in a statement. “Congress needs to pull together and pass a deal for all Americans, protect vital services, and put us further down the path to prosperity.”

However, Monday will mark the first nationwide grassroots event in the progressive campaign. Gilchrist said that MoveOn is calling the actions happening on Monday “speakouts,” and that they would range from large rallies to “smaller groups of really committed people” who would attempt to meet with staff or congresspeople.

Colavito said the level of coordination between organized labor and other progressive groups was remarkable.

“I think there’s an enormous amount of progressive unity now,” he said. “As much as I’ve seen in my work. Working class people and middle class people feel united around a set of priorities they want to see discussed in this debate, and this is reflected in the coalition coming together.”