A group of 60 Grassroots Ambassadors and staff from three states came together from July 7-9 in Chicago, Illinois for a dynamic training and collective action. The Jane Addams Senior Caucus (JASC) and ONE Northside were our gracious hosts, and on the first night introduced us to the complex politics and history of Chicago.
The training got going with a powerful exercise about our roots and traditions that helped to unify us despite our diverse age range and backgrounds. In addition to leaders from JASC and ONE Northside, there were Ambassadors from Ohio (Ohio Organizing Collaborative and the Contact Center) and Missouri (GRO-Grassroots Organizing, Metropolitan Congregations United and Progress Missouri). Each organization brought a distinct organizing tradition and style to the training, and from the opening dinner on created the sort of peer-to-peer learning experience that has become the trademark of Retirement Security Grassroots Ambassadors trainings.
The first full day of our training focused on policy, especially our proactive agenda for strengthening Social Security. Leaders participated in an interactive display and explanation of complicated issues like the Chained CPI (and the proactive alternative, the CPI-E), “Scrap the Cap”, and the Caregiver Credit. There was great discussion and lots of pointed questions that showed the desire of Ambassadors to expand our knowledge so we were better prepared to take action. The day wrapped up with hands-on skills building related to legislative advocacy, peer organizing, and developing media spokespeople.
On Tuesday morning we got ready for the big action in downtown Chicago. Our destination was the large Macy’s store on State Street, and our message was that CEO Terry Lundgren should drop out of the nefarious “Fix the Debt” coalition. There were nearly 100 of us on the site. We rallied for over an hour, with leaders telling their personal stories about the need for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, while challenging those who seek cuts. The highlight of the action was an awe-inspiring “Corporate Shuffle” dance that had leaders of all ages denouncing and shaming Fix the Debt… while shakin’ it to the beat! We also entered the Macy’s store in an attempt to deliver a letter to Lundgren; we were quickly and forcefully removed, but the message outside could not be ignored (especially since Chicago’s largest local TV stations were there covering the action)! More pictures are here.
After a debrief of action, we talked over local strategies and plans for the next three months, and pledged to step up the fight for strengthened retirement security!