July 2022

Fall & Spring Organizing Academy Applications Open!

This Fall and Spring, we are offering a selective, unpaid organizing academy program focused on training vital political skills in a fast-paced, hands-on environment.  This program gives motivated fellows opportunities to play a direct role in the upcoming 2022 General Election inside and outside of Illinois.  

This program emphasizes the development of core political skills through classroom-style instruction led by political professionals.  Fellows will deploy those skills in real-world settings to help create victory for Democratic candidates up and down the ballot. This unpaid fellowship may be eligible for class credit—if so, we will work with interns to secure necessary approval from accredited educational institutions.

This internship will be held on Mondays and Thursdays from 6:00PM – 7:30PM at 5025 N Broadway, Chicago IL (3rd Floor), with additional 6 hours of flexible hours per week which can be performed remotely or in person.

To get more information or apply for the program, click here!

2022 Power Lunch

You’re invited to join Congresswoman Schakowsky for her 21st Annual Ultimate Women’s Power Lunch on Friday, May 20th!

We’ll be joined by Congresswoman Val Demings (FL-10), candidate for US Senate in Florida

Click here to purchase tickets.

Chicago Hilton
International Ballroom
720 S. Michigan Ave
Chicago, IL

Friday, May 20, 2022
11:00 AM – Registration Opens
12:00 PM – Luncheon Begins

To contribute by mail please send checks, made payable to:

Schakowsky for Congress
PO Box 5130
Evanston, IL 60204-5130

Click here to purchase tickets.

If you have any questions, or would like to host a table, please contact our Finance Director,

Sarah Gersten at sarah@janschakowsky.org or at (847) 424-1998.

Rolling Stone: Why Occupy Needs To Start Making Demands

Rolling Stone: Why Occupy Needs To Start Making Demands
by Rick Perlstein

It’s Occupy Season again. In St. Louis on March 15, and in Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park on St. Patrick’s Day, Occupy Wall Street activists returned to the streets after a four-month hiatus and were bloodied in mass arrests. Two activists plan a “99% Spring” with the goal of training 100,000 new insurgents. Encampments are sprouting up all over, from Albany, New York to Cardiff, Wales to Boise, Idaho. People putting their bodies on the line in defense of the middle class has become a global fact of life. A year ago, who would have imagined that?

It was hard to imagine, in fact, as late as August, just a few weeks before the disaffected and dispossessed starting camping out in Zuccotti Park and ended up changing the world, by changing the conversation. That’s when I started hunting for clues about when the hell Americans whose lives had been sucked dry by the vampire squids might finally rise up and reclaim their American birthright. I was working on a magazine article aboutRebuild the Dream, an exciting new progressive group headed by the activist Van Jones, which I though might be just the spark. But then, in September, Occupy lit the prairie fire instead, and my piece became instantly, blessedly, irrelevant. Hence, it never ran; but I learned lessons while researching and writing the article that I think are worth sharing nonetheless – especially the ones that touch on a key debate between and among both Occupiers and their critics: whether asking for specific concessions from the powers that be catalyzes change or stifles it. Yes, the dreaded question of  “demands.”

Those Occupiers who favor articulating specific goals for the movement like to quote the great abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who famously said, “Power concedes nothing without a demand.” “Demands are for terrorists,” their opponents quip back.  One Occupier lately canvassed by the New York Times dismissed demands as “disempowering because they require someone else to respond.” Others object that goal-setting forces people to think small. In any case, the exercise requires some degree of top-down discipline, which Occupiers reject. (In Zuccotti Park last October, an attempt to form a “Demands working group” fizzled, in part because Occupiers thought it was “not open-source” and did “not act by consensus.”) The influential social theorist Judith Butler recently wrote that to submit demands is to grant “legitimacy to those who have the power to satisfy the demands” — which “would be giving more power to the very sources of inequality.” The draft of one Occupy manifesto, the Liberty Square Blueprint, insists, “Demands cannot reflect the time scale we are working with…. Demands imply conditions, and we will never stop.”

Well, maybe those guys will never stop. But it will take more than those guys to win. It will take all sorts of people to sustain Occupy – including, in big numbers, the less radically committed. Given that, here’s something else to consider about demands: When met, they can become the fuel that can keep a mass movement from declining in the face of ordinary human impatience.

My journey to that conclusion began one day at a car rental agency in my hometown, Chicago, on the South Side, where some 47 percent of homeowners are underwater. The young African American woman behind the counter asked me where I was heading. I told her I was off to research an article about a movement to make rich people and corporations pay their fair share in taxes and give jobs to unemployed people. She looked back at me pityingly, as if I’d told her I was off to chase UFOs.

I motored to my destination – a beach house in the resort town of Michigan City, Indiana owned by Jan Schakowsky, widely considered one of the most progressive members of Congress and one of the principles in Van Jones’s new group. I told her about the car rental woman’s incredulity. Forlornly, she replied, “I’m afraid people are beginning to accept the current economic situation a ‘new normal.’ You know – that it’s okay in a family to work two or three jobs, four jobs between the family, hopefully maybe one of them covers healthcare benefits; nobody expects a private pension any more, those are gone.”

And then she told me an evocative story about the old normal – the world that Occupy should be fighting to restore. Her dad, she said, had built their first family vacation house a few doors down, some sixty-odd years ago. He never made more than $25,000 a year selling furniture. Nowadays, the new houses dotting this stretch of Lake Michigan’s southern shore, built by tearing down the old, cost 50 times that. “There were very modest cottages close to ours,” Schakowsky said, emphasizing the words, dreamily recollecting a long-vanished social Shangri La. “You could do it. One guy could work at the steel mill, have healthcare for his family, he could have a secure retirement – and he might even have a little cabin where his wife and kids would go for the summer. And that was not weird, it was not greedy or overly ambitious – that’s how life was!”

That world was torn down, right here in Michigan City, by those who cared nothing for the confident middle class that built America’s mid-century greatness. “And what is infuriating” said Schakowsky, “I think to myself: ‘Why aren’t people rising up?'”

But then, last fall, they did rise up.

The question now is whether the energy that powered that uprising can reconstitute itself this spring and summer with anything like the same force. And this I severely doubt – at least so long as the only thing the movement knows how to demand is the root-and-branch reconstruction of society itself. Without, that is, stories like the one Schakowsky told me next, sitting on her Michigan City porch, about how she became a warrior for justice in the first place, and how in the process she built an army.

It was 1969. Schakowsky was a housewife with two young children, and she was in a grocery store studying a package of rancid pepper steak. “I had to ask the butcher how old this thing they called ‘pepper steak’ was.” He wouldn’t answer. “He told me I could go somewhere else.” She left.

A week later, she heard a commotion around that same meat counter, the same butcher yelling the same thing at another young housewife. But that housewife, whose name was Jackie Kendall, did not budge. Schakowsky, impressed, joined forces with Kendall and together they started a new organization – they called it “National Consumers United” – and soon figured out what no one else had: that every packaged item in a supermarket had something called an “expiration date.” Problem was, the expiration date was stamped on packages in code. Kendall and Schakowsky cracked the codes and published them all in a book; and then they moved out to the stores. “We would take the old stuff off the shelf. Oscar Meyer, the packaged meats – big offenders. And once we got the codes for baby food and infant formula – days, weeks, months, years behind the date.” They would put the offending items in carts and wheel them up to the store manager, having stuck them with pencil holes so they couldn’t go back on the shelves.

Now, I guess it’s possible they were inadvertently lending “legitimacy to those who have the power to satisfy the demands.” The managers didn’t feel legitimated, though. They felt scared shitless. So did their corporate overlords – especially when the women warriors started buying stock in the grocery chains and attending shareholder meetings. At one, held in a produce section in suburban Chicago, they inspired a stampede of stockholders demanding their proxy votes back. The CEO lost it: “I don’t know who you people are! You’re either Communists or spies from Jewel!” – the rival Midwestern grocery chain. They got on NBC Nightly News. Chains started stamping sell-by dates on their products. Oscar Meyer did so nationally. “Here we are, little nobodies, and the whole marketplace has changed! And it was like, whoa! What else can we do?”

Meat, modest meat – and a crucial opening salvo of the modern consumer’s movement, one of the most significant political developments of the 1970s. Demands were made; demands were satisfied. A popular movement grew. Citizens like Schakowsky and Jackie Kendall, who’d never fought the power before, consecrated their lives to activism – and stayed active, year after year after year.

One more story: It is 1989. Schakowsky, by then a professional troublemaker, is executive director of the Illinois State Council of Senior Citizens, looking out for the interests of the elderly. A new bill is passed in Washington, purportedly to fix Medicare’s deficiencies in handling catastrophic illness. But in a deal negotiated behind close doors between congressional power brokers and industry representatives (sound familiar?) it will be financed by a surtax on all Medicare recipients – giving poor seniors the highest effective tax rates in the nation. Schakowsky seeks a meeting with the most powerful powerbroker of them all, Chicago’s Dan Rosenkowski, then the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. Reluctantly, he agrees to see them at a city facility for seniors in his working-class district – but only with her group’s leaders, not the 200 activists she has brought along. They would have to wait in another room – and he would only meet with the leaders if they promised not to “scream and yell.”

“So we had a debate in the other rooms about screaming and yelling,” Schakowsky chuckles. And they came up with, yes, a demand: They wouldn’t scream and yell, if he would at least show his face before the larger group.

He agreed. But in order to get to that larger group he had to walk through the senior center’s cafeteria. Which was where, entirely of their own accord, diners started booing him. He made for the exit. The codgers started chasing him. “And he walks a little faster. And a little faster. He’s finally galloping with all these seniors in tow behind him. Gets in the car. Now the cameras are there…he gets into his car, and the car is now surrounded by seniors. Including this woman, Leona Kozen, who’s in front of the car.”

I looked up Leonia Kozien. I learned she briefly became a national hero. Here’s the Chicago Tribune’s account of what happened next:

“As Rostenkoski dashed through the crowd to a waiting car and locked himself inside, Kozen took up a position in front of the car, holding a sign that read: ‘Seniors for Repeal of the Catastrophic Act.’ After blowing the horn, Rosenkowski’s driver edged the four-door sedan slowly forward, and Kozien was still on the hood, determinedly holding her sign only inches from the windshield. Except for the glass, she was virtually face-to-face with her congressman. ‘I was a little nervous,’ Kozien said later. ‘But I could see through the car window that he looked more afraid than I was.'”

More afraid than she was. Because he was faced with a demand, backed with the power to make it stick – the power of a movement.

About a month later, the bill – a major piece of legislation! – was repealed, an extraordinarily rare accomplishment. And all because people, many of whom, like Kozien, had never protested anything before, made the right demand to the right person at the right time and in the right place. “Congressmen saw what happened,” Shakowsky concludes triumphantly, “and said that if Dan Rostenkowski was vulnerable like that, they were vulnerable, too.”

Visionary radicalism can be galvanizing. But it can be enervating, too. For here is something that is also radicalizing: a sense of accomplishment. Of momentum. Of changing the world – even if only, at first, a little bit. We need both, to the exclusion of neither. Otherwise, the 1% will keep winning the game.

Rick Perlstein is the author of Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus and Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America. He writes a weekly column for RollingStone.com.

Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/national-affairs/why-occupy-needs-to-start-making-demands-20120321#ixzz1py2QaTtQ

The New York Times: A Jobs Agenda, Anyone?

The New York Times
August 15th, 2011

A Jobs Agenda, Anyone?

In what can only be described as a triumph of bad policy and craven politics, Congress and the Obama administration have spent the year focused on budget cuts, as the economy has faltered and unemployment has worsened. Official unemployment is 9.1 percent, but it would be 16.1 percent, or 25.1 million people, if it included those who can only find part-time jobs and those who have given up looking for work. For the past two and a half years, there have been more than four unemployed workers for every job opening, a record high, by far. In a healthy market, the ratio would be about one to one.

By a large margin, Americans have told pollsters that job creation is more important than budget cuts. Yet Republican leaders are wedded to austerity and appear to think that high unemployment will hurt President Obama politically more than it will hurt them, so they will likely resist efforts to create jobs, no matter how great the need.

Without more jobs, both the economy and the budget will deteriorate further. It is past time for Mr. Obama to send a jobs plan to Congress that has popular appeal, one that he can use to try to shame Republicans. He will need cooperation from the Senate, which should bring one jobs-related bill after another to the floor, forcing its members to approve jobs initiatives or go on the record to show that they just don’t care.

Mr. Obama has begun to talk more about jobs, but his agenda is thin. Its main components — extending federal unemployment benefits and the payroll tax cut beyond their expiration at the end of this year — are vitally important, but their extension will only maintain the status quo. His idea for an infrastructure bank to finance large-scale building projects is also good, but would take time, and would not address the immediate need for jobs. Ditto his push for patent reform and trade agreements.

There are other ideas worth fighting for. Take, for example, Fix America’s Schools Today, or FAST, an idea that has been incorporated into a House proposal to be introduced this fall by Jan Schakowsky, Democrat of Illinois. Public school buildings in the United States are on average over 40 years old and in need of an estimated $500 billion in repairs and upgrades. A $50 billion school renovation program would employ 500,000 workers (1.5 million construction workers are currently unemployed) and could be easily scaled up. The money could be disbursed through existing federal formulas to all 16,000 public school districts. The initial cost could be largely offset over 10 years by ending tax breaks for fossil fuels, as called for in Mr. Obama’s 2012 budget.

Other programs in the Schakowsky bill could employ an estimated one million young people for projects in federal parks, community centers and on college campuses, as well as 350,000 laid-off teachers, police officers, firefighters and health care providers.

Washington, in thrall to austerity, has abandoned one of the most immediate and powerful tools for supporting growth and jobs, namely, borrowing at today’s low rates to provide direct fiscal aid to states. But Mr. Obama can and should make the case for targeted new jobs today, to be paid for over time by closing tax loopholes.

Republicans are sure to howl that new programs will undo the debt ceiling deal, but it is surely possible over a 10-year period to tackle near-term action on jobs and long-term action on deficit reduction. The alternative is even slower growth and higher unemployment.

Progress Illinois: Schakowsky: We Must Insure All Americans

Progress Illinois: Schakowsky: We Must Insure All Americans
January 18, 2011
by Adam Doster

Today in Washington, the U.S. House of Representatives will begin debating legislation that would repeal the new federal health care law. The body could pass that bill as early as tomorrow. And while U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez rightfully called the effort “political theater at its worst” in a statement Friday, namely because any legislation that clears the lower chamber will be blocked in the U.S. Senate or the White House, advocates of health care reform are taking the Republicans’ offensive quite seriously.

On Friday, we showcased a new report that analyzes the practical impact retracting the Affordable Care Act would have on Illinois consumers. (Ezra Klein did the same thing using national figures this morning.) And reverting to that status quo, warns U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, is immoral and economically unsound. At a press event sponsored by the Campaign for Better Health Care, the North Side Democrat was joined in Chicago this morning by one of her constituents, diabetic David Zoltan-Breiger, who recently enrolled in Illinois’ new federally funded high-risk insurance pool. “I don’t need to worry about what happens if I have an emergency,” Zoltan-Brieger says. “I’m covered … for now.” Watch portions of their comments below:

After taking a full-out repeal vote, Republicans will quickly move to gut central provisions in the new law. Already, the GOP leadership is preparing to pass legislation that would “direct committees to craft new legislation.” That could mean initiatives to rescind the individual mandate, which is unpopular but the lynchpin of the reform package. (Without it, premiums will skyrocket for those who are not healthy enough to forgo insurance.) “Let’s not be defensive about this issue of a mandate,” Schakowsky says. “It is a necessity to make the system work. We want everyone in the United States of America to have insurance.”