Recently we began the move from a mostly one-way communication (you know, all those newsletters that keep popping up in your inbox) to one that routinely engages interactively with social justice leaders in our congregations and across the country.
- Every month we use Zoom, an online meeting app, to meet with liaisons from our congregations to share foci, accomplishments and challenges and to find ways that we can collaborate across the state. For instance, at one meeting someone talked about a curriculum that they had used on income inequality and another liaison was able to take back information about that curriculum to their own congregation that was just beginning that focus.
- We have included more people in decision making about lobbying through our electronic gatherings of congregations for our annual Legislative Conference and the new mid-session Budget Conference. Rather than connect with individuals around the state through their individual computers or phones, we brought people to their own congregations and nearly half the conference time was spent in discussion of the issues within the participants’ own congregations. We had participation from more congregations in the state than ever - 22 of our 29. Our 2016 conference this year is on Sunday afternoon, Nov. 13.
- In 2015, we also gathered people from nine Puget Sound UU congregations and at least seven environmental organizations for a rally in the Rotunda of the Legislative Building in support of the Carbon Pollution Accountability Act. The speakers included a Senator from Seattle and the prime House sponsor of the bill.
- We also used that video in a 2015 General Assembly workshop on how to advocate for climate justice.
- We worked nationally, as well as with several local leaders and our Bellingham congregation support the Lummi Nation in their struggle against the nation's largest coal port.
- We have increased our social media presence, allowing for much more interaction. We more than doubled those who are following us on Facebook and occasionally reach more than 1000 people with a single post. Our Twitter followers have increased more than 400%, many of them national UU organizations, such as the UU College of Social Justice. We have several times been included in paper.li news aggregators - one featuring all things UU and the other featuring climate change news from many sources.
Power and Collaboration
We have always collaborated with other organizations where we share legislative goals. Major organizations from the past that we continue working with include Earth Ministry and Faith Action Network. Collaboration has been limited, however, where our values differ. We have continued our membership in the Continental UU State Advocacy Networks, a group supported by the UUA and UUSC staff made up of other UU state organizations like Voices. In addition, we have become members of the new climate justice organization, Commit2Respond, led by seven key UU organizations, including the UUSC, the UUA, the College of Social Justice, the Collaboratory, the UUMA, and LREDA.
The Carbon Pollution Accountability Act brought together several climate change organizations, including one that is run by children.
This year we have added a collaboration that brings a whole new level of lobbying power and points of view that are a minority in most of our congregations. Our chief lobbyist joined the Racial Equity Team. The RET combines a group of progressive lobbyists, led by lobbyists of color, and a group of grassroots, frontline organizations. While the lobbyists are chosen individually for their commitment to racial equity, they lobby for major organizations, such as the ACLU, the State Labor Council and Local 775 SEIU, Washington State Budget and Policy Center, One America, and Community Action Network. The grassroots organizations include climate justice groups such as Got Green and Community to Community, and the immigration rights group NWDC Resistance.
Belonging to this group means that we collaborate with some of the top progressive lobbyists in the state to lobby for our goals, which we share with the Racial Equity Team. In the 2015 session only one of our priorities was not already a part of the Racial Equity Team Agenda. RET members collaborate in lobbying. When UU Voices lobbyist team, including volunteer lobbyists Kelly Thompson of Olympia and Bill McPherson of University, is not available, a top flight lobbyist will be there to speak on our behalf.
RET lobbyists also have weekly feedback from the grassroots groups on the bills we are working, as well as their coordination in statewide contact with legislators, rallies and occasionally direct action to support our bills. They keep us focused on our broader goals in ending structural racism and creating laws that benefit all.
Looking to the future our sense is that the focus will be climate justice, economic justice, including the minimum wage, education funding, mental health and the issues that BlackLivesMatter is raising. Several of our congregations have been working on these issues for two or three years now and BlackLivesMatter has issued a policy agenda, complete with model legislation.
At least four congregations are working on homeless issues. It may not be ripe for legislation but should make a great conference/webinar with one or two of the national leaders in the free housing movement. Perhaps co-sponsored with the Sound Alliance. While considered a local issue, our coordinator envisions a law that requires local jurisdictions to create pilot programs in permanent housing for the homeless from a percentage of the social service funds that they receive from the state.
We are in a building mode. We are so glad you are building with us to make justice ring harmoniously and loudly through the corridors of power, through our congregations and through the communities cut off from power.