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A Community Organizer For Congress

by: Judy Chu

Fri May 01, 2009 at 13:29:56 PM PDT

(This election is 2 weeks from next Tuesday. - promoted by David Dayen)

"Community organizer."  "Coalition builder."

These were the words that made me the proudest when Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa spoke about me as he endorsed me last week.

It was precisely through community organizing that I got my start. I was inspired to first get active on campus when I joined the movements to stop the Vietnam War, to fight for civil rights, and to pass the Equal Rights Amendment.

My activism continued beyond college when in the mid-1980s, a group of longtime residents in Monterey Park scapegoated new immigrants in the city by pushing for English-only signs in the city and English-only books in the library. When they got a resolution passed in the city council saying that only English should be spoken in the city, that was the last straw. I decided to join a multi-ethnic coalition of Latinos, Asian Americans, and whites to defeat the resolution and we were successful. Out of that movement, I ran for a seat on the Monterey Park city council, and won, spending the next 13 years working toward my goal of getting the diverse groups in the community to work together in harmony.  

Judy Chu :: A Community Organizer For Congress
It was around that same time that I first met Hilda Solis. We were both fighting to prevent the political boundaries from being redrawn in such a way that the San Gabriel Valley would be divided. While I was in an Asian American coalition, and she in a Latino coalition, we realized that we would have much more power if we fought together as a united force. So together, we went to Sacramento to testify and as a result, we were the only community group in the state that got what we wanted.  

I continued my efforts toward coalition building during my time in the state assembly. Several bills required a hard-fought consensus in order to be passed. One such bill that I carried was AB 805, the Heat Illness Prevention Act, which prevented the tragedy of heat illness for outdoor workers by requiring shade, water and rest periods. To make my point about the importance of such protections, I held a "meeting in the sun." I held it in a field in the central valley, outside in 100+ degree heat for over 2 hours, while bringing together the Governor's representatives, the United Farm Workers, the AFL-CIO and the press. We made our point and the protections were put into law.

It is this spirit of bringing people together to work toward a common goal, and of building coalitions between people who may have conflicting interests, that I want to take to Washington DC. Even now, as I run to replace my friend, my mentor and the greatest community organizer I know, Hilda Solis in Congress, I am building coalitions of support for my candidacy. We knew from the outset that the California Democratic Party endorsement was a crucial step toward winning this seat and we also knew that my opponent, a sitting state senator, would have the advantage of institutional connections from Sacramento, so what did we do?

Organize, organize, organize.

In a mass mobilization that the California Democratic Party had never seen before, we got 400 delegates and delegate proxies out in force the day of the endorsement meeting, providing a lunch for them prior to the vote. We turned the lunch into a grassroots rally and we had stand-by proxy voters waiting up to 3 hours in case I needed them. It was a truly "people powered" campaign. In the end, my opponent saw he'd been out maneuvered, so pulled his voters at the last minute, preferring instead to get zero votes. The result? A unanimous endorsement for me from the California Democratic Party.

During this truly unique time in our history when we have our country's first community organizer president, it would truly be an honor to take the lessons I've learned building coalitions and bringing communities together to Washington D.C. I hope you'll help me do that as we head into the final 2 weeks before election day. Please join us this weekend for precinct walking:

Saturday, May 2, 2009
Canvass & BBQ
9:00am - 1:00pm
Campaign Headquarters
4153 Maine Ave.
Baldwin Park, CA

Sunday, May 3, 2009
2:00pm - 5:00pm
Campaign Headquarters
4153 Maine Ave.
Baldwin Park, CA

You can find out more about volunteer opportunities at www.JudyChu.net and, of course, donations are always appreciated at ActBlue.

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