Analilia Mejia is a New Jersey activist.
Analilia Mejia, is a longtime union organizer who actually postponed her wedding to work on the Obama campaign, Mejia had previously served as New Jersey political director of the powerful SEIU 32BJ. The daughter of a Colombian garment worker and a Dominican laborer, Mejia, along with her younger sister, spent several early-childhood years with relatives in Venezuela after their father injured his back and could no longer support the family. “It was better to live on poverty-level wages in a shantytown in Venezuela than on a garment-worker’s salary in Elizabeth, New Jersey,” she told me as we inched forward in traffic. “That’s crazypants.”
Union work was satisfying but limiting for Mejia. Given the dramatic contraction of the labor movement, which has fallen to just 7 percent of private sector workers (in 1984, it was 16 percent), she longed to improve the lives of all workers, not just those lucky enough to be in a union.
“We’ve found ways of electoralizing our issues,” Mejia told me. “We make politicians walk the walk—and pay the price if they don’t.” The idea is to make Democratic politicians more accountable to their liberal base through the asymmetric warfare party primaries enable, much as the conservative movement has done to Republicans. “The rules are rigged against working people, so we have to think outside the box to find different ways to win at this game,” Mejia said.
When the Democratic-controlled New Jersey Legislature wasn’t advancing a statewide paid-sick-leave bill, the WFP went to the municipal level to find a workaround; 10 New Jersey cities have now mandated paid sick leave. And when Governor Chris Christie vetoed a set of voting reforms—including automatic voter registration and restoring felons’ voting rights—the party set out to collect signatures to put it on the ballot instead, hoping to put the issue before voters in November 2016.
Mejia has also spearheaded the party’s role as Christie’s chief harasser. The WFP’s protests, ethics complaints, and calls for Christie’s resignation helped put the Bridgegate scandal on the map, severely wounding the presidential hopes of the man once considered a top 2016 GOP contender. The party also worked to elect Ras Baraka, an opponent of education reform, to succeed Cory Booker as mayor of Newark over a better-funded candidate.
In West Orange, Analilia Mejia pulled up to the venue for the evening’s New Jersey Working Families gala, a banquet hall with a strong Jersey vibe: mirrors, marble, patterned carpet. Bumper stickers reading “Kicking Ass for the Working Class” were available at the check-in table. The evening’s speakers included Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman, a New Jersey lawmaker the Working Families Party has championed since she was in the state assembly, and Representative Keith Ellison, the Minnesotan who co-chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus. One testament to the party’s growing local clout was that attendees included the chair of the New Jersey Democratic Party, John Currie, and the mayor of Jersey City, Steven Fulop, whom many local observers expect to be a top Democratic prospect for governor when Christie leaves office in 2017.
Working Families Party
At a late 2015 private dinner in Manhattan, a small group of leftists plotted to take over America.
The group, a dozen community organizers and activists from all over the country, had convened at a sushi restaurant in the Flatiron District with the leaders of the New York-based Working Families Party. They were heads of organizations from Boston to Albuquerque, and included National People’s Action and Washington Community Action Network.They were there to hear "why their states should form their own chapters of the insurgent party, in order to capitalize on the country’s rising liberal tide and push the national conversation leftward".
The party’s deputy director, Jon Green, made the pitch. “In 2010, we saw the Tea Party yank the entire political discourse way to the right,” he said. The Tea Party was powerful, he said, because it was boldly ideological; it recruited and groomed candidates; and it created a strong national brand. “Our view is that there isn’t anything analogous to that on the left, and there ought to be.”
Many of the activists in the dining room that night were there "because they thought their states’ liberals needed more edge". Javier Benavidez, the executive director of the SouthWest Organizing Project, a community group that will help to launch the New Mexico Working Families Party later this year.
Analilia Mejia, the crusading director of New Jersey Working Families, jumped in from across the table. “Here is what you say to them, verbatim: ‘Let us be the “crazy” left,’” she said. “‘Let us be the voice that creates the space that allows you to negotiate for more of what you want.’ You can’t be for raising taxes? Let us say, ‘Tax the rich,’ and then you can push harder.”
Now What? Defying Trump and the Left's Way Forward
Now What? Defying Trump and the Left's Way Forward was a phone in webinar organized by Freedom Road Socialist Organization in the wake of the 2016 election.
- Now what? We’re all asking ourselves that question in the wake of Trump’s victory. We’ve got urgent strategizing and work to do, together. Join Ash-Lee Woodard Henderson of the Movement for Black Lives and Freedom Road, Calvin Cheung-Miaw, Jodeen Olguin-Taylor of Mijente and WFP, Joe Schwartz of the Democratic Socialists of America, and Sendolo Diaminah of Freedom Road for a discussion of what happened, and what we should be doing to build mass defiance. And above all, how do we build the Left in this, which we know is the only solution to the crises we face?
- This event will take place Tuesday November 15, 2016 at 9pm Eastern/8pm Central/6pm Pacific.
Those invited, on Facebook included Analilia Mejia.