16 Ways You Can Be A Better Progressive in 2016

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While you’re doubling down at the gym to keep up your new year’s resolutions, why not reflect on what you could be doing to live your progressive values in your daily life? Here are a few suggestions to consider while you’re killing it on the elliptical trainer or dry heaving at CrossFit:

1) Vote.  Every. Damn. Time.

2) Look for the union label. We expect candidates to use union printers, but why not hold ourselves to the same standard? Use union labor whenever you can, for any project you can. And when you see that label, you can sing along:

3) Pay your interns. Familiarize yourself with the Department of Labor guidelines. If you cannot afford to pay someone for their work, and you cannot hire an intern under these standards, then you may just have to do the work yourself.

4) Raise your minimum wage. You don’t need to wait for legislation—if you’re the boss, you can bump folks up to $15 (or more).

5) Ask who else will be speaking. Four years ago, the GOP-lead House thought this was an appropriate panel of experts to discuss women’s access to birth control:

A panel of white men discussing women's birth control

You can do better than the GOP-lead House of Not-Really-Representative. If you’re a white male progressive, ask if the panel you’ve been invited to speak on is only other white men. If it is, politely suggest that you can help find women and people of color who can bring their valuable perspective to the topic. Pledge to do this, so you don’t end up on this blog.

6) Be a better tipper. Since not every employer will raise the minimum wage on their own, be generous when tipping. Tip the hotel staff who clean your room, waitstaff, and any other service professionals who are expected to earn some of their salary from gratuities.

7) Use public transportation. It’s better for the environment, and it creates move livable urban centers that can support affordable housing. Walking on either end of your trip is good for your health, too. Support public infrastructure by increasing demand for it.

8) Learn to pronounce unfamiliar names. Diversity means different languages and cultural traditions, and that means some names may be unfamiliar to you the first time you see them. You are an adult. If you can’t sound it out, ask for guidance, then practice. Give people the dignity of their names.

9) Pay artists. No one should be expected to work for free. Not musicians, not graphic designers, not photographers. Buy the band’s CD. Pay the royalty for using a photograph. We can’t live without art, and artists can’t live without getting paid.

10) Take a stand on Uber et al. Consumers and workers need basic protections against dangerous drivers and unfair wages. That’s why we regulated taxis way back when. It is not anti-business to ask Uber and other fee-for-service transportation businesses to conform to some basic workplace safety standards. It is pro-consumer, and pro-worker.

And let’s stop allowing them to call what they do ride sharing. If you are paying, you’re not sharing.

11) Sometimes, you need to call in, not call out. The GOP deserved to be called out for throwing up an all-male panel to talk about women’s reproductive health. A first-time conference organizer who has good intentions but few community contacts, however, might benefit from quiet mentorship about how to build a diverse panel. We can build a stronger movement with more constructive feedback and fewer open letters and flame wars.

Still open to debate whether DWS needed a call in or call out last week.

12) Be a little more green. Just get a reusable water bottle already, and for the love of Molly, don’t be the kind of ass who drills a well to keep your lawn watered when your region is mired in drought.

Here’s the kind of ass who drills a well during a drought to water his lawn:

Greg_Abbott-cropped-proto-custom_28

13) Explain Medicaid expansion to everyone who says anything about health insurance to you. Texans pay federal income tax. The government uses that money to fund programs like Medicaid expansion, sending money back to the states.

Texas has said no to getting our money back, money that would allow an additional 1 million people to be covered by insurance and would eliminate the gap for people who are too poor to afford private insurance, but too financially stable to qualify for Medicaid currently. No, we let at least $7 billion-with-a-B dollars that Texans pay into the system to go to other states so that Greg Abbott, who has excellent health benefits, can make a hollow point about something.

Remind people that Medicaid expansion is about getting Texas dollars back for Texans. Who wouldn’t support that?

14) If You’re Posting a Job, Look at Skills, Not Schools. Too many well-qualified people are prevented from doing great work and earning a living wage because we’re stuck in an antiquated model of privileging school attendance (and the ability to pay for school or take on debt) over actual skills and experience.

Is it OK to require that a doctor have an M.D., or an attorney, a J.D.? Yes. But does your communications person really need a master’s degree, or do they need a strong portfolio and great references? Let’s do our part to reduce the pressure for people to take on the burden of student debt, and be more egalitarian and practical in the job market.

15) Complain about taxes the way a progressive should. Learn about progressive v. regressive tax schemes so you can debate effectively with flat taxers. Learn why Texas homeowners pay too much property tax because Texas businesses exploit loopholes that let them get away with paying taxes that are far less than they should be, and how Republican legislators created those loopholes.

Taxes are the dues we pay for the privilege of living in the United States, and for which we receive critical basic services. We’re glad to pay our fair share, but businesses should pay their fair share, too. Isn’t fairness the American way? And who doesn’t love the American way?

16) Actively subvert the dominant paradigm when it comes to gender roles. Men, you can figure out how to make name tags, I promise. We have major organizing work ahead of us if we want to turn Texas blue. Everyone needs to pitch in. When we relegate women to traditional administrative tasks like meeting check-in, and allow men to dominate speaking opportunities and get their names in lights, we’re cutting ourselves off at the knees.

Cut it out. Volunteer for the tedious jobs already and we’ll get this work done faster.

What’s missing?

What self-defeating, regressive habits do you see progressive people or organizations participating in, and how can we reverse them?

What are you doing to make 2016 a year of moving our state that much closer to turning blue?

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About Author

Andrea Greer

Andrea, an activist, fundraiser, feminist, writer, and baker, is not as tall as you think she is. She's been at this a long time, and wants to know what you are doing to make the pie higher and raise more hell. Her mother would like you to know she's got a law degree.

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