Peter Dreier

Peter Dreier, who teaches politics at Occidental College, is the author of The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame (Nation Books, 2012).

Recent Articles

A Book for the People of Ferguson -- And Oppressed People Everywhere

Fred Ross's change-making Axioms for Organizers is updated for the Internet age, and for a new generation battling discrimination and police brutality.

fredrosssr.com
M ost residents of Ferguson, Missouri, have probably never heard of Fred Ross, Sr., but they could use his help now. Ferguson's population is two-thirds African American, but the mayor, almost all members of the city council and school board, and 95 percent of the police department is white, and in last year's municipal election only 7 percent of blacks came to the polls. Ross—perhaps the most influential (but little-known) community organizer in American history—had a successful career mobilizing people to challenge police brutality, fight segregation, and organize voter registration and voter turnout campaigns. Ross taught people how to channel their anger and frustrations into building powerful grassroots organizations that can win concrete victories that change institutions and improve people's lives. He understood that while sporadic protests can draw attentions to long-neglected problems, it requires the hard day-to-day intentional work of organizing to build power and give...

How Seattle’s $15 Minimum Wage Victory Began in New York City’s Zuccotti Park

15 Now/Seattle
15 Now/Seattle Activists at an April demonstration demanding a $15-per-hour minimum wage in Seattle. A n idea that only a year ago appeared both radical and impractical has become a reality. On Monday, Seattle struck a blow against rising inequality when its City Council unanimously adopted a citywide minimum wage of $15 an hour , the highest in the nation. This dramatic change in public policy is partly the result of changes brought about by last November’s Seattle municipal elections. But it is also the consequence of years of activism in Seattle and around the country . Now that Seattle has established a new standard, the pace of change is likely to accelerate quickly as activists and politicians elsewhere seek to capture the momentum. Five years from now, Americans may look back at this remarkable victory and wonder what all the fuss was about. Seattle now joins a growing list of cities—including San Francisco, Santa Fe, Albuquerque, San Jose, and Washington, D.C. (along with two...

Marvin Miller's Lasting Legacy

The first leader of the MLB players union helped dramatically transform labor relations not just in baseball—but in all of America's professional sports. 

(AP Photo)
While he was alive, the baseball establishment five times rejected Marvin Miller, who freed players from indentured servitude, from its Hall of Fame. The Major League Baseball Players Association, which Miller headed from 1966 to 1983, sat on its hands, failing to raise a stink about this outrageous miscarriage of justice. Miller, who died on Tuesday at 95, was never bitter about his exclusion from the Cooperstown shrine. As a staunch unionist, he knew which side he was on and understood that the baseball owners and executives who control the Hall of Fame would rig the rules to keep him out. The baseball moguls have always viewed their teams as personal fiefdoms and are among the most ferociously anti-union crowd around. But what’s appalling is the timidity of the Players Association to mount a campaign on Miller’s behalf. Over the years, many Hall of Fame players—including Tom Seaver, Joe Morgan, Brooks Robinson, Bert Blyleven, Hank Aaron, Nolan Ryan, and Reggie Jackson—have...

The Path to a High-Wage Society

The explosion of low-wage jobs is due, for the most part, to the declining bargaining power of America's employees.

American workers today face declining job security and dwindling earnings as companies downsize, move overseas, and shift more jobs to part-time workers. Last year, a survey by the Economic Policy Institute found that 44 percent of American families had experienced either the job loss of one or more members, a reduction in hours, or a cut in pay over the previous year. For the vast majority of workers, the costs of basic necessities are rising faster than incomes. As this special report of The American Prospect has demonstrated, government has ample powers to change these trends for the better. Back in the days of Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty, Republican critics liked to say that the best anti-poverty program is a job. The federal government has the capacity -- and responsibility -- to promote full employment, where everyone who wants to work has a job. But the kind of job -- the pay, benefits, security, and prospects for advancement -- are as important as the job itself. A good...

Lessons from the Health-Care Wars

Activism on the ground creates pressure for bolder reform and gives liberal elected officials more room to maneuver.

Health-care reform supporters urging State Attorney General Rob McKenna to stop his constitutional challenge of Congress' reform legislation. (AP Photo/The Olympian, Tony Overman)
On March 9, at least 5,000 protesters picketed outside the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Washington, D.C., where America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the powerful industry trade association, was holding its annual lobbying conference. About 50 public figures -- including writer Barbara Ehrenreich, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Secretary-Treasurer Anna Burger, AFL-CIO head Richard Trumka, the Center for Community Change's Deepak Bhargava, and former Congressman Bob Edgar -- participated in civil disobedience. The following day, 24 insurance--industry victims -- people who lost family members, are suffering because they were denied care, or went bankrupt due to premium costs -- confronted reform opponents on Capitol Hill, including House Minority Whip Eric Cantor. One of the protesters was Marcus Grimes, a 38-year-old former teacher who worked at a D.C. charter school that didn't offer health insurance, and lacked the $3,000 down payment for doctor-recommended surgeries that...

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