Peter Dreier

Peter Dreier teaches politics and chairs the Urban & Environmental Policy Department at Occidental College. His latest book is The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame (Nation Books, 2012).

Recent Articles

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...

The ACORN Conspiracy, Continued

Right-wingers remain convinced that ACORN is part of a nefarious plot to destroy America, and they'll use any means they can to prove it.

Sociologist Frances Fox Piven often gets requests from students who want to interview her about her political theories and activism. So when Kyle Olson phoned her in January and told her he was a college student in Michigan who wanted to videotape an interview with her about her recent book Challenging Authority: How Ordinary People Change America , Piven agreed. Temporarily housebound and recovering from a car accident, the 77-year-old Piven invited Olson to her New York apartment. On Feb. 1, Olson and a friend arrived from Michigan with a video camera. She offered them something to drink. Then, for about an hour, Piven and Olson sat around her dining room table and talked about everything from the Founding Fathers to Fox News while the friend taped them. Two weeks later, Piven, a professor at the City University of New York and former president of the American Sociological Association, learned that about eight minutes of the taped interview had appeared in three segments on Big...

Good Jobs, Healthy Cities

Eight steps city governments can take to promote good jobs.

Traditionally, most city officials concerned with fostering development have focused on economic growth, allowing private investors and developers to dictate the terms. Even those sympathetic to social justice have worried that efforts to raise wages or regulate business practices would only scare away private capital, increase unemployment, and undermine a city's tax base. Developers have relentlessly exploited those fears -- which turn out to be misplaced. Lately, more and more city governments, prodded by local activists, have been using their gatekeeper powers to successfully promote growth with equity, starting with wages. The movement began in the early 1990s in Baltimore, where a community-labor coalition called BUILD mobilized a successful grass-roots campaign to pass the nation's first "living wage" law in 1994, requiring companies with municipal contracts and subsidies to pay employees decently. Since then, more than 100 cities have followed suit. The living-wage movement's...

Why We Need EFCA

Despite its paltry membership, the U.S. labor movement remains the nation's most potent force for progressive change and the most effective vehicle for electing Democrats.

Three weeks before the November election, The New York Times Magazine ran a cover story that asked, "Will Gun-Toting, Churchgoing White Guys Pull the Lever for Obama?" When the polls closed, the question was answered: Nationwide, white men, white women, working-class whites, white gun owners, and white weekly churchgoers supported McCain by wide margins. But a significant number of whites in each category broke ranks and voted for Obama -- enough to help him win key battleground states and the presidency. Exit polls conducted by Guy Molyneux, a survey expert with Peter D. Hart Research, explain why. Molyneux surveyed 1,487 members of AFL-CIO unions -- about half in battleground states -- and compared the results with all voters. What he discovered is nothing short of astounding. Fifty-seven percent of white men favored McCain, but 57 percent of white male union members favored Obama. White gun owners cast 68 percent of their votes for McCain, but 54 percent of white gun owners who are...

Does Obama Really Have a Race Problem?

There is no doubt that working-class whites harbor resentments against blacks. But wealthy whites are more likely than working-class whites to use the race card in the voting booth.

One of the persistent mantras of this election season is that Barack Obama's skin color may cost him the Democratic nomination (or the White House), because of racism among working-class white voters. According to conventional wisdom, white workers faced with growing economic insecurity -- blue-collar employees in manufacturing and construction, pink-collar employees in office and retail sectors -- vent their frustrations on blacks, whom they view as competing for their jobs or living off of government social programs funded by whites' hard-earned tax dollars. When those white workers get to the voting booth, their anger translates into an unwillingness to vote for black candidates. Obama confronted this paradox in his speech in Philadelphia on Tuesday. "Just as black anger often proved counterproductive, so have these white resentments distracted attention from the real culprits of the middle class squeeze -- a corporate culture rife with inside dealing, questionable accounting...