Blue-Green Coalitions

ACORN Community Organizing International Labor Organizing

San Francisco: This is the season when the blue of the morning sky is at its darkest and most beautiful blue an hour before dawn.  This morning the wind had been shaking the hotel room and on the bay the waves were whipping and gulls were flying in place and making no progress.  Closer to dawn the blue of course lightens into the more classic colors that other people admire.  The hills around the bay move from dark, blackened blobs first to a grayer and then to the green of a spring in the city — in sharp relief to the dawn blended blue of the sky.

 The night before I had attended a dinner of the various boards of the Tides Family of Organizations, including the Tides Foundation, Tides Center, Groundspring, and other non-profits, where we were awarding the annual Jane Lehman — Tides Public Advocacy Awards to two people — one for her work in advancing reproduction rights and the other for creating and furthering a blue-green coalition.   The dinner was in a private room on Nob Hill in a hotel tower across from the Cathedral.  I was living my usual juxtaposition of being dropped off at the dinner a little late by Donna Bransford, the new director of ACORN International, full of the worries about our work in Peru with our new office there working to stop water privatization and to extend feeding programs in the slums of Lima, and being picked up early by Mark Splain, who is acting as organizing director for the United Farm Workers of America, about how to build a different kind of organization in the fields and communities in rural California. 

 One award winner, David Foster, Director of Region 11 of the United Steelworkers of America, made a somewhat different point with a similar theme about finding himself on Nob Hill for the first time since 1972.  He remembered a demonstration and the gas and police all around it in front of the Fairmont Hotel as then President Nixon made a speech there, and found it weird that he was now getting an award with a shout of where he had dodged the cops back in the day.

 Times change and Brother Foster was being recognized for being part of what is changing the times these days.  Representing a declining, classic, blue collar rust belt membership from Minnesota where he is headquartered to the west coast which is also part of his district, rather than seeing environmentalists and their issues as part of the whipping boy for the problem, he has worked tirelessly on numerous campaigns to involve environmental organizations as allies and therefore part of a larger coalition.  These “blue-green coalitions” as they are called are important, but rare.  Certainly, our fight in New Orleans to prevent privatization of the Sewerage & Water Board is a another great example of a union — Local 100 SEIU — building a big tent where everyone can fight.

 Dark blue, light green, dark blue / dark green, there are shadings everywhere, and we need to continue to do the work to bring this part of the prism into as many fights as possible.