An org for left-wing US municipal politicians is transforming American politics

Local Progress is a national coordinating organization for left-wing US city councillors that supports initiatives like higher minimum wages, bans on fracking and deportation detention centers, multilingual information for voters, guaranteed sick leave, predictable working hours for part-timers, restricting foreclosures, and improving access to voting.

The group was formed as a kind of left-wing version of ALEC, which drafts anti-worker and pro-corporate legislation for state legislatures (ALEC has formed a municipal version to compete with Local Progress).

Local Progress drafts legislation and shares research to show the evidence for the legislation's efficacy. They've won key victories across America since they were formed in 2012. I just donated $100 to them, through their parent organization, the Center for Popular Democracy, which is highly regarded by Givewell.

The central idea of Local Progress, however, is that no issue is out of bounds for city government. Besides environmental groups, it has heavy involvement from the labor movement; an AFL-CIO vice president sits on the organization's board, and the conference in October had a session on the Service Employees International Union's Fight for $15 minimum wage campaign, along with numerous appearances by union officials. Those outside groups are essential to getting new policy ideas into practice.

In time, Lander sees the direction of policy innovation starting to flow in reverse: From pioneering cities up to state and federal lawmakers, who might take cues from what appears to be a groundswell of support. He recently won the passage of a bill banning credit checks for employment, for example.

"Eventually that should be a national law or a CFPB regulation. That's not going to happen until a lot of cities and states do it," Lander says. "And if there's a competition for who can do the strongest law, eventually it'll make sense for businesses to say 'we should have a national law.'"

But right now not all cities are able to adopt the kinds of path-breaking new laws that councils can pull off in liberal enclaves on either coast. Take something like allowing Uber drivers to unionize, which could entail years of litigation while courts decide whether it's kosher — as the mayor of Seattle pointed out in a letter to council members after they voted unanimously in favor of it. Being the first takes both political will and financial resources to enforce new mandates and weather the inevitable legal hiccups or unforeseen consequences that might require adjustments down the road.

Meet the lefty club behind a blitz of new laws in cities around the country
[Lydia DePillis/Washington Post]

(via Naked Capitalism)