By Tom Tillison
Why does a progressive advocacy group based in Brooklyn, New York, have such a strong interest in paid sick leave in the Sunshine State?
The Center for Popular Democracy (CPD) is advertising for a statewide campaign manager in Florida to drive a petition effort to get a paid sick leave constitutional amendment on the ballot in 2016.
A political action committee formed by Orlando-based Organize Now, “Family Always Come First, Inc.,” filed with the Florida Division of Elections in March to get the issue on the 2016 ballot — CPD identifies Organize Now as a “state core partner” on its website.
Miami-based activist Marleine Bastien is listed as the PAC’s chairman, and Tampa-based Timothy Herberlein is named as the co-chairman — he is also a board member of Florida Institute for Reform & Empowerment, the training arm of Organize Now. Interestingly, the PAC has only brought in $500, as of August 31.
The community organizers at Organize Now, the de facto successor to now defunct ACORN Florida, were the leading force behind a 2012 effort to introduce mandatory paid sick leave in Orange County.
At the time the constitutional amendment was filed with the state, Organize Now was advertising for a statewide campaign manager and a Central Florida field director, but it appears CPD has now taken on the task — a possible sign that things are amiss at Organize Now, which saw a key lieutenant walk away earlier this year.
The clock is ticking as they must obtain 683,149 signatures by February 1, 2016.
More background on CPD shows that the group was strengthened as a result of a successful merger with the Washington-based Leadership Center for the Common Good on January 1, 2014.
According to Discover the Network, a leading backer of that merger was AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka — AFL-CIO is identified by CPD as a “national core partner.”
“The new, expanded Center for Popular Democracy is a vitally important addition to the social justice landscape … aggressively innovating and replicating public policies that expand rights and opportunities for workers, for immigrants, and for people of color,” Trumpka said at the time.
If the name Leadership Center for the Common Good (LCCG) sounds familiar, it should.
LCCG dumped almost $100,000 into Organize Now’s coffers in support of the Orange County paid sick leave initiative, and $47,500 more in support of the failed 2014 Democrat-led effort to make Orange County commissioner races partisan — the Democrats have a lead of about 100,000 registered voters in the county.
But why the interest from Washington and New York in Florida matters?
The most obvious connection is Brian Kettenring, the former head of ACORN Florida. He was the executive director of LCCG, and is currently the co-executive director with CPD.
But the broader answer is organized labor, which funds the never-ending litany of proxy groups in the shell game set up to push a pro-labor agenda — many of which tie back to now-defuct ACORN. The truth is ACORN never went away, they simply re-branded.
In the end, Florida voters need to know that formidable outside forces continue to converge on our state, looking to push a self-serving agenda that threatens to undermine the state’s economy. As was evident in Orange County, not only will the media not inform residents of who is behind the statewide paid sick leave initiative, some will offer subtle support.
Will Floridians be of the number of those who, having eyes, see not?