The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is holding its annual "States and Nation Policy Summit" in Washington, D.C., the week of Dec. 2. On Dec. 4, dozens of AFT members and staffers, along with other activists from community groups, civil and economic rights organizations, and other union groups, descended on the Grand Hyatt Hotel where the meetings are taking place. [WATCH VIDEO]
"It doesn't matter where they meet—here in Washington or any other city. When ALEC comes to town, we need to let them know that it is not OK for them to have private meetings with our legislators and corporations and write legislation that impacts our lives every day," Diallo Brooks, director of outreach and public engagement for the People for the American Way, told the crowd. "We're here to let them know—loud and clear—that democracy is still alive. We're paying attention, and we're going to call them out wherever they go."
ALEC brings together corporate leaders and state legislators who meet behind closed doors to draft model legislation that legislative members then seek to have adopted in their state capitals. Many of these bills call for the privatization of public schools and services, and are almost always anti-worker, anti-union and anti-environment.
Chanting "corporate greed has got to go" and "we want ALEC out of here," the protesters spread the message about ALEC to passersby while a small group of protesters made their way into the ALEC meeting. Once the group infiltrated the hotel, they asked many of the lawmakers in attendance to sign a pledge calling on them to represent the people, not the corporations of America—and affirming that they will conduct all legislative business "in the public light, honoring transparency and a commitment to full disclosure."
Former AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Arlene Holt Baker, who was among the march leaders who entered the ALEC meeting, said the goal is to continue to expose ALEC and the lawmakers who support them. "If they're ashamed to sign a pledge that represents democracy, then they should be ashamed to be a part of this organization," she says.
A recent Guardian expose on ALEC and its State Policy Network has drawn attention to the group's shady dealings. "These documents published by the Guardian uncover a deliberate, contrived, secretive effort to decimate the democratic and economic rights of hardworking Americans," AFT President Randi Weingarten says. "Powered by well-heeled donors, the State Policy Network's agenda seeks to further tip the scales against working families and the middle class—all in the service of maintaining the status quo of the austerity-laden, trickle-down economics we have today." [Adrienne Coles/AFT photos/video by Brett Sherman and Matthew Jones]