Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Write a “Letter to the Editor” and turn it into action.

Write a “Letter to the Editor.”
By: Alan L. Maki
A “Letter to the Editor” can be the catalyst for starting a movement, contributing to building a movement or shaping a movement.
A Letter to the Editor is your opportunity to bring a working class perspective to discussion, dialog and debate which may not otherwise reach the “public square.”
Working people can initiate movements and have a greater say in existing movements.

If you can make a FaceBook post or comment you can write a "Letter to the Editor."

Here is what we often do:

1. Write a Letter to the Editor;

2. Send the Letter to the Editor to politicians;

3. Turn the Letter to the Editor into Precinct Caucus resolutions, resolutions for different organizations;

4. Turn the Letter to the Editor into a petition or statement for others to sign;

5. Turn the Letter to the Editor (often two or three letters on the same topic but from slightly different perspectives) into leaflets;

6. Use all the above for tabling with banners;

7. Use the Letters to the Editor as a call to meetings, pickets and demonstrations.

8. Use the Letter to the Editor as an outline for talks, speeches, forums and debates.

9. Use the Letter to the Editor as a platform to run for public office.

10. Always conscious of trying to build a movement.

The thing is to be persistent and never give up until you get what you are after or unless you lose... if you lose, then try to merge your work with another ongoing struggle so all is not lost.

"Kitchen table" issues require working people coming together around the kitchen table creating organizations which become part of larger movements. Try to fill all four chairs around the kitchen table.

Obviously there are fairly well organized movements for peace, a living wage, health care reform we can all plug into.

Other issues are out there that movements need to be built around from the ground up.

I guess we have to think in terms of every person a "citizen lobbyist" but it sure would help if we had a massive "People's Lobby" we could all plug into that was serving notice on politicians that we intend to build a political party that would be part of our movements challenging Wall Street for political and economic power so we could finally get the kind of country we can all be proud to live in.

In my opinion, and what I have found, is that when you are willing to write down your views and sign your name for the public to consider, you immediately gain credibility.

Try writing a Letter to the Editor and experiment with the above suggestions.

Example of a Letter to the Editor that has helped to influence a movement and served as a catalyst to spark a movement:

Where is the real minimum wage?

Published 9:00am Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Albert Lea Tribune


Holiday shoppers and voters should beware of the bait and switch.

Bait and switch is an illegal advertising gimmick in the retail world; but, in politics bait and switch has become the way of life, the new normal.

For example: Obama campaigned for the Democratic Party’s nomination telling everyone, everywhere he went, he was for a single-payer universal health care system like they have in Canada; this was the bait.

Once elected, Obama pulled a switch and delivered Obamacare/Romneycare or as it should be known, the Health Insurance and Pharmaceutical Industry Bailout and Profit Maximization Act of 2010.

Another example: Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor Party Gov. Mark Dayton campaigned for office saying he would raise the minimum wage to a real living wage — this was the bait. Once elected, Dayton, a multibillionaire, is now pushing a miserly increase in the minimum wage which would keep the minimum wage a poverty wage — the switch.

Buyer (voter) beware of bait and switch.

The Minnesota DFL Party has a super-majority. Republicans have no say about anything; all they can do is cry.

We should at least be able to get a real living minimum wage out of these Democrats corresponding to actual cost-of-living factors as tracked and monitored by the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics — the minimum wage should also be indexed to inflation with periodic increases to improve the living standards of working people.

Working people are entitled to this in return for their votes, especially from a political party which makes the claim that it is for labor.

If there are any obstacles the Democrats are encountering that would prevent them from implementing a real living — non-poverty — minimum wage, I would like to hear what the impediment is.

Alan L. Maki
director of organizing
Midwest Casino Workers Organizing Council
WarroadThe above Letter to the Editor led to this Open Letter to the Governor of Minnesota being drafted with the participation and agreement by many people. It is now being circulated:

January 2014
An Open Letter . . .
TO:  Governor Mark Dayton and the Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor Party Legislative Caucus.
FROM:  Your Constituents

Enough!  We are not waiting any longer!

As DFL candidates, you campaigned on a promise to enact legislation that provides low-wage workers a realliving wage — not just a “minimum” wage.

Your campaign language explicitly called for “workers being entitled to living wages!”  It promised a Living Wage Act, but no progress was made in your first super-majority session.

All it would take, you said, was for Minnesotans to give the DFL a super-majority. Well, we voters delivered it to you!  You have it! But now, instead of advancing Living Wage legislation, the DFL is floating another “minimum wage” bill that will just perpetuate poverty wages for many Minnesota workers!

For years, the DFL leadership has claimed Republicans were the lone obstacle to establishing a Living Wage in our state. That obstacle has been removed. You are now in the driver’s seat!

We, the workers of Minnesota, gave you the legislative votes to enact the Living Wage legislation you promised us.

We expect you now to do so.  You could call it “The Minnesota Living Wage Act of 2014.”

Most importantly, we need to begin with a realistic dollar amount. Living Wages need to be calculated based on realistic levels of cost-of-living. U.S. Census data suggests at least $15 per hour; while, based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), hourly wages of $22 and $26 at 40 hrs/week are needed to cover basic necessities. When making decisions on determining basic needs for a dignified life, the testimony from low-income Minnesotans should also be taken into consideration.

 A Living Wage must also be subject to regular cost-of-living adjustments. The Consumer Price Index is our best indicator, and it should be used to adjust a new Minnesota Living Wage level quarterly or at least semi-annually.

If you should fail to enact such legislation, we will assume that you were just baiting us with nice-sounding campaign rhetoric, and that you are pulling a switch on us by simply advancing more employer-friendly “minimum wage” legislation, that does nothing to alleviate the hardships of Minnesota’s working poor.

Perhaps you think any increase is better than nothing.  We don’t!

Minnesota has long been considered a progressive bellwether.  Do something significant now for her working men and women. It is what everybody morally deserves  —  the prospect of a dignified life.

Be courageous. Lead our state — and our nation — in securing the right of every worker to earn a decent living. 

It can begin with the Minnesota Living Wage Act of 2014.

You can make it happen!

Your fellow Minnesotans 
(as the undersigned, with our signatures attached herein)

Suggestions for writing Letters to the Editor

Write A Letter To The Editor--- a very effective way to influence public opinion.

Letters to the Editor are an effective way of speaking to a large group of people, and often getting the attention of elected officials; but, most important is that elected public officials understand that through a Letter to the Editor you are speaking directly to your friends, neighbors and fellow workers in the proverbial public square and these politicians will understand that their own positions are being publicly challenged and people are beginning to “think outside the box” which often leads to movement building.

First, you should pick an issue that you feel strongly about and you are familiar with; citing your own personal experiences with unemployment and poverty or with war makes for a very strong Letter to the Editor.

One important thing to remember is that newspapers like to publish letters that have a local tone; so your letter should address how the issue is pertinent to people in your area.

Also, it is best to always refer to an article that was published in the newspaper you are submitting your letter to. State that you are opposing or supporting the views in the article or editorial. Give the date and page of publication you are referencing.

If you need the address for your local paper, check out this site which has links to newspapers all over Minnesota: http://www.mnnews.com/ National: http://www.refdesk.com/paper.html

Remember to show your published Letter to the Editor to everyone you know; encourage them to write, too.
If you and a couple friends get Letters published you can photo-copy them and use it as a leaflet.

One effective way to use Letters to the Editor to build movements is to write a Letter and then get friends to follow up with Letters of their own on different aspects of the issue.

Remember to stick to the newspaper's guidelines as to limitation on words, etc. that the newspaper establishes.

* If your Letter doesn't get published, call the Editor and ask for the reason your letter wasn't published. Often the Editor will suggest “corrections” that you can make and then you can resubmit the Letter for publication consideration. Also, don't waste a Letter to the Editor; submit it to another paper if one doesn't publish it.

There are some important working class issues many Editors of corporate newspapers will not publish unless pressured to do so. If this happens then take the opportunity to publish your Letter as a leaflet with a big, bold headline like this: The Duluth News-Tribune refused to publish this--- why? What is happening to democracy in our community?

If you are working on an issue or problem, gather together a few people and have a Letter to the Editor writing party at your home, in a union hall, community center, library, church or park. Libraries are good places to have such a party because you have many resources available.

The Letter to the Editor also was used as a guide to creating this resolution that was passed by hundreds of Precinct Caucuses in both the Democratic Party and the Green Party:

Note: This Resolution is submitted for discussion, dialog, debate and action by the Midwest Casino Workers Organizing Council as our part in celebrating the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, 2013: http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/ Feel free to circulate.Resolution on the Minimum Wage (258 words)

Where as workers who are without jobs are going to be poor;

Where as workers paid poverty wages are going to be poor;

Where as a “living wage” is a non-poverty wage;

Where as hundreds of thousands of working class Minnesotans and their families are poor because of unemployment and poverty wages;

Where as the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights declares the right to a job with a real living wage to be the criteria for a decent standard-of-living as a human right;

Where as we can not call for a “living wage” and then legislate a poverty Minimum Wage;

Where as “cost-of-living” is the only way to establish what is a decentstandard-of-living” and what constitutes a “living wage;”

Therefore, be it resolved that the Minimum Wage should be a real living wage legislatively tied to all “cost-of-living” factors, empirical data, based on all cost-of-living factors as tracked by the United States Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics indexed to inflation and increased periodically to provide an improved standard-of-living;

Therefore, be it resolved we also support a Basic Income Guarantee;

Therefore, be it resolved that every Minnesotan is entitled to, by legislation, a decent standard of living from the Minimum Wage based on cost-of-living and is also entitled to a guaranteed annual income based on cost-of-living;

Therefore, be it resolved we support a “21st Century Full Employment Act for Peace and Prosperity.”

Therefore, be it resolved that this becomes the position of the (name of party/organization here).

Turn your thoughts from a “Letter to the Editor” into a banner (18” x 36”):

An example of some well-written Letters to the Editor which were published (Provided in memory of Gregory Paquin, Native American trade unionist, working class activist):


Monday, October 12, 2009


At election time all the politicians come looking for Native American votes and our money — dollars derived from Indian gaming revenues. The real story of what these politicians are doing for Indian people is told in the employment statistics of local county governments:Beltrami County:.. 16 native Anishinabe out of a workforce of between 385-400 employees

County ... six native Anishinabe out of a workforce of 300 employees

Countyone native Anishinabe out of a workforce of between 380-400 employees

County ... Unknown native Anishinabe out of a workforce of 195 employees

Wing County ... one native Anishinabe of a workforce of 489 employees

Our counties receive tremendous resources from the state and federal governments not to mention local tax revenues paid by Indian people, too.

How can anyone claim that affirmative action guidelines are being adhered to when we find this kind of racism in hiring practices at the county level of government?

Is there any wonder unemployment on Indian reservations is over 50 percent and poverty is all pervasive?

Is there any doubt that the disgraceful and deplorable conditions of poverty among native Americans is not the result of an official government policy of institutionalized racism permeating the highest to lowest levels of government?

How can we expect that affirmative action in hiring policies will be enforced on all these huge construction jobs now receiving billions of dollars in “stimulus funds” if no one has monitored and enforced affirmative action guidelines at the county government level where employment practices are easiest to control?

Obviously, this situation results because we have not one single native American sitting in the Minnesota state Legislature demanding accountability from any level of government and none of those making the claims they are looking out for our rights are doing anything.

Fewer than 30 native Americans are employed out of over 1,500 workers employed in the five county governments comprising Senate District 4; how does the present senator explain this?

This situation is a disgrace; just like the poverty which institutionalized racism in hiring practices breeds.

Gregory W. Paquin



Letter to the Editor

Bemidji Pioneer
Published August 05 2009
Racism starts with issue of poverty at the center
I wish to respond to the article, “ACLU-MN Greater Minnesota Racial Justice Project: Community dialogue focuses on solutions, “Bemidji Pioneer (July 24).
I wish to respond to the article, “ACLU-MN Greater Minnesota Racial Justice Project: Community dialogue focuses on solutions, “Bemidji Pioneer (July 24).
Racial justice goes well beyond the issue of police/criminal justice system and community/race relations and I don’t think the article begins to cite “solutions” to our problems as native Americans.
Overwhelming poverty is at the center of each and every issue plaguing Indian reservations and native American communities which have unemployment rates rapidly exceeding 50 percent.
There is no doubt problems of racism do arise between the police and native Americans because we have serious problems of racism in our society. However, in order to get to the root cause of these racial problems we need to tackle the employment question as the primary issue and not allow this police/community issue to be used as a cover for not coming to grips with the fact that the poverty associated with this horrendous unemployment is responsible for bringing native Americans into contact with the police departments and the criminal justice system in the first place.
People tried to tell Mr. Ken Bergeron, the acting director of the U.S. Department of Justice who maintains that President Barack Obama is his boss, that poverty was the main issue needing to be addressed; yet, Mr. Bergeron, like politicians, refused to listen or respond — instead, he kept focusing and steering the discussion with a focus on racism in police/community relations which causes me to ask this very fundamental question:
Why hasn’t Mr. Bergeron directed federal law enforcement officials to prosecute those in law enforcement and the criminal justice system for violating the civil rights of native Americans?
Mr. Bergeron could begin delving into the lack of accountability in affirmative action starting with the Bemidji Regional Event Center.
How can there possibly be this huge discrepancy in unemployment between the rest of the population and the native American population if affirmative action programs are being enforced?
When it comes to native Americans, affirmative action guidelines are not being enforced because we have no representation in the Minnesota state Legislature or among the Minnesota congressional delegation; this is racism.
Poverty is easy to solve: Put people to work at decent jobs paying real living wages.
Pay people poverty wages like in casinos and keep people unemployed you get poverty and the crime that goes with it and problems with the police.
Gregory W. Paquin

This was rejected by the Editor as a Letter to the Editor because of its length but the Editor then agreed to publish it as an Op-Ed piece:


Grand Forks Herald
Published August 02 2009

VIEWPOINT: High jobless rate afflicts reservations
A recent story claimed Minnesota is ranked high in terms of children’s well-being (“North Dakota, Minnesota rank in Top 10 in children’s well-being,” Page B1, Tuesday).
By: Gregory Paquin, Bemidji

BEMIDJI — A recent story claimed Minnesota is ranked high in terms of children’s well-being (“North Dakota, Minnesota rank in Top 10 in children’s well-being,” Page B1, Tuesday).

But the story certainly isn’t talking about American Indian children. Poverty, overwhelming poverty, is robbing Indian children of their childhood and a decent future.

At the center of each and every issue plaguing Indian reservations and American Indian communities are unemployment rates rapidly exceeding 50 percent.

In order to get to the root of these problems, we need to tackle this employment question.

How can there possibly be such a huge discrepancy in unemployment between the rest of the population and American Indians if affirmative action programs are being enforced? We must conclude that when it comes to American Indians, affirmative action guidelines are not being enforced. This is the real injustice we must come to grips with if we want to get a handle on the other problems.

We need elected officials who will see to it that affirmative action laws are enforced, and we need to provide young people with lifelong skills for jobs that pay real living wages

In my opinion, the reason Indians are suffering unemployment rates far beyond the general population in Minnesota are that Indians do not have elected representatives advocating for them.

Not one American Indian sits among the more than 200 Minnesota state legislators, nor are there any among Minnesota’s congressional delegation.

Institutionalized racism runs so deep through the fabric of our society that no one questions these situations. But when there is a glaring discrepancy of 50 percent American Indian unemployment while the rest of the population is suffering a 10 percent unemployment rate, there is a problem of racial injustice at work here, and this problem affects every Indian family—- with children suffering the worst.

I have done my own surveys among American Indians as to the problems and what we need to do. Here are a few of my findings:

- Poverty and unemployment: People want decent, real living-wage jobs.

- Hunger and nutrition; Poor people can’t afford to eat, let alone to eat properly.

- Housing: The current affordable housing stock is overcrowded and of poor quality.

- Health care: There is a lack of access to health care in an underfunded Indian Health Service.

- Education: Indian communities lack quality public schools.

How can children have decent lives when they are living in poverty?

Because of poverty and unemployment, racial conflicts and racial injustices involving law enforcement and the criminal justice system become big problems as well. Is it a coincidence that the American Indian incarceration rate in prison populations often is the same as our unemployment rate — 50 percent?

I don’t think so. If we can give people decent living-wage jobs through strict enforcement of affirmative action in hiring, we will be well on our way to solving our police and community relations problems.

There is something terribly wrong when public officials will come to American Indians for our votes and the money generated through gambling revenues but then ignore the horrendous poverty and unemployment in our community.

Paquin is a DFL candidate for Minnesota Senate from District 4.

Tags: op-ed columns, american indians, opinion, viewpoint, unemployment, reservations, poverty

Gregory W. Paquin

Candidate for Minnesota Senate
District: 4

1511 Roosevelt Road SE.
Bemidji, Minnesota , 56601

check out my blog:http://nativeamericanindianlaborunion12.blogspot.com

Greg Paquin displayed his “Letters to the Editor” at various meetings and community functions...

A good writing guide: “Elements of Style” by W. Strunk & E. B. White; free on-line: http://faculty.washington.edu/heagerty/Courses/b572/public/StrunkWhite.pdf

I have found the book, “The Writings of Frank Marshall Davis, A Voice of the Black Press” by Frank Marshall Davis to be an excellent guide for writing Letters to the Editor and Opinion (Op-Ed) pieces.

Writing guides are very easy to come by cheaply at yard sales. Offer a quarter and you usually get the book.

I have found one of the very best places to pass out copies of Letters to the Editor which have been turned into leaflets is at yard sales.

Don't forget to post your Letter to the Editor to your blog or Web Site and e-mail it to all your friends.

Have a Letter to the Editor writing party in your home, in a union hall, community center or church basement... at the beach or have a picnic in a park.

Keep with you a notebook, digital tape-recorder and camera.

Write notes, notes, notes about everything; every place you go.

It is important thoughts and ideas articulated in Letters to the Editor get turned into activity and action:

Nolan and Ellison join local push for higher Minnesota minimum wage

  • Article by: BAIRD HELGESON , Star Tribune
  • October 14, 2013
  • Link: http://www.startribune.com/politics/227749801.html
Congressmen Nolan and Ellison said at a discussion in Minneapolis that they support raising the state’s base pay rate to $9.50 by 2015.

Low-income advocates pressing for a higher minimum wage told two Minnesota congressmen Monday that they are falling farther behind on their bills and that the American dream is increasingly out of reach.

I have paid my taxes and gone to college, yet here I am making $7.25 an hour,” said Darcy Landau, an airport worker. “I owe $80,000 in student loans, and am between a rock and a hard place.”

Advocates are intensifying pressure on Minnesota legislators to raise the state’s minimum wage to $9.50 an hour by 2015, up from a $6.15 base hourly wage for large employers. The fight to raise the minimum wage stands to be one of the most high-profile issues of the upcoming legislative session.

DFLers control the Legislature, and most agree that the state’s base wage should be higher, but they can’t agree how high.

Many rural DFLers don’t want to raise it so high that it hurts businesses in border communities, where rival businesses in neighboring states could gain a price advantage from paying lower wages.

Many Republicans and business groups have fought hard against raising the wage, saying companies will have to operate with fewer workers at the higher wage.

U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan, a DFLer who represents northern Minnesota’s Eighth Congressional District, said the nation’s economy is evolving rapidly in a way that hurts workers at the bottom end of the wage scale.

The rich are getting rich, the poor are getting poorer and the middle class are getting crushed,” Nolan told the crowd at a community center in south Minneapolis. “It is the tax policy, the allocation of money in the budget and of course it is the minimum wage. That is the best place to start.”

At $6.15 per hour, Minnesota has one of the nation’s lowest minimum wages. Most Minnesota employers are required to meet the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. About 93,000 Minnesotans earn at or below the federal minimum wage.

Enrique Barcenas, a contract cleaner at a local retailer, said he and others have approached management about raises. While managers remain sympathetic, he said, wages have remained the same.

With a wage of $8, it is impossible to survive,” Barcenas said. “Words don’t mean much to us because words don’t put food on the table.”

Nolan and U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, a DFLer who represents Minnesota’s Fifth Congressional District, support raising the federal minimum wage to $10.50 an hour.

You have got to be able to feed your family working one job,” Ellison said. “It’s a matter of political will and the decisions we have made that allowed us to drift away from the American dream.”

Ellison urged attendees to contact their state legislators and press for a higher wage. He said the GOP plan of lowering government spending and driving down wages “doesn’t work. It failed.”

Liane Gale, a Green Party activist, criticized Nolan and Ellison for not pressing for an even higher wage, something closer to what many consider a living wage.

Nine-fifty will not lift anybody out of poverty,” Gale said. “Nine-fifty is not addressing the dignity of any worker here in Minnesota.”

Ellison told the audience that people can debate what the minimum wage should be, “but can we all agree and can we all convince our neighbors to agree the minimum wage needs to go up?”

Gale was not convinced, interrupting: “This is a one-shot opportunity.”

Baird Helgeson • 651-925-5044

Each of us is like one little snowflake; we don't amount to much... but watch out for a Minnesota blizzard!

Provided courtesy of:

Alan L. Maki and The Podunk Blog:


A blog for working class activists.

Alan L. Maki, publisher

58891 County Road 13
Warroad, Minnesota 56763

Phone: 218-386-2432 Cell Phone: 651-587-5541 E-mail: amaki000@centurytel.net