Posted on March 7, 2017
CREDO Co-founder Laura Scher: Speak, Act and Resist Together
The progressive movement faces a Republican administration determined to unravel more than a half century of social progress. With the stakes so high, we felt International Women’s Day was the right time to catch back up with Laura Scher, co-founder of CREDO.
When Laura launched CREDO/Working Assets in 1985, the for-profit model of social change didn’t exist. She and her co-founders pioneered it. Since then, CREDO has donated more than $83 million to progressive nonprofits, many of which are leading the fight against Trump’s hateful agenda. We dove into the impact of his agenda on women’s rights first.
1. Laura, talk to us about the state of women’s rights. What are the most pressing risks and opportunities?
Let me give you the good news first. Women’s rights, by and large, are at an all-time high. Birth control wasn’t fully legalized at the federal level until 1972. Take a moment to celebrate how far we’ve come since then.
Now here’s the bad news: We still don’t have full equality, and women’s rights are under assault at the federal level and in states across the country.
Reproductive freedom is not currently available to every person in the United States. Your race, your socio-economic status, your gender identity and where you live all impact whether you can access affordable and safe abortions and other reproductive health care. That’s a travesty. A clear majority of Americans – not just women – believe in comprehensive sex education, free or inexpensive contraception and the right to abortion. Still, a woman in suburban Chicago is going to have better access to those things than a woman in rural Texas.
We can fight back effectively under one condition: The progressive community must speak together and support our own. Partnerships and coalition building are everything right now. The minute we become divided, we lose our power.
2. What do you see as CREDO’s role today in the progressive movement?
CREDO has to fight not only for women’s issues, but for all progressive issues. CREDO is and will continue to be the place that makes it easy to speak out and take action on pressing social and political issues. By cultivating a large community, we are pooling voices and effecting change.
Whether we’re on defense or offense, the most important word for progressives is “partnership.” The second most important word is “patience.” Change is slow, especially when Republicans control the White House and Congress. We must do everything we can to protect the people Trump threatens, delegitimize his authority and his hateful agenda, and obstruct his efforts to undermine our values and democracy. We must also resist extremist Republicans who are attempting to shred the social safety net, eviscerate environmental protections and weaken civil rights and civil liberties. And particularly at the state and local levels, we need to support proactive policies that counter Trump’s dangerous agenda.
3. What are activists doing well, and what could they be doing better?
Activists are working well together. At CREDO, our petition to block Betsy DeVos from becoming secretary of education got nearly 1.5 million signatures and helped bring the vote to a tie. We worked with key allies in the labor and progressive movement to resist Andy Puzder’s nomination for secretary of labor and forced the White House to retract it. In Congress, we helped block Republican plans to dismantle the Office of Congressional Ethics.
We need to do better in Republican territory. If you live in a Republican district or have a Republican senator, go sit in their offices. Seriously. Grab 10 friends, pick one hour a week to sit there and make your stance known. They need to see that constituents disagree with what they’re doing. Lay on the pressure, especially where Republicans won elections by small margins.
Remember, too, that lawmakers who aren’t running for re-election are more likely to vote their conscience if we give them a nudge. I don’t think anyone in Congress fully supports the Trump agenda, and we might find unexpected allies.
4. What are some of the nonprofits leading the fight to protect women’s right? How is CREDO supporting them?
Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America are among the key organizations leading the fight to protect abortion rights and reproductive health care. That’s why we are Planned Parenthood’s largest corporate donor and recently supported both groups through our CREDO Donations program. I thought it was fitting that we mailed our most recent check to Planned Parenthood for more than $76,000 on Inauguration Day.
We also funded the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health in 2016. NLIRH builds power among Latinas to not only fight for reproductive justice but for the rights of immigrant women and their families. The Women’s March on Washington group has also established an inclusive coalition. We are thrilled to see how much recognition and support they have received and how they continue to organize both at the local and national level.
CREDO Donations gives more than $150,000 to three nonprofits every month. We select them on a monthly basis so we can provide funding when action is most critical. In fact, CREDO has donated almost $10 million to women’s groups since 1985. That funding comes exclusively from the sale of CREDO products and services. Our members make it all possible.
5. There’s a tendency to think that recent events are unprecedented and feel more fearful as a result. What, if anything, do you think is different under Trump?
What’s different today? Our advantages. We have Roe v. Wade. We have the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. We have many other court cases and pieces of legislation that have reaffirmed equality and rights for women and all Americans. We also have a strong judicial system, which took action on the Muslim ban.
Equally important, we have a citizen community that cares and is inspired to take action. Remember, nearly 75 million people – the majority of voters – were against Trump. He doesn’t realize how flimsy his authority is, and that’s his Achilles’ heel.
6. What else can progressives do to keep up the momentum?
Start by voting with your dollars. We have power in how we spend our money, which is why I helped co-found CREDO. Give your business to companies that reflect your social values and avoid companies that don’t. That’s it. A lot of people are already doing this.
Remember, you don’t need anyone’s permission to take action. The protests in airports against Trump’s Muslim ban were spontaneous.
If you want to do something with CREDO, we can make it easy. The beauty is that you don’t have to do anything differently. You switch service, spend the same money, keep your number and automatically raise money for progressive nonprofits and social action.
If you want something more challenging, we can help you do that too. CREDO is a catalyst for social change and a resource for anyone who wants to take action.
7. In this environment, what will “success” look like for the progressive movement?
Success is holding our ground, building coalitions and preventing the worst of the Trump agenda. In the short term, “success” is progressive nonprofits working together to grow their support bases and activism networks. Success is people protesting, marching, taking action and never giving the opposition a break.
Long term, we need a progressive majority in the House and Senate. While the Republicans will have the upper hand in both chambers of Congress, the Democrats will need to remember that they are still the party that represents the majority of the Americans who rejected Trump’s hateful agenda by almost 3 million votes.
If the Democrats lead as an opposition party and not a “minority” party, there will be opportunities to hold firm and aggressively push back against the right wing’s legislative assault at the federal level. Moreover, there will also be opportunities for progressives to go on the offensive in states where Democrats still hold a majority.
As we wrapped up our conversation on International Women’s Day, Laura encouraged us to recognize the victories we’ve won and reaffirm our commitment to preserve all the progress we’ve made. We applaud the work of the Women’s March on Washington and the International Women’s Strike planned for today. You can join us in showing your support for the strike by signing our petition here too. Our movement relies on the strength of our activists, and we appreciate all that they do for women and the broader progressive movement.