Dotty Nygard is a California labor activist.
On the final day of the People’s Summit in Chicago June 11. 2017 the panel Electoral Politics: Beyond Neo-Liberalism and Trumpism brought together progressive elected officials and candidates to discuss how people can “seize power in this country,” as the moderator, The Nation editor, John Nichols, put it.
Long Island elementary school teacher, New York State United Teachers member, and state assembly member-elect Christine Pellegrino was on the panel as well as Carlos Ramirez Rosa, a 25-year-old activist with the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. Rosa serves on Chicago’s City Council.
The panel also included California congressional candidate Dotty Nygard, a nurse who brought National Nurses United into her hospital; the anti-war California Rep. Ro Khanna; and the former president of the NAACP, Benjamin Jealous, who is running for governor of Maryland.
A Bernie Sanders delegate at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, Pellegrino won Long Island’s 9th Assembly District, which, as Nichols reminded the audience, had “voted by 23 points for Donald Trump and that had never in modern times elected a Democrat.”
On the Saturday afternoon panel Beyond Betsy: Organizing for Education Justice, Pellegrino said seeing her two daughters overworked by the corporate testing model was “really the impetus for why I ran,” promising to advocate for kids, teachers, and labor “in a way that has never really happened before.” Issues of privatization, retaliation against teachers who speak out, a looming teacher shortage in New York, and a drive toward automating the teaching profession, all driven by “billionaires that have their hand in our education funding,” are also problems Pellegrino seeks to combat.
Carlos Ramirez Rosa “was just a 24-year-old community organizer,” a queer Latinx and “the son of working-class immigrants,” when he was encouraged to run by fellow activists. Reclaim Chicago, a group of working people volunteering for his campaign, were instrumental in his election.
“I am fighting to make Chicago a truly sanctuary city, that no one is being deported by our police,” Ramirez Rosa said. “I’m only going to accomplish that because of the power that undocumented Chicagoans are building.” Comparing the people to water –“We’re life,” he said – who struggle to break through the dam of capitalism that holds their power back, Ramirez Rosa said, “My job is to enter that system through the cracks, not to prop up the dam, but to report back to the drops of water.”
Once in office, Ramirez Rosa started United Neighbors of the 35th Ward, 109 people that keep the pressure on to end racist policing, to save our planet, to fight against austerity, to tax the rich, and to fight for affordable housing. “Going against mayor 1% (Democratic Mayor Rahm Emanuel) is scary,” he said “but I sleep good at night because I know that I got people behind me … and they’re organized to make sure that I never forget that.”
Nurse’s advocacy “does not stop at the bedside,” said National Nurses United rank-and-filer Dotty Nygard. “We advocate for so much more.” Nygard is an emergency room nurse at Sutter Health in Sacramento, Calif. She noted that nurses see how “social issues, environmental issues, economic issues” all impact patients. “Their health, their well being is influenced by all of these components that do bombard them,” said Nygard.
Nichols introduced Ro Khanna as the Democrat who said “if you’re not for single-payer you’re not a Democrat.” He also pointed out Ro Khanna was the first anti-Iraq War Democrat to defeat a pro-Iraq War incumbent.
“My grandfather had spent four years in jail during Gandhi’s independence movement in the 1940’s and I thought we needed a more just foreign policy,” said Ro Khanna, explaining his motivations to run for office. Ro Khanna has opposed not just the war in Iraq, but U.S. interventions in Libya, Syria, Yemen, “and to our policy of regime change in Ukraine.” He believes we need “a progressive foreign policy vision, not just because it’s the right thing for our country, but it’s the right thing for people around the world.”
Ro Khanna’s district is Pakistani-American, Indian-American, Chinese-American, Latino-American, and African-American, as well as white. “It’s beautiful,” he said. “That’s the future of America.”
Dotty Nygard was endorsed by Justice Democrats for 2018.