Joshua Collins

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Joshua Lee Collins is an Olympia Washington activist.

DSA endorsement

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Olympia Democratic Socialists of America August 22 2019.

Olympia DSA is proud to endorse Joshua Collins for Congress in 2020, because we need democratic socialism, a Green New Deal, and Medicare for All, not more of Denny Heck's do-nothing, status-quo-or-death, watch-the-world-burn corporate-funded centrism.

Running for Congress

Joshua Collins, 25, is making a long-shot bid to unseat Rep. Denny Heck (D-Wash.), betting a left-wing platform can make him the youngest member of Congress.

Collins is one of 3.7 million heavy-duty truck drivers in the United States who work dangerous jobs and suffer disproportionate health problems, and yet are often underinsured. At the same time, they are driving vehicles that churn out climate-changing emissions, and their bosses are investing in technology that would seek to do away with human drivers altogether. At 25, Collins saw the intersection of those trends as a direct threat to his future.

That’s what led him to launch a long-shot primary challenge against Rep. Denny Heck (D-Wash.) in the Evergreen State’s 10th Congressional District, which stretches in a U-shape along the shoreline from Shelton through Olympia to Tacoma. Heck, a three-term incumbent, is a loyal Democrat who dependably votes with his party. His votes in favor of LGBTQ and reproductive rights earned him 100% scores from the Human Rights Campaign and Planned Parenthood. He boasts a 94% ranking from the League of Conservation Voters.

“I watched the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez campaign, and what she did was impressive,” Collins told HuffPost. “I was hopeful maybe someday I could do that.”

As it was for the freshman congresswoman from the Bronx, it’s a long-shot bid. The primary is a little less than a year away. In the 2018 election, Heck amassed a $1.6 million war chest and trounced Tamborine Borrelli, a progressive who ran against him as an independent in the primary, and easily beat his Republican opponent, Joseph Brumbles, in the general election. Heck, 66, served in Washington’s House of Representatives from 1976 to 1986 and has enjoyed the name recognition that comes from decades in public office.

Collins, by contrast, would be the youngest member of Congress, four years Ocasio-Cortez’s junior. He’s rejecting all donations from corporations and lobbyists. So far, he’s raised nearly $7,000 from small donors since officially launching his campaign a few weeks ago. [1]

Background

Collins grew up poor, first in Kansas with his father, whom he described as abusive. Around the time he became a teenager, Collins’ mother gained custody of him, and he moved to Las Vegas to live with her. Money was tight, but his mom, a nurse, worked enough hours by 2008 to afford some creature comforts.

His working-class bona fides could have appeal, said Jeff Hauser, a veteran Democratic operative.

The financial crisis hit Collins’ family hard, his mother lost their house in 2009 and the family moved across town.

“We had one good year before the housing market took a dive,” he said. “I had new clothes for the first time.”

He worked a part-time job for minimum wage while going to high school. Around the same time, he started interning for Democratic state Sen. Steven Horsford, during which he was tasked with organizing students to protest a Republican bill that would divert funding from public education to private prisons. They rallied 1,100 students and got kind words from legislators, but the bill passed anyway.

“A lot of politicians can’t be pushed,” he said. “They’re going to vote with their donors no matter what the constituents say.”

The experiences were formative. But it was what happened a few years later that cemented his left-wing views. After high school, he started taking computer science classes and working part time at a glass product factory in Las Vegas. The work paid above minimum wage and offered flexible hours, allowing him to continue with school.

Then a family emergency struck. About four years ago, Collins’ grandmother in Virginia fell ill, and the family planned to fly across the country to say goodbye. Airline prices soared before Collins could find a ticket he could afford, so he opted instead to drive the 34 hours east. Halfway through the journey, he said he got a call from his boss, saying that the previously approved time off would no longer work. He had to be back before his next shift or he’d lose his job. He turned around, but before he made it back, Collins said, his boss called and fired him. His grandmother died two days later.

“There was no real explanation, no recourse, nothing for me to do about it,” he said. “So I spent all the money I had on gas to go there, and now I also didn’t have a job.”

He couldn’t find anything that paid above minimum wage, and his bills were piling up. The trucking industry became what he called “the last refuge” for workers without college degrees whose employers had outsourced jobs overseas as international trade liberalized in the 1990s. It remains one of the most popular jobs in the country, with demand so high lobbyists for the freight industry earlier this year lobbied Congress to lower the driving age. At 21, Collins made the cut. So he dropped out of college to get a commercial driver’s license.

It’s been his job ever since, and now owns his own truck and manages an independent freight business with his wife, Zelzah Collins. But with the threat of self-driving trucks looming, he fears that security, too, is tenuous, and that the social effects of automation could prove more devastating than the job losses that came from offshoring.[2]

Green New Appeal

The proposal, which Ocasio-Cortez is spearheading in the House, is the centerpiece of Collins’ platform. It calls for a near-complete shift to renewable electricity over the next decade, a national industrial plan to bolster clean energy and transportation, and guaranteed health care and high-wage jobs to all Americans whose careers are sidetracked by that transition.

The movement for the Green New Deal has obvious appeal for truckers, Collins said.

“We’re prioritizing the wrong things around the trucking industry,” Collins said. “Our biggest priority shouldn’t be replacing the workers driving the trucks or unloading the trucks. The biggest priority should be getting diesel trucks off the road and getting clean trucks on the road.”

A Green New Deal resolution Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) introduced in February, which called for federal incentives to boost electric vehicle manufacturing, could help. But should the policy become law, it would need to include funding for zero-interest federal loans to buy hydrogen-powered trucks for long hauls and battery-electric vehicles for short hauls, Collins said, to truly reinvent an industry that relies so much on independent truckers. It should also support national infrastructure for those vehicles, such as charging stations.

Trucking became a refuge for workers without college degrees after the big outsourcing wave of the 1990s. The Green New Deal resolution’s inclusion of a job guarantee and single-payer health care drew scorn from some Democrats and climate activists who said the proposal should narrow its focus to reducing planet-warming emissions. But Collins said those provisions are key to making the plan truly revolutionary. He likes the idea of a Medicare for All policy, for example, because navigating the complex rules of health insurance is difficult for drivers who spend weeks on the road.

“Democrats have made fools of themselves and even been parodied on ‘Saturday Night Live’ for opposing the Green New Deal,” said Julian Brave NoiseCat, director of Green New Deal strategies at Data for Progress (and a HuffPost contributor). “The momentum is really incredible. At this point, it’s get on the train or we’re going to leave you behind at the station.”

“There are the long-term trends that sometimes we look up and notice,” said Amy Snover, a climate scientist and director at the Climate Impacts Group who’s lived in the region her entire life. “But the big wake-up calls are when there are these events that are really noticeable and out of the ordinary. Unfortunately, they won’t be out of the ordinary for long.”

It’s that reality that weighs on Collins as he wades into politics. But he said he and Zelzah would like to have kids someday, and he sees dethroning political representatives who don’t support radical action to curb climate change as the only hope those children will have to inherit a world recognizable to today’s inhabitants.

“I’m not just running for office; I’m attacking an empire,” Collins said. “But I think at this point we don’t have a choice. Climate change is an imminent threat.”[3]

MLK Day Parade: DSA and Georgia for Bernie Contingent

Atlanta Monday 18 January 2016, MLK Day Parade: "DSA and Georgia for Bernie Contingent" organized by Metro Atlanta Democratic Socialists of America

Those indicating intention to attend on Wherevent included Kelly Rhyne, Scott Darce, Angela Noel, Julian Harden, Julius John Hayden III, Erica Darragh, Mazlum Koșma, Kylee Reed Fulton, Dougie Hanson, Nick Langley, Daniel Hanley, Lamarcus Davis, Josh Thurmond, Barbara Segal, Melissa O'Shields, Adam Leonard, Adam Cardo, Steve Wise, Mandie Turner Mitchell, Asher Emmanuel, Tim Franzen, Joshua Collins, Jamie Mize, Rebekah Joy, Josh Martin, Steve Gill, Michelle Jones, Shelley Elise Berlin, Caroline Mask, Adriana Barros-Woodward, Debra Poss, Glenda Arrington Poindexter, Denise Woodall, Peggy Stentz Casey, Arletta Faheemah Saafir, Barbara Joye, Beth Ensign.[4]

Public Facebook group

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Members of the Olympia Democratic Socialists of America public Facebook group, as of July 18, 2019 included Joshua Collins;[5]

DSA member

Joshua Collins is a member of Democratic Socialists of America.[6].

References