Organize Florida is an Orlando-based tax-exempt social welfare organization. It trains community activists and regularly organizes protests in the Central Florida and Tampa Bay areas to advance social, economic, and environmentally left-of-center agendas throughout the influential Tampa-Orlando “I-4 corridor.” It has satellite offices in Tampa and Kissimmee, and frequently coordinates activities with other Florida-based activist groups. Organize Florida was formerly known as Organize Now. The group is associated with the left-wing organizing network Center for Popular Democracy, which has been at the forefront of demonstrations against the Trump administration.
Organize Florida claims to be nonpartisan, but its activities and leadership are decidedly left-leaning. In early 2017, the group organized protests outside of Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-Florida) Orlando office, demonstrated at a Bank of America branch to demand the financial institution divest from a natural gas pipeline, and rallied with partner organizations at Walt Disney World to call for Disney CEO Bob Iger to resign from President Donald Trump’s business advisory council. which he later did. Organize Florida also cosponsored the Florida People’s Climate March, a series of 21 Florida-based marches coinciding with the larger People’s Climate March in Washington, D.C. Organize Florida organized protest marches in Tampa and Orlando, while partner groups Sierra Club and Peace, Justice, Sustainability Florida targeted the Trump Organization-owned Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach.
Past advocacy campaigns include “Fight for $15” minimum wage protests, lobbying Orange County officials to impose sick leave leave benefits for restaurant employees and other private sector workers, and “Que Vote Mi Gente,” a political effort aimed at “turning out the most Latinos ever in a national election.”
Organize Florida is one of 43 state partner organizations (across 30 states) of the Center for Popular Democracy. CPD is a national activist organization that partners with community organizing groups, organizing alliances, and progressive unions. In addition to Organize Florida, other Florida-based partner groups include Manufactured Housing Action, New Florida Majority, and the Organize Florida Education Fund.
CPD’s largest donor is activist billionaire George Soros. Its network also includes former chapters of the controversial and now-defunct Association of Community Organizations and Reform Now (ACORN). In May 2017, CPD unveiled an $80 million effort to challenge Trump administration policies, influence Democratic Party policy debates, and boost electoral candidates at the local, state, and federal levels while simultaneously mobilizing new voters. According to its 2015 tax filing, CPD reported $14.7 million in revenue.
Organize Florida lists a dozen different priority issues, including affordable housing, healthcare, civic engagement, electoral organizing, and Hispanic and Puerto Rican engagement. The organization is structured around three distinct committees: the Climate Justice Committee, the Racial Justice Committee, and the Reproductive Justice Committee.
Since 2015, Organize Florida has helped orchestrate Florida People’s Climate Movement day of action marches, and in September 2016 it hosted the Powershift Southeastern Convergence in Orlando. Powershift is an activist network that connects college and youth activists with trained community organizers. The three-day Powershift conference centered on mobilizing hundreds of young climate change activists from across the Southeast. Organize Florida held trainings and workshops with partner groups Central Florida Jobs with Justice, Florida Immigration Coalition, and the Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
The organization actively opposes the Sabal Trail pipeline — a $3.2 billion, 515-mile multi-state natural gas pipeline that crosses Central Florida. Pipeline proponents assert the it would deliver relatively cheap, clean, and safe energy to more than one million Florida homes. Organize Florida says the natural gas, which is derived from fracking, could contaminate drinking water and exacerbate climate change.
Organize Florida assisted progressive Latino groups in 2016, in mobilizing the Central Florida Puerto Rican community to vote in the November general election. The campaign was called “Qui Vote Mi Gente” (translated, “Vote, My People”) and the effort was aimed at turning out the most Latino votes ever. Florida is the nation’s largest presidential election swing state, and Puerto Rican-Americans are an increasingly key electoral demographic to winning the state. The voting bloc is expected to surpass Cuban Americans in Florida in 2020.
Organize Florida’s women’s rights platform includes a number of issues most prominently abortion and no-cost birth control, and extends to cover gun control, climate change, and illegal immigrant rights. The group’s related activities range from handing out flowers to women at the Orange County Department of Health along with literature condemning congressional attempts to repeal Obamacare, to holding “Awake the State” protests and events across Florida on the same day of the Florida Governor’s annual State of the State address. In 2016, Organize Florida’s Awake the State agenda included demands for increased access to abortions.
Organize Florida’s executive director and co-founder is Stephanie Porta. Porta is also the executive director of the Florida Institute for Reform and Empowerment (FIRE), also known as the Organize Florida Education Fund. The organization’s board chairs are Debbie Soto and Lacresha “Sista Queen” Thomas. It’s director of political operations is Tim Heberlin.
In June 2017, Organize Florida leadership participated in the Florida Democratic Party’s Leadership Blue gala. Former Vice President Joe Biden was the event’s keynote speaker. An Organize Florida representative sat on the event’s “Resistance Panel,” which was moderated by Black Lives Matter activist DeRay McKesson. Other panelists included Dominik Whitehead of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees government-worker labor union, Charo Valero of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, Maria Rodriguez of the Florida Immigrant Coalition, Carrie Feit of the Women’s March of Florida and Karla Hernandez Mats of United Teachers of Dade.