Non-profit

Progressive Secretary (ProgSec)

Website:

salsa.wiredforchange.com/o/5597/p/salsa/web/common/public/content?content_item_KEY=5136

Location:

Green Bay, WI

Formation:

1999

Type:

Letter Writing Cooperative

Founders:

Jim Harris and Pat Murphy

Executive Director:

Kathie Turner

Progressive Secretary (or ProgSec) is a liberal lobbying organization founded it 1999 that has called itself a “progressive letter writing cooperative.”[1] It regularly writes the letters and letter templates and allows people to put their names on them and send them to members of Congress and other public officials. [2]

In 2020, the organization has launched letter writing campaigns that include initiative to strengthen the Endangered Species Act, to support a stimulus plan authored by left-of-center U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), to backing the Voting Rights Advancement Act, to support the College Affordability Act, to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and to support the Prevent an Unconstitutional War with Iran Act. It has also pushed letters to the Department of Interior to oppose the selling of public land. [3] The organization routinely retweets left-wing political figures including Sen. Warren, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY). [4]

Activities

The organization works by emailing pre-written letters to left-progressive activists with a subject, the text of the letter, and the name of the lawmaker or lawmakers to whom the activists are to send the letters. The letter can then be signed as if the constituent were the writer. [5]

Letters are suggested by members of the cooperative, or volunteers that commit to consistently write letters, send to lawmakers. The cooperative members that sign up will continuously get a message soliciting their signatures. They can also suggest topics. [6]

Activists who sign up for the service can also suggest a topic for a letter to be written about then circulated to people to send to lawmakers who could have the most impact on a particular topic. The form asks for a topic and if related legislation has been drafted. [7]

The donation solicitation form includes a message from the late co-founder Jim Harris who at the time said 4,000 members of the cooperative were producing 200 or more letters per year and the program cost $15,350 to operate. [8]

History

Jim Harris, a Quaker peace activist, co-founded the organization for liberal activists. Harris has described himself as a “1960s activist.” [9] Harris had self-identified as a Quaker, a Jew, an atheist and a Marxist, according to the group Tecnica Volunteers. After earning a degree in electrical engineering at Columbia University, he became a computer consultant and software engineer. [10]

Harris was previously a member of the Sacramento Friends Meeting and the San Jose Meeting. He also volunteered with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in Mississippi during the civil rights movement. From there, he went on to work with Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers. [11]

During the 1980s and 1990s, he served as president of the Technical Training Center in San Jose, a trade school where students could earn associate degrees. [12]

Harris’ top focus for Progressive Secretary initially were left-wing economic policies, humane treatment for prisoners, environmentalism, left-wing pacifism, and civil rights. [13]

The other co-founder is Pat Murphy, who coordinated letters for the organization. Murphy volunteered for such groups as the American Friends Service Committee and the Florida Coalition for Peace and Justice. He retired as college professor in African Studies at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. Murphy was also a Quaker. [14]

Leadership

Kathie Turner began volunteering with the organization after working with Harris for several years on other matters. She began writing, editing letters and did administrative work as well. After Harris was diagnosed with cancer, he asked Turner to ensure Progressive Secretary survived, according to the organization’s website. [15] Turner has been the executive director of Progressive Secretary since November 2000. [16]

Turner incorporated Progressive Secretary as a nonprofit and appointed a board of directors to supervise the volunteers who drafted, proofread and fact checked letters that went out to members of Congress or the president, and conducted research. [17]

References

  1. “Progressive Letter Writing Cooperative.” Progressive Secretary. Accessed March 25, 2020. http://salsa.wiredforchange.com/o/5597/p/salsa/web/common/public/content?content_item_KEY=5136 ^
  2. About. Progressive Secretary. Facebook. Accessed March 25, 2020. https://www.facebook.com/pg/Progressive-Secretary-143206455699/about/?ref=page_internal ^
  3. @ProgSec. Progressive Secretary. Twitter. Accessed March 25, 2020. https://twitter.com/progsec ^
  4. @ProgSec. Progressive Secretary. Twitter. Accessed March 25, 2020. https://twitter.com/progsec ^
  5. “How it Works.” Progressive Secretary. Accessed March 25, 2020. http://salsa.wiredforchange.com/o/5597/p/salsa/web/common/public/content?content_item_KEY=5137 ^
  6. “Progressive Letter Writing Cooperative.” Progressive Secretary. Accessed March 25, 2020. http://salsa.wiredforchange.com/o/5597/p/salsa/web/common/public/content?content_item_KEY=5136 ^
  7. “Suggest a Letter.” Progressive Secretary. Accessed March 25, 2020. http://salsa.wiredforchange.com/o/5597/p/salsa/web/common/public/signup?signup_page_KEY=4437 ^
  8. “Make a Donation.” Progressive Secretary. Accessed March 25, 2020. http://salsa.wiredforchange.com/o/5597/p/salsa/web/common/public/content?content_item_KEY=5140 ^
  9. “Who Are These People.” Progressive Secretary. Accessed March 25, 2020. http://salsa.wiredforchange.com/o/5597/p/salsa/web/common/public/content?content_item_KEY=5138 ^
  10. “Jim Harris, Tecnica Supporter.” Tecnica Volunteers. Accessed March 25, 2020. https://www.tecnicavolunteers.org/memorials/jim-harris-tecnica-supporter ^
  11. “Jim Harris, Tecnica Supporter.” Tecnica Volunteers. Accessed March 25, 2020. https://www.tecnicavolunteers.org/memorials/jim-harris-tecnica-supporter ^
  12. “Jim Harris, Tecnica Supporter.” Tecnica Volunteers. Accessed March 25, 2020. https://www.tecnicavolunteers.org/memorials/jim-harris-tecnica-supporter ^
  13. “Who Are These People.” Progressive Secretary. Accessed March 25, 2020. http://salsa.wiredforchange.com/o/5597/p/salsa/web/common/public/content?content_item_KEY=5138 ^
  14. “Who Are These People.” Progressive Secretary. Accessed March 25, 2020. http://salsa.wiredforchange.com/o/5597/p/salsa/web/common/public/content?content_item_KEY=5138 ^
  15. “Who Are These People.” Progressive Secretary. Accessed March 25, 2020. http://salsa.wiredforchange.com/o/5597/p/salsa/web/common/public/content?content_item_KEY=5138 ^
  16. Kathie Turner. LinkedIn. Accessed March 25, 2020. https://www.linkedin.com/in/kathie-turner-82905a14/ ^
  17. “Who Are These People.” Progressive Secretary. Accessed March 25, 2020. http://salsa.wiredforchange.com/o/5597/p/salsa/web/common/public/content?content_item_KEY=5138 ^
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