USAction is a tax-exempt social welfare organization based in Washington, D.C. It operates as an umbrella group for 22 state community organizing affiliates, and is dedicated to achieving more left-of-center social and economic policy. USAction employs a model of connecting national labor and left-of-center interests with state and local activists. USAction had associations with numerous labor unions, including the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the Communication Workers of America (CWA), and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). USAction used online and on-the-ground activism to organize protests, increase voter turnout, and advance issues-based campaigns. It provides funding, training, and leadership development for state affiliate members to “take action” on a range of topics, including jobs, health care, and elections.
USAction was formed in 1999, but its origins date back to a liberal activist network active in the 1980s and 1990s called Citizen Action. USAction’s structure of federated state groups aligned under a national entity is modeled after Citizen Action. Some of USAction’s state affiliates still use their original Citizen Action names, such as Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Michigan Citizen Action, and Citizen Action/Illinois.
Heather Booth was the founding president of Citizen Action and co-founded USAction. Booth has also served as a training director for the Democratic National Committee, and as a consultant for a variety of left-wing social and political groups, including MoveOn.org and the UnidosUS (formerly the National Council of La Raza). In 2009, Booth directed a campaign to pass President Obama’s first budget. Booth sat on USAction’s board of directors and functioned as the organization’s development chairperson.
USAction’s executive director, Fred Azcarate, is a career labor activist who previously worked for the AFL-CIO. Azcarate also served as the director for Jobs with Justice, a national coalition of labor and community activist groups advocating for union membership and higher wages. Azcarate asserts that labor unions can no longer afford to fight political battles without the help of progressive social groups due to historically low private-sector union membership.
In 2007, USAction helped create a coalition of labor unions, community organizing groups, and think tanks to advance a health care advocacy campaign known as Health Care for America Now, which prepared the way for the passage of Obamacare. In 2008, USAction launched its “Bringing Change to America” campaign that involved organizing voters for 22 House races, 2 Senate races, and one governor’s race, coinciding with the election of President Barack Obama.
In 2009, USAction was part of the Common Purpose Project, a coalition of progressive groups that had regular meetings with top White House officials. USAction also launched an effort to oust “Blue Dog” Democrats, a caucus of more centrist Democrats, from the Democratic Party.
USAction has participated in the SEIU’s “Fight for $15” minimum wage and unionization campaign aimed at food-service workers. Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Citizens United decision, USAction called for boycotts, social media harassment, stockholder lawsuits, and workers’ pension fund divestments to intimidate corporations from making significant political donations. USAction also co-sponsored a left-wing “populism platform” based on the policies supported by left-wing U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) ahead of the 2016 Presidential election.
Internal Revenue Service records show USAction’s revenues increased dramatically in presidential election years. The most recent publicly available records indicate $2.14 million in revenue in 2012, and $6 million in revenue for 2008, of which USAction spent all but $308,000. In 2014, USAction reported $873,816 in revenue.