Note: USAction is no longer in operation and merged to form People’s Action in 2016
USAction was a left-of-center advocacy nonprofit based in Washington, D.C. The group was created by activist Heather Booth in 1999 as a successor to the scandal-ridden consumer advocacy group Citizen Action, which she also co-founded in late 1979.
While it was active, USAction operated as an umbrella group for 22 state community organizing affiliates and pushed for left-of-center social and economic policies. 2 USAction employed 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 provided funding, training, and leadership development for state affiliate members to “take action” on a range of topics, including jobs, health care, and elections.
USAction Education Fund was the 501(c)(3) fundraising arm of USAction.
Also see Citizen Action (Nonprofit)
USAction was formed in 1999, but its origins date back to the liberal activist network active in the 1980s and 1990s, Citizen Action. 3 USAction’s structure of federated state groups aligned under a national entity is modeled after that of Citizen Action, its predecessor organization. Some of USAction’s state affiliates still use their original Citizen Action names, such as Citizen Action of New York, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Michigan Citizen Action, and Citizen Action/Illinois.
Heather Booth was the founding president of Citizen Action and co-founded USAction after Citizen Action went defunct following a series of funding scandals in the late 1990s. 4 Booth, a professional political activist, has also worked 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 UnidosUS (formerly the National Council of La Raza). Booth is a partner in the prominent Democratic consulting firm Democracy Partners. In 2009, Booth directed a campaign to pass President Obama’s first budget. 5 Booth sat on USAction’s board of directors and functioned as the organization’s development chairperson.
USAction’s executive director, Fred Azcarate, was 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 has argued 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. 6
Health Care for America Now
Also see Health Care for America Now (Nonprofit)
USAction was a key member in creating Health Care for America Now (HCAN), a major coalition of left-wing groups formed in 2007 to help pass a Democratic healthcare reform bill which became the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). 7 In 2008, USAction launched its “Bringing Change to America” campaign that involved organizing voters for 22 U.S. House races, 2 U.S. Senate races, and one governor’s race, coinciding with the election of President Barack Obama. 8
Common Purpose Project
In 2009, USAction was part of the Common Purpose Project, a coalition of left-wing groups that had regular meetings with top White House officials. USAction also launched an effort to oust “Blue Dog Democrats,” a caucus of centrist and conservative Democrats, from the Democratic Party. 9
Fight for $15 (Minimum Wage)
Also see Fight for $15 (Movement)
USAction has participated in the SEIU’s “Fight for $15” minimum wage and unionization campaign aimed at food-service workers.10
Opposition to Citizens United v. FEC (2010)
Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Citizens United v. FEC decision in 2010, USAction has called for boycotts, social media harassment, stockholder lawsuits, and workers’ pension fund divestments to intimidate corporations from making significant political donations. 11
2016 President 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. 13
- “Forward Together: Campaign for America’s Future and People’s Action.” Campaign For America’s Future. Accessed June 27, 2017. https://ourfuture.org/forward-together-campaign-for-americas-future-and-peoples-action
- “About Us.” USAction. Accessed June 19, 2017. http://usaction.org/about-us/.
- Stevens, William K. “Activist Meeting to Plan a New U.S. Agenda.” The New York Times. August 2, 1987. Accessed June 21, 2017. http://www.nytimes.com/1987/08/02/us/activists-meeting-to-plan-a-new-us-agenda.html?pagewanted=all&mcubz=1.
- Judis, John. “Below the Beltway: Activist Trouble.” The American Prospect. January-February 1998. Accessed June 21, 2017. http://prospect.org/article/below-beltway-activist-trouble
- Democracy Partners. “Heather Booth.” The Huffington Post. Accessed June 21, 2017. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/author/heather-booth.
- Jamieson, Dave. “Fred Azcarate Leaves AFL-CIO to Head Community Organizing Network USAction.” Huffington Post. May 16, 2013. Accessed June 19, 2017. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/16/fred-azcarate-afl-cio-us-action_n_3282811.html.
- Pollack, Harold. “The Group that Got Health Care Reform Passed is Declaring Victory and Going Home.” The Washington Post. January 5, 2014. Accessed June 20, 2017. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2014/01/05/the-group-that-got-health-reform-passed-is-declaring-victory-and-going-home/?utm_term=.51d24ddda249.
- “History & Achievements.” USAction. Accessed June 19, 2017. http://usaction.org/about-us/history-achievements/.
- Smith, Ben. “Common Purpose.” Politico. April 8, 2009. Accessed June 21, 2017. http://www.politico.com/blogs/ben-smith/2009/04/common-purpose-017435.
- Greenhouse, Steven. “Wage Strikes Planned at Fast-Food Outlets.” The New York Times. December 1, 2013. Accessed June 21, 2017. www.nytimes.com/2013/12/02/business/economy/wage-strikes-planned-at-fast-food-outlets-in-100-cities.html?mcubz=1.
- Froomkin, Dan. “Secret Campaign Spending Under Attack by Reform Groups.” The Huffington Post. March 12, 2012. Accessed June 21, 2017. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/12/campaign-spending-secret-donations-ceos_n_1339491.html.
- Eskow, Richard. “Tracking the Progress of the Progressive Agenda.” The Huffington Post. May 27, 2016. Accessed June 21, 2017. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rj-eskow/tracking-the-progress-of_b_7451066.html.
- “USAction.” Nonprofit Explorer. ProPublica 2017. Accessed June 17, 2017. https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/522214305.